Social entrepreneurship has proven that it is possible to make money and help the world become a better place. Being a social entrepreneur may seem like more work but the rewards are definitely worth it.
Toms founder Blake Mycoskie created his shoe company with the mission of donating a pair of shoes for every pair purchased. Inc. noted that, after 10 years, Mycoskie could serve as a "social enterprise poster child" after his business model was copied by other companies such as Warby Parker.
In 2014, Mycoskie sold half of Toms to Bain Capital at $625 million. By then, the company has already given away about 50 million pair of shoes.
Part of Bain and Mycoskie's deal paved way for the launch of a $13 million Social Entrepreneurship Fund to help companies with a wide array of social missions. Mycoskie also shared tips on how to make social entrepreneurship work.
First, aspiring social entrepreneurs should take things one step at a time. Mycoskie revealed that he started with a small goal of producing 250 shoes with the intent to give away the same amount.
"When we first started, it was never our idea to be a big business," he said. "If I had thought we would grow to even half the scale we are today, I probably never would have done it. You should focus on the small steps that it takes to get something launched."
The next thing is to know what your company's mission is. Let your customers know what you stand for and they will do the marketing on your behalf.
Next, don't expect your partners or suppliers to give you special treatment on margin structure. "It's a mistake, because it's not sustainable," Mycoskie explained. "[It's best to] build a real margin into your business."
He also noted that social entrepreneurs should not make assumptions about their customer base. It was high-end department stores such as Neiman Marcus that first featured Toms.
"Don't be adamant about who your customer is," he added. "ut it out there and see who gravitates toward it."