Global Entrepreneurship Week began on Monday, and individuals interested in entrepreneurship are gathering in more than 90 countries worldwide to celebrate the cause of the entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are drivers of the American economy. Their innovations deliver new technologies that transform businesses, the flow of information, and the way human beings around the globe communicate, connect, and live their lives. And in response to the recession that President Obama inherited when taking office, more Americans have turned to entrepreneurship in order to either supplement insufficient income from their current employment or replace employment entirely. That being said, the majority of business owners aren't yet aware of opportunities to start businesses that are both profitable and serve the greater good. Starting a cause-integrated company could be the way to serve both purposes.
So where ought one to start? I'll begin with a definition: A cause-integrated company is a company that builds a cause into the fiber of that business's identity -- whether that cause's mission be fulfilled through the supply chain, the business model, marketing efforts, or a nonprofit component of a for-profit company. Cause-integrated companies typically have a defining social purpose, an intuitive rationale for its existence that transcends profit. You might have heard of triple-bottom-line businesses, where entrepreneurs form businesses that serve three bottom lines of profit, planet, and people. A company that integrates cause into its core believes deeply in furthering a normative value that fits into a context of people or planet (or both), and then constructs a business around the development and application of that normative value in the world.
And so in that spirit, I call on readers to think more openly about their own abilities to start successful enterprises that empower others in light of Global Entrepreneurship Week. Global Entrepreneurship Week is an international celebration of the entrepreneur, with over 90 countries around the world participating with classes, events, and innovative programs like Startup Weekend, which brings entrepreneurs together to pitch ideas, form teams, and leave a 54 hour weekend with a new business primed for success. Global Entrepreneurship Week above all encourages individuals to examine the possibility of becoming an entrepreneur -- and I encourage you to do so.
The time is ripe for aspiring entrepreneurs to take action in creation of a cause-integrated company. These bold individuals have unprecedented access to interested constituencies through social media, particularly in fields of social good where social media participation is crucial to galvanizing community support. Author Seth Godin has written about how leading a tribe of as small as 1,000 individuals can be instrumental in driving the growth of a successful business, and those individuals are waiting for your brand to connect with them on social networks. Think you can't make money while serving your passion? Think again -- author Gary Vaynerchuk has persuasively written in his book Crush It of how hustle and living your passion can absolutely be converted into profitable businesses, where an individual can come into alignment with one's values through the creation of an authentically branded business.
Founding a cause-integrated company creates the internal alignment many feel is lacking from their current means of employment. In so doing, an individual can accelerate up Maslow's triangle of the hierarchy of needs, reaching toward the higher echelons of self-esteem and achievement that transcend the more immediate survival needs and human desires for love and belonging. Importantly, becoming an entrepreneur has as much to do with living a life of intention and inner drive as with starting a business. Says Nick Kislinger, co-founder of The HUB LA, a Los Angeles based social enterprise and cause-integrated company:
"An intentional approach to entrepreneurship brings one's ideals and passions to fruition in the context of expanding opportunity both personally and for the greater good. Engaging interested stakeholders and forming alliances with friends who support one's cause-minded mission is a crucial way to drive lasting social change while implementing a business model."
So far, starting a cause-integrated company sounds exciting! That being said, your path to life as a cause-integrated entrepreneur is not all roses (sorry). The first stage to starting a business is having an idea that you think will make money -- if it can't make money, it won't be self-sustaining, and it will fail. Once you do have that idea, the most important step to take is to start taking action! To get you on the right track, start by thinking about your idea in terms of a problem that exists in the world, and then how your business will solve that problem. Consider your organization's mission and chief purpose for existence. Consider a vision for the world as shaped by your company. Once you've defined your mission and vision, you can create a game plan for action that you, obviously, have to commit to implementing consistently and persistently over time.
The most important message I can convey is of the need to make a decision. Starting a business is not enough; 90 percent of businesses fail because the entrepreneur doesn't have the passion or the drive to fulfill his or her vision in spite of the obstacles that so often arise. If an idea has been percolating in your mind, and you are willing to commit to its success, then I recommend you start and take action now. Failure is the armor of the bold, the scar tissue of the successful, and the lifeblood of the entrepreneur. Things won't work. When they don't, test different options until one works, and then test three different variations of your new model until it works even better.
Above all, and fresh from a reading of Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, I will say this -- persistence and continuous action in the direction of your entrepreneurial dream is what will make it real. I will leave you with the words of successful entrepreneur Richard Devos. "If I had to select one quality, one personal characteristic that I regard as being most highly correlated with success, whatever the field, I would pick the trait of persistence. Determination. The will to endure to the end, to get knocked down seventy times and get up off the floor saying, "Here comes number seventy-one!"
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