I started a social impact venture during a pandemic. Here are three things I learned
For so many of us, the pandemic was a chance to revisit our passions, ambitions and dreams for the future. For me, it was also a chance to try starting my own enterprise – a social impact venture in the education sector. Here are three things all early-stage social entrepreneurs should know.
Uncertainty actually brings opportunity
As entrepreneurs (and as humans!), we’re often not a fan of uncertainty. We want to be sure about things, with our next steps planned out and a set of predictable consequences. Life, of course, is never this simple – but the last year or so has delivered much more uncertainty than normal. So, how should we respond? How can we plan for all the possible eventualities of a pandemic year?
The invitation for all entrepreneurs – and especially those starting new ventures during this time – is to see pandemic challenges as bringing new opportunities. Every major industry has been impacted by the events of 2020-2021, and it’s clear that some are more willing to capitalise on this change than others. As social impact entrepreneurs, we’re uniquely placed to listen carefully to the market, and respond with a solution that is timely, relevant and important. We can ask ourselves: what’s the real need that I’m trying to address with my business solution? How has this need been impacted by the pandemic? And then, armed with the answer to those questions, we can craft a creative, relevant solution.
The next normal awaits
It’s clear that the theme of uncertainty will continue to be prominent as we move into the ‘next normal’, but there will also be a lot of other important themes coming into view. For example, themes of innovation, or disruption, or creative rebuilding. We’ve been given a unique opportunity to play a part in constructing the post-pandemic world, and it’s up to us – collectively – to decide what comes next.
As entrepreneurs, we’re perfectly placed to think creatively about the systems, markets and industries we’re working within. What will the ‘next normal’ look like for your particular sector? How will behaviours and preferences change? How can we shape our actions to create a world we actually want to live in?
And on a personal level, as individual entrepreneurs, we’re given a chance to redefine our own working lives. Many of us will have experienced remote work, and decided not to return to the office. Perhaps you’re part of the ‘great resignation’ – the movement away from the work you previously did, and towards something different; more exciting. Either way, we have the option to see ourselves as creators of our own working lives. How do we want our days to be structured? When are we most productive, and how can we support this with our schedules? What do we most enjoy doing, and how can we do more of it? These are questions about the ‘next normal’ that every entrepreneur has the ability to determine for themselves.
It can be a lonely journey, but it doesn’t have to be
One of the biggest things that struck me, shortly after leaving my corporate job, was the isolation of being a solo founder. Without a network of colleagues, supervisors and mentors, entrepreneurs can end up feeling alone. It can be difficult to explain your exact feelings about your business, or the challenges faced in a start-up, to someone who doesn’t have any knowledge of what you’re talking about.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The shift to digital work has opened up endless opportunities for networking, connection and interaction. Joining networks (like Social Enterprise UK) can be a huge support as you begin the process of building something new – use them to your advantage!
And finally, as you go about your entrepreneurial journey – noticing the opportunities amongst the uncertainty, finding your feet in the ‘next normal’, and building up those connections around you – remember that you might just be part of a new wave of entrepreneurs who are stepping up during this time, to rebuild the world in a better way.
Eloise Skinner is a social impact entrepreneur, author and teacher. She is the founder of The Purpose Workshop, a social impact consultancy, and One Typical Day, an ed-tech start-up. Eloise’s book, The Purpose Handbook, was published in 2021. You can find out more about Eloise on her website, or on LinkedIn.
The Purpose Workshop
The Purpose Workshop is a social impact consultancy, helping individuals and businesses navigate a sense of purpose, mission and values. We believe that purpose-focused work should be available to everyone, regardless of background or experience. As a business, our social mission is to channel profits into creating educational resources, shared with our network of schools free of charge.