Why Entrepreneurship Part 3: Social Impact

So far in this series, I have discussed who can be an entrepreneur, what it takes to be successful, and explored the freedom that comes from starting your own business. In this final post, I want to show the ways that entrepreneurship can be used as a tool for social impact.

Small Business Worldwide

It is hard to find worldwide figures, but in the United States, small businesses employ half of the entire workforce and create about 64% of new jobs.

These numbers are likely higher in less developed countries where unemployment rates are high. High unemployment rates in these countries encourage some individuals to be creative and find ways to make money when jobs are scarce, resulting in many unofficial small businesses.

While these unofficial small businesses help a little, unemployment still remains high and most of these businesses only help a single individual or family. And they are under the threat of being shut down at any moment by the government. Small businesses have an opportunity to significantly impact unemployment rates and create a positive impact on individuals, communities, countries, and beyond. So let’s dive in.

Creating Jobs

One of the greatest ways for you to provide a positive impact is by hiring staff for your small business. Providing a job allows the person you employ to provide for his or her needs and likely the needs of their family as well.

Over the course of five years, our business would go from having one full-time employee and a couple of part-time staff to five full-time employees and over ten part-time staff. And our group of four companies would grow to around 40 total staff.

While some of our staff came from families who were able to provide for their needs and education, many of our staff came from families who struggled financially and couldn’t afford to send them to college or university. And a few a few of our staff grew up in harder situations, where their families struggled to provide even basic needs. It is my hope that the jobs provided by our company enabled our staff to do work that they loved and take important steps forward in their future.

Growing up, I was taught to work hard and get a good education and expect the same of others. However, running a business in a country where a good education is only available to the wealthy and jobs are scarce caused me to rethink what I was taught. Over time, I realized our best employees came from different backgrounds and this helped me to see that education wasn’t the best indicator of a quality employee. This change in mindset helped me to look for the potential in every person I interviewed, no matter what their background.

Creating jobs has a multitude of benefits. It allows individuals to provide for themselves and their families. It can pull families out of generational poverty and provide for the education of children. And if enough jobs are created, entire communities and countries can be transformed. As your company creates jobs, it will also deeply impact how you view individuals and their God-given potential, allowing you to see the world through a wider lens.

Empowering Individuals

Once you have created jobs and hired people, the benefits don’t stop. While some of your staff will be with you for the long haul, other staff will come and go. And this can be a really good thing.

We hired a diverse team for a couple of reasons. First, there were a variety of jobs that we needed, so that allowed us to hire people with different skill sets. Second, our experiential training involved taking teams through outdoor games and activities. None of the colleges or universities were effectively training students in outdoor and experiential education. When we hired someone, we had to start from scratch.

While working with us, our team was equipped with all types of skills. They gained skills in facilitation, leadership, communication, and team skills, along with many others. They had opportunities to interact with diverse teams from many organizations. They learned how to approach and initiate conversations with CEOs and government officials. They learned the challenges that most organizations face and how to help overcome them.

The skills they learned while working for us helped them become better employees, but it also equipped them with skills to go and provide value for other organizations. While it is always hard to see a team member move on, I was encouraged by what they would go on to accomplish. I’ve seen our staff go on to start a non-profit organizations to care for families impacted by HIV/AIDS. I’ve seen them get good jobs at other companies and start their own businesses. And a few times, these businesses have become one of our competitors. Even in those cases, it never hurt our growth and performance, and allowed them to increase their impact.

By investing in my staff, they were able to use the skills they learned to impact hundreds and thousands of people that I could never reach on my own. I never dreamed of being used to have this kind of impact when I first started my business. Thinking about it encourages me to continue to invest in individuals and challenges me to use the skills I’ve acquired to have a greater impact.

Impacting Communities & Beyond

Creating jobs and empowering individuals can create ripple effects of positive social impact throughout the community, but your potential for impact doesn’t stop there.

The product or service you offer can significantly impact your community. While not all businesses create a positive impact on the communities around them, I hope that you desire to create a business that does. For me, it was creating training and consulting businesses that helps organizations develop their employees, resulting in increased efficiency and/or profitability of their organization.

By helping organizations, I wanted to be profitable, but I also wanted to provide value to our clients and the community. Helping businesses grow allowed them to create more jobs and better serve their customers. Helping government programs, aid organizations, and churches be more efficient allowed them to better serve their communities and possibly create more jobs.

While it may look different for other businesses, they can still make a huge positive social impact on the community. For example, an expat in Nairobi started a small coffee shop called Nairobi Java House. It has grown to a number of locations and is know as a comfortable & quiet place to close a business deal, formulate a business plan, discuss the next big aid project, or read a book and get a good milkshake and burger.

Another example is MPesa. This is a mobile app developed in Kenya that allows your phone to act as a bank where you can store money, buy goods, and transfer money to friends and relatives that live hundreds of miles away. It was created by collaboration between expats and locals that has transformed the way money passes hands or phones in Kenya.

Businesses like this not only have a positive impact on the lives of individuals and communities, they move entire countries forward.

Conclusion

Entrepreneurship is a powerful tool. While it allows for the freedom I mentioned in Part 2 of this series, the positive social impact it creates is much more significant. Entrepreneurs have changed the course of history by using creativity and innovation.

Sure, you may not dream of altering human history, but I would challenge you to think through how your business can improve the lives of your customers, your employees, and/or those in your community. I believe it is our responsibility as entrepreneurs.

 

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