"Life is not fair."
Most of us have uttered those words at least once during our lives. I know I have.
From the far corners of this world to our immediate surroundings, exists a whole range of problems that causes some form of hardship in your lives and the lives of other people living there.
Most problems are created by people and most people like you want to do something about it. This desire marks the beginning of a social entrepreneur's journey.
Soon after a light bulb shines bright, euphoria sets in and social entrepreneurs quickly set sail in some direction of hope and inspiration to bring their ideas to life. But without a well thought-out roadmap, they quickly realize they are lost and soon after they reluctantly abort their mission.
The earliest stages of a startup are the most critical. It is during this stage that entrepreneurs face the highest chance of failure.
There is a wonderful story of a man who voluntarily decided to move into a transitional facility for the homeless in downtown Charleston, SC. Through living there, Derek Snook, came up with an idea to create a better model of a temporary employment agency to enable the homeless to become productive, self-sufficient and contributing members of his community.
His challenge was where and how to start as he lacked the vital elements required to launch his idea.
This crossroad is one that is stood on by most social entrepreneurs and regardless of how passionate you are, how skilled you are or how amazing your idea is, without any access to funds, mentorship and networks, most are doomed to fail. So where do you go?
There are various options available, among them include numerous accelerator or incubator programs which are designed to address these very challenges.
The problem is support for early stage startup social entrepreneurs is not as widespread as the better catered tech startup space with initiatives such as Y Combinator, Lean Startup Machine or First Round Capital.
This is set to change with UnLtd USA, a new and emerging support program for early stage social entrepreneurs. Launching in 2014, UnLtd USA will fund and support remarkable individuals based in the U.S. who are passionate in solving varying social and environmental problems.
UnLtd USA derives its model for supporting early-stage social entrepreneurs from UnLtd in the UK where it was first developed. Based upon its success there, this model has since been replicated in Thailand, South Africa and India where Zoe Schlag, founder of UnLtd USA, currently works as a coach and mentor to Indian social entrepreneurs.
For the month of September 2013, Zoe and her team will travel the US from coast to coast, clocking in 4,260 miles, stopping at 8 cities and hosting a series of free popup bootcamps for 120 passionate social entrepreneurs like you.
At the bootcamps, the UnLtd USA | startup + drive team will be offering one-on-one clinics, practical workshops and inspirational talks. Participants will leave with:
• Practical skills, learnings and best practices on how to launch and run a high-impact social venture
• Inspiration from successful social entrepreneurs
• Connections to local partners and individuals supporting startup social entrepreneurs
• A community of locally-based peers
Did I mention free?
So what ever happened to Derek? Well, Derek did not have access to such a support program at the time. However, he was persistent and resourceful. Eighteen months after his light bulb moment, he was able to raise funds, find the right mentors and partner with the right people, to open the first IES Labor Services Office. Today, his nonprofit places more than 50 workers on a daily basis, and has added more than $200,000 to workers' wages than they would have made at another agency.
For every successful social entrepreneur like Derek, there are countless unsuccessful ones who don't even make it past the starting line. To Derek, a support program like UnLtd USA would've accelerated his progress to placing 50 workers daily and increased his chances of success.
Remember that itch I was talking about earlier? Be a change maker and make your mark in this world.
If you are a startup social entrepreneur working on an idea or an initiative that will create positive social change in your community or around the world and need support and inspiration to jumpstart your potential as a change maker, find us across the United States in Oakland CA, Boulder CO, Austin TX, New Orleans LA, Charleston SC, Washington D.C, Philadelphia PA or New York NY this September.