How do you start? Whether you are new to social enterprise or starting another social enterprise, you begin the same way:
- Uncover your strengths: Research suggests that the most successful enterprises (for-profit or social) leverage each individual’s or organization’s strengths. Begin with your staff and/or board and brainstorm – what do we have, do, or know? Think broadly about your unique assets. For example, you may operate a Meals on Wheels program for your local community, but use the kitchen only from 1-5 PM and the kitchen could be utilized for more.
- Evaluate your strengths: After you identify your strengths, vote on the top 5 to 7 strengths based on which are most unique, have value to others, and are closest to your mission. Using Handout A, walk through each question for each top strength and identify possible opportunities. Based on our previous example of the kitchen, you have many opportunities – rent the kitchen to others, start a catering business, or provide additional meals.
- Assess your opportunities: After you identify your opportunities, vote on the top 5 to 6 opportunities and then walk through Handout B to assess their promise based on ease of implementation, mission fit, and profit. With these scores, you will have an objective assessment of which opportunities have the most promise.
Social enterprise is not right for every organization – it requires the right opportunity, the right timing, and the right process. Once you determine that all of these are aligned, take each opportunity and conduct a feasibility assessment. The feasibility assessment allows you to “fail early and cheaply” and helps you decide on a go or no/go decision. If the feasibility assessment is promising, the next step is developing a business plan to create a roadmap for the social enterprise.