By one perspective, social entrepreneurs are about as good as the people they surround themselves with. Social entrepreneurship is the kind of field that relies, and indeed thrives on collaboration, not competition, with others.
One of PATHFINDER’s first connections was Solène Pignet, the founder of Creators for Good, asocial enterprise that provides online consulting services to (aspiring) entrepreneurs committed to making a difference in the world, in financially sustainable ways. From the beginning, Solène demonstrated that collaboration and sharing knowledge with other SocEnts was essential to their combined success. Creators for Good are an excellent example of how working together opens incredible opportunities. And they motivate us to do the same.
Because of this, we thought it would be great to share some of Creators for Good’s insights and lessons learned. Here is some of the most valuable advice we’ve come across on our journey.
What are the most valuable lessons learned since launching Creators for Good?
There are so many! I launched Creators for Good a year and a half ago and I keep learning new things EVERY week, with no exception.
I think one of the main reason may be that at school – or in the French society I grew up in– we don’t prepare for becoming entrepreneurs. We learn to be good employees for corporations, which need lots of qualified obedient workers (and not out-of-the-box thinkers and creators!).
I believe becoming an entrepreneur is a kind of rebellion: it is about not selling your time, your energy and creativity to mainstream companies – who are creating most of our planets problems (environmentally and socially). But instead, spending your time, energy and creativity to contribute to making the world a better place, in a financially sustainable way.
Learning – or convincing yourself – that you don’t need an employer to work, and earn a living, is probably the biggest step of all. However, it’s not the only one!
LESSON #1 Think quality of work, instead of quantity
At school we learn that the more you work, the better. Becoming an entrepreneur means freeing yourself from this limiting belief!
For example, we are used to working from Monday to Friday (in my part of the world). In my previous work I was working from 8am until 8pm (sometimes more). I had a managerial position and a great salary, and I thought it was ‘normal’ to work a lot when you had a lot of responsibilities.
When you become your own boss, you get to set your own rules. Tim Ferris’s “The 4 hour work week” is a great example of this!
However, I do not work 4 hours a week (I love my work way too much for that!), but I am distancing myself from the idea that the amount of hours put in equals the equivalent in results. This translates into the fact that when I started Creators for Good, I was mostly selling my time (clients hire me to work on their project and I would spend X amount of hours helping them). Now, I am developing more and more products that don’t require my own time, so that I can scale my impact without working more (I co-wrote a book for example. Whether we sell 1 copy, 100 copies, or 10 000 copies, our amount of work is exactly the same, and the impact has (almost) no limit).
Now I don’t look at the amount I work, but at the quality:how can I better impact the people I want to help without spending more time working? How can I have a better work-life balance?
My question to social entrepreneurs is what could you create so that your impact goes beyond the amount of hours you spend (and make your life even more enjoyable than if you had a ‘traditional’job)?
LESSON #2 Think of what you can do instead of what degree you can get
At school we are taught to study first, get a degree, and then work. Being an entrepreneur doesn’t require any specific degree-and you get to learn along the way!
This is maybe the most limiting belief of all: “Am I ready to start?” “Shouldn’t I be more qualified?” are questions I hear all the time from aspiring entrepreneurs. And it makes perfect sense in a world where the norm is to build your CV, to become an employee.
But when you are an entrepreneur, it’s not your degree that people pay attention to. What people look at, is whether or not your service/product will help them resolve a problem or challenge they face. They only care about themselves, not about you or your qualifications!
For example, you don’t buy bread from the baker that went to the best bakery school, but from the baker who makes the best bread in your area (he may have graduated from a good baking school, but also is using delicious ingredients, has a clean and attractive store, has a smile on his face when you come in to buy bread, etc. In other words, many things that go way beyond the theory of bread making).
With Creators for Good, I invested in a 6 month coaching program at the very beginning, to make sure I set the right foundations to start my business, because I knew my Master’s Degree in Sustainable Development was only good “in theory”.
Later, I completed training on how to blog (to make sure the hours I spend on writing content actually become useful for the people I wish to help through that medium), social media training (to make sure many people know about the help I can provide), finance training (to not go broke and sustain my impact over time). I also read books, blogs, watched YouTube videos and attended webinars on a weekly basis to make sure I put in place the best practices available for my business and clients.
My question to you is, instead of putting emphasis on your academic background (or wait to finish a degree to launch your own social enterprise), look at all the areas you want to perfect over time. Get started on something that you love and perfect your product/service and it’s delivery along the way. There is no better school than ‘the school of life’ and actual client feedback to know what and how to improve!
LESSON # 3 Think collaboration instead of competition
At school we learn that individuals perform at the expense of others. Only one person gets to be top of the class (or get the best job), and helping others means you diminish your own chances to ‘win’. In entrepreneurship – or at least in social entrepreneurship – helping others is actually the best way to move forward!
When I started Creators for Good, I opened a folder called “competitors”. I used to save all websites I came across,of companies doing the same thing as me (helping social entrepreneurs get started and grow their impact). Sometimes I felt so small looking at all the great work they were doing. Sometimes I wish they didn’t exist.
Until I realised, there is room for everyone! And until the problem I am working on solving (it is hard for people to start their own social enterprise) was not solved, everyone is needed. PLUS every so called competitor could actually become a collaborator, one way or another!
I renamed the folder “potential collaborators” (amongst many other actions) and here’s what happened:
And those are just a few examples amongst many!
The most successful partnership is the one with Danielle, the founder of theSedge.org. We both are on the same mission: guiding social entrepreneurs get started and grow. We even have the same tool – we work online with individuals around the world. Our formats are slightly different (she offers online courses, I offer 1on1 programs). We could have “competed” on our own. And yet, when we started to work together, awesome things started to happen!
We started with a one-shot online event (where we invited both our communities to join a 1 hour live question-answer session). This transformed into a lively facebook community (with over 500 members in less than a year, and growing every day!) FAR beyond our expectations. We are now working on a common service that we will launch in June 2016 (spoiler: it will be called Changemakers Association).
AND we actually wrote a book together! Something that was far out of our comfort zone, but together we felt we had the strengths to make it happen. This book is actually based on our experience of driving a successful collaboration forward as impact entrepreneurs and the tons of research and interviews we did to put together an actionable tool for fellow changemakers. It is called “Meetings of the Minds: the Social Entrepreneur’s Roadmap for Collaborations That Work”.
About Solène Pignet
Solène is a globetrotter, committed to sustainable development and passionate about alternative entrepreneurship. She founded Creators for Good in 2014. She provides online consulting services to (aspiring) entrepreneurs willing to make a difference in the world, in a financially sustainable way.
For more information about her and Danielle Carruthers’ book, “Meetings of the Minds: the Social Entrepreneur’s Roadmap for Collaborations That Work” visit the website: http://globalsocentlab.com/roadmap-for-collaboration-that-works/