Entrepreneurship, to me, is all about creating something (ideally of value) from nothing.
The social component (not to be confused with other themes that start with social, i.e. social media) is when that value creation is targeted towards solving a problem hindering society (or a subset of), hence the “social”.
Simply put, to me, it’s about having skin in the game in a more meaningful way than simply running a business (which is already quite a heavy lift!)
Almost 10 years ago, I started a business called New Frontiers (www.nfil.net). We provide individualized (and in some cases, group settings) executive functioning/academic coaching and transition support across the lifespan, and also provide professional development to teachers/professors/support staff as well as employers.
Our foundations were born in helping coach and guide students through the transitions to/through/from post-secondary life, and those elements still influence the work we do beyond that population (though this group is still a very meaningful component) of our client base.
We embarked on this journey in a (so far successful!) attempt to solve what we view as a problem effecting society at large (but certain pockets in particular):
The transition to adulthood is for many people the most significant shift in expectations, required skills and self-advocacy up to that point in time—and from that moment on, the reality of that shift (that life is a constant stream of new (and potentially confusing/usually not well explained) experiences and challenges) becomes THE reality. SOCIETY AT LARGE DOESN’T DO MUCH TO PREPARE US FOR WHAT’S TO COME (and leaves particular groups of people in a significantly disadvantaged position as a result).
Our work revolves around helping individuals develop foundational and specific-to-the-individual skills and strategies necessary to navigate the vagaries of life (be they focused on academic, career, or day-to-day success—as they define success), and is delivered via a coaching model, through the lens of executive functioning skills development. The work is applied to all shapes and sizes of unconventional learners and individuals. We deliver our supports in-person and virtually, as preferred by our clients.
Prior to this endeavor, I was involved in my family business, building and operating (for-profit) private schools—my initial encounter with social entrepreneurship. At the time (early 2000’s), it was somewhat controversial to offer what has typically been viewed as a public service via a for-profit model. Due to, I think, positive outcomes (both in terms of customer expectations/satisfaction as well as value creation), there has been a meaningful shift away from that mentality towards more of a meritocratic view (if it’s run well and the results are positive, what’s the concern with one or another (legal) structure, particularly when it doesn’t really affect the end user).
That said, it’s still entrepreneurship, and we sink or swim at the pleasure of our clients—if we don’t deliver on our promise to them, we don’t get to keep the opportunity to exist, or the privilege to serve the community at large.
Bottom line, from the earlier days through my current work, I’ve only become more convinced that it’s not just ok, but perhaps even preferred, to “do well by doing good”.