Shea butter stirring in the pots! Me and some of the women from the Kikele women’s group.
It’s been a bit more than a year since I decided to quit my job and leave England to pursue my dream of being a social entrepreneur. It’s been one of the most challenging years of my life both personally and professionally.Before actually taking the plunge I had read books, articles, listened to podcasts, even started doing some training at Fizzle (a fabulous training platform for indie entrepreneurs) and thought ‘I can do this’.
Little did I know that you actually can’t prepare for the emotional ups and downs of being a social entrepreneur. The long hours, your nerves constantly being on edge, feeling like an absolute joke and imposter.
You can spend a year planning out every detail of your business with elaborate business, marketing and strategy plans, however, remember that that’s exactly what it is… plans… It’s not the ‘real world’, it’s not customer engagement, it’s not product launches, it’s not consistently posting and engaging on social media, it’s not making products, it’s not packaging orders, it’s not worrying about your suppliers… Well you get the idea… A real business is not plans, it’s actions and making progress, every. single. day.
1. Decisions, decisions, decisions…
Making decisions can be extremely stressful, when you run your own business you are the decision maker witch means that you’ll have to trust your gut feeling and instincts. Sometimes you make the right decisions and sometimes you don’t – its all a learning process.
When you are a social entrepreneur there is also an additional layer to making decisions. Every decision, action and deal has to factor in the social aspect of your business. This can be very hard when you are a bootstrapped business in a competitive market.
For instance, Mino Collective’s core beliefs are that beauty products should be made out of pure, sustainable and ethical ingredients free from harmful chemicals, environmentally destructive manufacturing processes and exploitation of workers.
Our beliefs need to translate into EVERYTHING we do… And this is something I’ve realised throughout the year. Lets use an example of a decision I have had to rethink.
We use recyclable plastic containers for all of our products, but I’ve realised that this is not good enough.
At the time when I decided to go with plastic it was one of the cheaper options and I wanted to get the products out as soon as possible. However, I have reflected more deeply about packaging and plastic pollution and I’ve come to the conclusion that plastic is not aligned with our social mission and belief system. So this year I am on a mission to reduce our plastic consumption and that is a decision I made with the social aspect of our business in mind.
2. You might try to do it all; but the sooner you realise you can’t the better.
When you are a bootstrapped social entrepreneur you will wear many hats. You will learn to do many things at once and keep pulling different strings. This might be fine at the beginning but you’ll soon realise that you can’t do it all.
1. Because you are only human
2. Because there is only 24h in a day
3. You’ll probably burn out
I realised quite quickly that I had to priorities to survive. I always have a lot on my plate and unless I priorities I get very stressed and anxious. You will ALWAYS have many projects you want to get done but you have to select the most pressing and important things to work on first. If there are certain things you can outsource or get someone to help you with, do it.
3. Defining you own success is crucial
You started your business for a particular reason, you have a goal, a mission and with that you have to decide what really matters to you. With every project you start you will have to decide what outcomes you want and what success will look like.
You might have a ‘common’ idea of what a successful entrepreneur looks like but that might be very far away from what you are trying to achieve and what really matters to you. The important thing about success is that YOU define it, what does it mean to you? We are all different; we are all building different companies. What really matters to you and what are you trying to achieve?
When you are an entrepreneur your work generally tend to spill over to most other aspects of your life. That’s why defining success on a broader spectrum – taking to account your family, friendship and love life is also very important.
There is a great podcast episode of the Fizzle show about how to create your own definition of success
4. You’ll NEVER have enough time…
Things often take much more time than you planned for them to take and you are always chasing the clock. I am somewhat of a time optimist and I never get through my entire to do list. This is an element that might bring you anxiety but the sooner you just accept the reality that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get all the stuff you planned done the better you’ll feel (though love).
Deep down we all know this, but as soon as you get intentional with this and tell your self it’s OK and allow yourself to work at a healthy pace, it will reduce a lot of stress and anxiety around not having enough time
5. It’s frustrating and you don’t really clock out.
When you are working with something you really care about and you have lots of responsibilities you never really clock out. Especially leading up to a big launch or an important project your brain can be on overdrive thinking about what needs to get done and decisions that have to be made.
If you’ve made a mistake or things have not gone to plan you can get really worried because when you are a bootstrapped social entrepreneur your margin of error tend to be very small and you can’t really afford to make mistakes but either way they will happen.
Its frustrated but that is part of the learning process and hopefully you’ll learn from them and make fewer mistakes with time.
Although being a social entrepreneur might be one the hardest thing you’ll ever do it’s also one of the most rewarding. Working with something that makes a positive difference in the world can be a daily boost of inspiration and motivation to keep you going when you are tired, frustrated or making a though decision.
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