Inside Struggles of Social Enterprises

By Nicole Fu

What many investors are looking for nowadays is beyond mere monetary gains, investors want to invest in something in return for more than numbers, but quantified impacts. The Annual Impact Investor Survey 2018 from Global Impact Investing Network estimated that $228 billion have been invested in impact, doubles the previous year. But if you have a good idea to serve the society for the better, would you have the courage to start a social enterprise when you know the above amount of impact investment?

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‘I have an idea!’

You might have a brilliant idea, but one of your concerns is that you don’t know how to implement it. You are not certain of your key strengths, how to formulate growth plans, and how to present your idea differently to stand out from competitors. These are just a few uncertainties out of many.

Starting a social enterprise is similar in starting a business, in that early years are important for a business to lay a strong foundation for future growth. Having a mentor is just such building block, because mentors can share the essence of both successful and failed cases so you could learn from the success and avoid the mistakes. Mentors could be experienced insiders of different industries, who help you to review your plan, strengths and goals so you won’t end up in the wrong path.  

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‘Scaling up’

You finally have the courage to take the first step to become a social entrepreneur. Your product or service has proven value in the market and the society is in need of it to tackle the social problem. So the next move you want to take is scaling up your business to make further impact in the market.

To scale up, you expand your team, acquire more customers, or even replicate the model at a new location. The problem here is: how could you take a bigger leap forward, given the tight financing? You want investors to fuel your ideas, but where are they?

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‘I am unique.’

Another obstacle of many passionate founders is being rejected. You might have developed excellent products or services, which could be cheaper and better than existing solutions dealing with the same social issue. However, founders like you still hit numerous snags when pitching your solutions and get frustrated.

Some common mistakes made are how the pitch deck could be too technical in nature that is hard to comprehend, or issues that investors are most concerned about are not mentioned or explained properly. These issues could be the market size, revenue model, and social impact measurements, etc. Most of all, a clear, concise and convincing presentation could be missing despite the best preparation and intention.

The help from experienced professionals would also be crucial. They help you improve your business model and refine your pitching skills so that it could be not only more eye-catching, but get the attention and interest of investors.

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Venture Philanthropy

Venture Philanthropy is investing in social ventures using financial and non financial means to help them become self-sustainable with the ultimate goal of promoting social good. Seeing the challenges faced by social enterprises, the concept of venture philanthropy also evolves to work in alignment with social enterprises.

As a venture philanthropy, at SOW Asia, we have been applying business principle over the years to grow social enterprises for the betterment of society. We deeply understand and emphasize the needs of social entrepreneurs. In light of that, we have launched the i2i Accelerator Program since 2013 that offers social enterprises our business and non-business network, investment, mentorship and consultancy opportunities.

By bridging the gap between investors and social enterprises, we link entrepreneurs to the network of investors which are enthusiastic about investing in social solutions. We are also an impact investor that provides flexible funding to potential cohort alumni. In addition, each cohort is a peer platform to enhance collaboration among participating social enterprises. By doing so, we open the door for them to have access to more capital and wider network.

We also connect the social enterprises to business professionals that will offer tailor-made mentoring and consultation on the implementation of your solutions and review the structure of your business. So you could better understand your business’s strengths and weaknesses for improvement, leading to a higher rate of survival and beyond that, potential success.

In summary, under the i2i Accelerator Program of SOW Asia, we endeavour to alleviate the worries of growing social enterprises and help them scale up their entrepreneurship to the next level of success with experience and professionalism.

For more details, please refer to