How to start a social business: lessons from a young philanthropist

November 25, 2011 by SBW Team   Comments (0)


social business planning, social business marketing planning, social business financing, running social businesses, social businesses under development, social business f.a.q.s

It is difficult to give justice to the idea of “pillows for peace” in just a a few lines. But we’ll give it a try. This great initiative, remarkable example of social business, has been created by the inspiring Aimi Duong*, a young entrepreneur whose company will allow rural artisans to make fairtrade pillows that promote peace-building initiatives in developing communities. You can read the whole story at http://www.oimeico.com/, and http://www.goodlifer.com/2011/09/oi-mei-artisan-made-pillows-for-peace/. We believe this is a very instructive example of how to think, start and manage a social business. If you have ever wondered… keep reading!

Perhaps the most crucial requirement to start a social business is a feeling of happiness to help others and to improve their livelihood. This alone will take you far and it is exactly what (literally) brought Aimi from the US west coast to Thailand and neighboring countries such as Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. During her studies at a business school she became aware of the needs of the people from those places. So here’s the key to a second step in creating your social business: recognize a necessity, those affected by it and the role they can play to make the difference. In the words of this young entrepreneur: “a very small effort can make a huge difference in the lives of the rural poor”.

Next, and as important as de previous phase, find a product or service that can engage local resources. To achieve this, in turn, do research about who is doing what on the field. If there is a need, chances are, someone is trying to deal with it. So, look for organizations, activities and individuals that can become important assets for your business. Aimi, for example, asked questions, did research about fair trade and contacted organizations that were supporting rural artisans. Subsequently, understand the added value of what you are doing. Our young model said that she grasped every opportunity to visit textile producing villages in the North of Thailand and she soon realized that what was missing was exposure to new markets, maybe abroad. By connecting artisans with remote consumers, the former were able to work for a fair wage, preserve a traditional craft and be self-sustainable. How brilliantly simple, isn’t it?

The next question that you may be asking is where to start looking for your initial funding. For this, Aimi has launched a campaign on StartSomeGood.com to crowd fund and raised $5,660 from 95 contributors in 45 days. Her campaign now continues via paypal with the aim of reaching a goal of $8,100. Details can be viewed here: http://www.oimeico.com/#!startsomegood.

Finally, plan for your business to thrive. you should have a series of intermediate objectives that will help you keeping the main goal in sight. Take as an example what is happening at “Pillows for Peace”. Aimi has just discovered a weaving co-operative which employs women who have been victims of human trafficking in the Northernmost province of Vietnam and she is headed there. Her hope with this trip is to learn about the women and their stories, see the products they currently make and hopefully work with them on a line for her company. She is headed directly to the North of Thailand after Vietnam to visit their current artisan partners to gather her first set of pillows and spend some days with them.

In terms of future goals for “pillows for peace”, the entrepreneur will strive to build a strong brand and recognition for the company because she believes that this is what will help local producers gain loyal and compassionate buyers. These will eventually return and/or bring new customers, providing stable work to the artisans. And since 50% of the company's net profits are donated to charity peace building projects, its impacts will be even bigger. What is next? Get your ideas going and start your own social business, maybe with a friend. And remember, do it with joy: you’ll make the word a better place to live!

Listen, learn and share....through Social Business World!

* Aimi is a member of SBW and we invite you to visit her profile, share ideas and questions with her. And we invite Aimi to keep us posted on her achievements!