Listen to this delightful local Swing band, Zig Zag, that played at the closing gala for The 1st International Conference on Women’s Entrepreneurship in Kosovo as you read. I had the great honor and pleasure to be invited to speak on Social Entrepreneurship last week in Pristine by the Mirlinda Kusari of the She-Era organization. This conference was ten years in the making, and much needed boost for the Balkans and Eastern Europe. I came away from the experience both inspired and reminded of perspective. This is the gift I receive whenever I participate in any capacity building programs in developing markets, that returns my social investment tenfold.
Being a practitioner rather that a researcher of social entrepreneurship I spoke of my journey. This had much to do with the importance of finding a balance to contribute to society but in a sustainable way both personally and professionally. I learned the hard way in the early days of 2BalanceU. Even if the vision and mission have good intentions, without generating enough revenue to support it, it is not sustainable and will impact your family and self. Relying on subsidies was not an option, and if the revenue model is good, should not be required. If the business plan is good, start up costs can be covered by loans or, in some cases, subsidies.
You need to have a clear plan, a strategy and to understand what the market needs and what it is willing/able to pay. The social works of my business are subsidized by the clients that work for the market rate. The more I work with corporate clients, the more I can offer in capacity building workshops for women entrepreneurs in developing markets. They provide me perspective, and I share my knowledge and methodology for harnessing social tools to reach the global marketplace. It is a win-win of social optimization.
For me, relying on subsidies was not an option, and learned if the revenue model is good, should not be required. If the model and business plan is good, start up costs can be covered by loans or, in some cases, subsidies. Therefore my presentation emphasis was on the importance of utilizing capacity building, having a plan, understanding the market and what provides a sustainable value-add (not just a feel good factor), and of course, what social tools are available to make the plan come into fruition.
Here is my presentation (can be viewed on SlideShare.net):
I took a few pictures, but quite frankly they were from my phone and not great. Torunn of epla.no took some wonderful pictures, that you can see on her blog. Lovely to meet the Norwegians there, Torunn, Siw and Gry, keep up the great work and passion with which you do it. Many thanks to Aferadita founder/director of RTV21 for hosting the event. You are a phoenix rising from the ashes and an inspiration to all.
A few take aways from the event:
- Do not wait for the occassion. Investing in ourselves is the greatest wealth, it will expand in developing trust in this environment.
- Networking is a TWO way conversation, what you invest you will get in return
Social entrepreneurship, do not forget opportunities to contribute
- Don’t forget to be beautiful!
- Strive for something study and learn, persevere, give back, learn from
customers to personalize relationship. Become part of the solution not
- Always ready to start from scratch, As long as I have my hands I can provide
- Lost project is not a failure, but a postponed success
- You must never forget where you are coming from
- Produce products/services adapted to market in which you sell
and so much more. Thank you all for your inspiration and sharing your stories. I wish you all the very best of luck with your future endeavors!