Welcome to this latest installment in Social Entrepreneurship 101. If you missed the other lessons, check out the audio versions here. Today, let’s chat about your partners who’ll help you build your venture.
The fundamental truth of social entrepreneurship is this: we’re all in it together. Social entrepreneurs are the most generous, caring, and helpful people on the planet. But we’re also business minded. So, as you create your movement, come up with ways to create synergies that result in a win for all parties involved.
As I’ve built Social Change Nation, I have been humbled by the extent to which cause based leaders have supported my work. They’ve connected me with other social entrepreneurs and offered incredible guidance as I’ve built my own cause based business. In return, I interview them on my podcast, promote them, share their story, advertise for them, and provide tools to help them grow. In the process, I build my credibility as a connector and as someone who always has the right resource for any challenge in the cause based space.
You will need to create similar partnerships to grow your business. Here are the three keys I’ve found to ‘partner up’:
1.) Partner with a non-profit to carry out your social mission. One thing I know is this: building and running your cause based business will take everything you’ve got. Don’t try to start your own non-profit on top of that. Instead, partner with an existing non-profit. For example, LSTN headphones partners with the Starkey Foundation. Starkey has the distribution channels, manpower, and a long history of giving the gift of hearing to the remotest places on the planet. Considering LSTN’s mission is to use its headphones to help the world hear, this is a very natural partnership. But don’t think that delegating social mission to a non-profit means you don’t have to be involved. LSTN’s founder, Bridget, manages a highly successful headphone company, but still makes time to travel with Starkey and personally give the gift of hearing to people around the world.
2.) Partner with other cause based businesses. My strongest partnership has been with Cause Artist. While I focus on empowering social entrepreneurs, Cause Artist is devoted to cause minded shoppers. This created a beautiful synergy as we partnered to create the social good shopping guide, a directory and coupon package of cause based businesses. Partnerships power your movement. Social Change Nation has grown exponentially because I took the time to develop partnerships with like-minded businesses. You must do the same if you hope to succeed.
3.) Partner with your customer. One of my favorite examples of this is Life Equals. For each vitamin sold, Life Equals gives a nutritional supplement through its non-profit partner Vitamin Angels. Life Equals customers typically join a subscription plan, meaning they provide ongoing support to Vitamin Angels. As a result, Life Equals treats its customers as partners: they receive regular updates on their donation, tools to share their cause with friends, and sample vitamins attached to a sharable card.
What are some other ways you could partner with your customer? Here are a few other ides to get you started:
-For each purchase, send your customer a story of someone your cause has helped. Put it in a format, like a small postcard, that they can easily take a picture of and share via social media.
-You could follow the lead of a company like Sevenly and engage your customer base to vote on the cause you support for that particular month.
-You could offer your customers volunteer opportunities with your partner non-profit.
-When you are in the field serving your partner non-profit, grab a video of it, make it short and sharable, and send it to your customer base. They’ll love seeing this side of you and they’ll love sharing the video with their friends. Check out LSTN’s video page for some great examples of this.
Bottom line is treating your customer as a partner in your cause will make your work all the more rich and will fulfill your central charge as a cause based entrepreneur: to involve people in social justice. Partner early. Partner often. Partner synergistically.