Social Entrepreneurs: Inciting Change With Business Sense

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Note from Lionel: Below is a guest blog post from Susan Payton, President of Egg Marketing & Public Relations. See more details about her at the bottom of this post. 


I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a bleeding heart. Sure, I contribute to charities that are important to me, but never did I imagine I'd want to start a nonprofit. But here I am, on the brink of creating an entrepreneur center in Southern California. With my business acumen, I knew I could take my idea further than the average nonprofit.

I am, I have discovered through research, a social entrepreneur. Essentially, an entrepreneur sees a problem and comes up with a way to solve it through change. But instead of generating profit, a social entrepreneur generates social capital. Makes the world a better place. In my case, I'll be helping create new armies of entrepreneurs to go forth and prosper with their small businesses.

Breathing New Life into Nonprofits

Unfortunately, nonprofits have gotten a bad rap. Unless they're funded by giant corporations, they're usually run by one person who is juggling multiple hats, knocking on doors to raise money, and cleaning up the flooded toilet. The director may or may not have any business experience or education, and probably doesn't have any entrepreneurial drive.

But with the social entrepreneur, the nonprofit is treated as a business. There are budgets and financial decisions to be made. There is funding enough to pay the bills and staff enough to handle the work (in an ideal world).

What a social entrepreneur does is take what she's learned in running a business (or three) and apply it to the nonprofit model. And while nonprofits don't focus on making money, it's certainly okay to do so. That just means there's less that has to be raised through grants or fundraising.

Profile of a Social Entrepreneur

Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes is a great example of a social entrepreneur. Once he got the business of selling shoes down, he created Friends of TOMS, which donates one pair of shoes to an organization in need for every pair sold. He's applying business savvy to a social need. Genius.

Or take Matt Flannery of Kiva. He started the microloan site as a side project while working at TiVo. Now he's helped people all around the world receive loans totaling millions of dollars that help them start new endeavors.

Start Some Change Today

Social entrepreneurs see the world differently. They see a problem and how they can fix it, then sprinkle in a bit of business finesse, to create a nonprofit that's sustainable and can generate revenue.

There are grants and corporations looking for social entrepreneurs to start making change in the world. Dell, even, wants to help young social entrepreneurs solve those social issues. The company recently announced its Social Innovation Competition: entrants submit their idea to do good, and have the chance to win $50,000 to make the idea happen.

The competition is open only to university students (too bad!) and the deadline for submitting an idea is February 14. You can also vote on other ideas, so check out the site, and learn more about last year's winners, including Shining Hope for Communities.


Susan Payton attended Dell's the very first CAP Days  event back in June of 2010.  She is the President of Egg Marketing & Public Relations, and about to embark on a new venture as a social entrepreneur. You can read her writing on MashableBrandWeek, Lead411 and The Marketing Eggspert Blog. To contact Susan email her or find her on Twitter@eggmarketing.

About the Author: Susan Payton

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