Starting your Social Enterprise should be about creating the change you want to see in the world.
Even when this goal is clear, you might still find yourself held back by common beliefs about what it really takes to launch a successful business. These beliefs have the potential to erode your confidence, shake your nerve, or worse, compel you to give up altogether.
Let’s debunk the myths that I see people most often trip up over. Instead of getting bogged down, focus on what matters most. And that is – creating your impactful offering and serving your customers and the world through your sustainable business.
“My products and services must be perfectly polished before I reach out to potential customers.”
Not so. It might feel like you can’t launch until you have all the elements of your offering in place but how can you launch before you’re even sure what your offering should be? Flip the script and put the emphasis on connecting with potential customers first. From there, it’s much easier to develop your offering based on their needs and desires and design a solution that is truly impactful.
By listening to the customer and understanding their pain points first, they will feel heard and valued. You’ll both build a community and become a trusted advisor. It’s that spirit of engagement and collaboration that will set you apart from other solution providers and help you discover your customers’ real needs that in turn inform your product ideation.
In order to best support these early stages of product development, simply focus on Lean Startup principles and methodology to help you bring the right solutions to market.
Instead of trying to make your product 100% perfect and polished, take a small subset of key desired elements, like the ones your customers share in your early conversations, and develop a minimum viable product.
It’s this prototype that you’ll test with your customers and it’s their feedback that helps make that offering perfect over time.
Once you get that small version of your idea out into the world you can then see what happens with it. How do people interact with it? What do they love about it? What can you improve? All these can inform you and help you build that perfect solution your customers are looking for in time.
So forget about launching perfect and focus on customers and collaboration instead. That’s how you design something that’s most effective and worthwhile for the people you’re setting out to serve!
“I need to have outside funding before I can begin.”
While a lot of people I talk to say funding is the number one challenge holding them back from starting or leveling up, it’s doesn’t need to be.
In a past episode of the Changemakers Show, guest Amanda Neely of the Overflow Coffee Bar in Chicago, shared a launch story that lacked all the typical outside funding from angel investors or banks. What Overflow did have was a vision for the coffee shop they wanted to create; it had a central location, community hub, and ethical economics.
Typically this type of business requires significant investment. So how exactly did they do it?
By focusing on the customer! Before Overflow Coffee Bar opened up their venue, they held a series of sales events targeting potential customers in and around their desired location. By selling a single pound of coffee to their ideal customers one at a time, they not only brought in funds but they began to build a dedicated community excited for the day the coffee shop would open its doors.
They achieved product validation, brand recognition, and demand creation all on their own without the need for outside help!
Don’t let the myth of outside funding stop you from getting started.
Instead, harness your creativity and the value of your offering to develop new ways to bring your product to market. Whether it’s gorilla marketing, community and brand building, or deciding on a phased product release, it’s that creative thinking and commitment that investors want to see when they consider supporting you.
“I need my website and branding strategy in place before I launch”
While good branding and an online presence are both important, they shouldn’t come at the expense of your customers or the solution itself.
Remember that your identity and messaging will evolve over time in step with the development of your product offering. That’s why it’s so important to avoid the early stage temptation of debating colors, logos, fonts, and website platforms.
You might even think to delay sharing your ideas or developing your offering simply because your perfect website isn’t done. Whatsmore than the procrastination tactics is that if you prepare your shiny brand and website before you solidify your offering, it could end up costing you precious time and resources in rebranding once your final solution is in place.
Instead, start out simply by having just enough information available for people to find you. Choose one or two social media platforms that make sense for the target audience you want to connect with. Learn where your potential customers and collaborators go and meet them there.
(Or, if you’re unsure of where they might be, go with platforms that you prefer. Not only are you more likely to stick to something you like, but you’ll also likely find people with similar interests that can help to build community and support in easy stages.)
Once you’ve begun to build that collaborative tribe, use them as a safe sounding board to hone your elevator pitch when the time is right. Practice explaining your value proposition in person, emails, or social media posts. Let your listeners help you find the right words and stories that really connect with them and the rest of your dream customers.
Only once you’ve gone through these iterations in your offer and messaging should you begin your branding efforts in earnest. As a bonus, after this, you’ll have the all the confidence in the world that your marketing and messaging truly reflect who you are and what you stand for.
Many of us can get caught up in these and other myths in the rush to launch our social enterprise. That’s what makes avoiding them all the more crucial when you’re starting out!
Now, having debunked these three myths you might be asking yourself, “What should I be focusing on to launch my social enterprise?”
Try out the 5-day Map Your Mission email course to find the answer to this very question.
Inside this free course, I walk you through all the foundational elements you should be focused on when starting out, and nothing more.
For those who want an even deeper dive, you can also enroll in the Social Enterprise Kickstart bundle. It includes five in-depth workshops and topics to help you focus on exactly the right things during the early stages of development and avoid pitfalls that can set you back.
Both courses cover the essential topics and activities you should be focused on when starting out; having clarity of purpose, knowing your why, your mission, your impact goals, and getting highly engaged and connected with your potential audience.
Stop letting these common myths hold you back from sharing your great social enterprise with the world!