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Need Advice For Starting My Social Business

Discussion in 'Ideas, Needs, Concept Feedback' started by Adam Silverstein, Feb 10, 2019 at 10:29 PM.

  1. Adam Silverstein
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    Adam Silverstein PARKED

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    Hello!

    I am an aspiring social entrepreneur and I am currently working towards starting up a new organization and need some advice and direction, which is why I am coming to this. I am a junior in college studying Social Work as my major, and my goal is to create and run my own organization as my career. I am very new to this and I need some solid advice from experts who have experience in this area.

    At its core, this is an organization about making positive change in communities and in individual peoples’ lives and helping people live their best possible lives and be their healthiest and happiest. I have two main goals for this organization.

    First, it would function as a sort of a social club-type thing that would operate in communities and have membership open to everyone. People could join this organization to be part of a supportive network of people and make new friends. Employees of the organization would run workshops for its members that focus on helping members bond with each other as well as touch on topics related to mental health improvement and just general mental wellness and happiness (meditation, self-care skills, interpersonal/communication skills, leadership skills, etc.). The organization would also host events and activities that are just for fun and help the members form a close-knit group of friends, almost like a family, and feel comfortable turning to each other in times of need. As a side note, I currently run a student club at my college that I started up myself when I was back in high school that has basically the same goals, so I do have some very basic experience with this kind of thing, and I would say I have been quite successful with it so far. So basically I want to create a larger-scale version of that.

    Second, this organization would partner with other organizations to help other orgs develop a more positive climate and culture and generally help members of the organization function well socially/emotionally. We would partner with a variety of different organizations, such as schools, colleges, businesses, youth groups, and many others. I feel that this kind of work can be suited to just about any type of organization, so it provides me with a lot of possibilities. To work with an organization, my organization would contract with them and basically act as a kind of consultancy service where we would assess the organization’s needs and work with its leaders to help them create the kind of positive change they want to see in their organization. We could also run workshops and other activities for members of our client organizations to help implement our services more directly.

    So those two parts above form my basic vision for how this organization should run. Now I need to start forming a business plan and I need some advice and direction on where to start. First, I need to decide what kind of organization this is going to be, whether it will be a non-profit, a for-profit, some combination of the two, or something else entirely (I’m very new to this and don’t fully know the distinctions/different types of things there are). Let me make it clear that I do not care about making a fortune or getting rich off of this, I want to do this to help make positive change in people’s lives. That said, of course I need to be able to make a living off of this work and give myself and whatever family I may have a comfortable life (right now, if I were to make about $100k a year off of this when it’s fully up and running I would consider that a basically comfortable living based on where I live). Of course I also want to be able to give the same kind of comfortable living to my employees as well.

    I mainly see the revenue coming from this organization’s partnerships with other organizations (we would charge a fee for, say, a yearly contract, or something like that). Another option is to have a membership fee for any individuals who would like to be members and gain the benefits described in the first main goal for this, although I do not love that idea because I don’t want the fee to pose an obstacle to people joining this. Ideally, membership for all would be free.

    So basically, I need advice from people who know about this kind of stuff. I need to know how I can develop this into something that I can make a living off of and what the path towards that might look like. And I am ready to get started now, so I need some guidance as to how I can get this off the ground and what I should be doing right now. If anyone would like to talk with me more about this and get to know more about my goals, please feel free to PM me at any time. I would greatly appreciate any advice or suggestions, even if it is a suggestion of someone else who I can contact for better advice. Thank you all so much in advance. Please let me know if you have any questions. Have an amazing day!
     
  2. Zcott
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    Zcott Bronze Contributor I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    How are you going to get your first sale?
     
  3. NMdad
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    NMdad Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Who, specifically, will your customers/clients be? And what are their burning problems they want solved?

    Years ago, I worked for nonprofits, and something I consistenly saw was a glaring lack of tech familiarity & expertise. With some super-ghetto PHP/HTML and some marketing & copywriting know-how, I grew a membership over 800% in about 12 months. We were a state chapter of a national nonprofit, and when the national office saw what we'd done, they sent their other state chapters to us to replicate what we'd done. We talked with several state chapters, but no one implemented anything--even though we shared our playbook with them.

    A second glaring opportunity is lack of focus on cultivating large donors & bequests. Baby boomers will bring one of the largest wealth transfers we've ever seen, yet most nonprofits are still chasing grants & small donations.
     
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  4. Adam Silverstein
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    Hello and thank you so much for replying! That is an excellent question. I have a few ideas about how I am going to make my first "sale". Like I said in my post, right now, the main source of revenue that I see coming from this will be through contracting with other agencies and organizations to offer them services that help the client organization to have a more positive, cohesive culture and climate, and for the members of the organization to feel more of a sense of family and comradery. I know this sounds pretty vague so I will give a couple of examples of what I mean by this.

    Say, for example, my organization was to have, as our client, a high school. What we would do is we would work with the administrators and counselors at the school to assess the school's social/emotional learning needs of its students and help the school to have a more positive, safe, caring environment for its students. Obviously we know that things like bullying, alienation, peer pressure, mental health, substance abuse, etc. are huge problems for high school students today and schools are looking for new and innovative solutions to these problems, that's the kind of thing I'm talking about.

    So what my organization would do is we would first assess these kinds of needs within the client school, and then work together with the administrators in the school to come up with solutions, basically acting as consultants. We would help the client school to develop and implement new programs within the school to address its unique needs. For example, we might help the school to create a new afterschool club that is dedicated to providing a safe, judgment-free, fun atmosphere for all students to come together and bond with each other, to help them feel more of a sense of family and that they are cared about within the school.

    My organization's work would not apply strictly to schools, however. We could tailor this kind of work to basically any kind of organization. For example, a large corporate business could come to us for assistance in forming a more cohesive atmosphere and helping its employees feel closer to one another and work better as a team. This obviously would benefit the company in many positive ways by increasing productivity, employee satisfaction, reducing turnover, etc. Our work with the client company would be similar in that we would assess the needs and act as consultants.

    Okay, so back to your question about my first sale... right now I'm working on putting together a bunch of different promotional materials that describe what my organization is to be about and what we will do. My goal this year is to try to find organizations that might be willing to be my clients down the road when this organization takes off full-force. Hopefully by then I will have a few interested people lined up, at least ones who I know through personal connections. Once I get a few small clients I'm hoping this will keep spreading with the help of great marketing such as a website, promotion online, social media, etc. and just word-of-mouth from my initial clients.

    But what I need advice on right now is how exactly I am to take all these ideas and form an actual organization/business out of them, whether a nonprofit or a for profit or a combination or something else. That is what I need advice on. I hope this helps clarify what my ideas are, and thank you so much for your response! I look forward to seeing what further ideas you have. Thanks again! :)
     
  5. Adam Silverstein
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    Hello! Thanks so much for your reply!

    I will answer your question with a description similar to what I gave to the other person who responded, to elaborate on my ideas for this business.

    My clients/customers would be mainly other agencies and organizations, of all kinds. We would offer them services that help the client organization to have a more positive, cohesive culture and climate, and for the members of the organization to feel more of a sense of family and comradery. I know this sounds pretty vague so I will give a couple of examples of what I mean by this.

    Say, for example, my organization was to have, as our client, a high school. What we would do is we would work with the administrators and counselors at the school to assess the school's social/emotional learning needs of its students and help the school to have a more positive, safe, caring environment for its students. Obviously we know that things like bullying, alienation, peer pressure, mental health, substance abuse, etc. are huge problems for high school students today and schools are looking for new and innovative solutions to these problems, that's the kind of thing I'm talking about. In this case, these would be the kinds of "burning problems" we would help solve.

    So what my organization would do is we would first assess these kinds of needs within the client school, and then work together with the administrators in the school to come up with solutions, basically acting as consultants. We would help the client school to develop and implement new programs within the school to address its unique needs. For example, we might help the school to create a new afterschool club that is dedicated to providing a safe, judgment-free, fun atmosphere for all students to come together and bond with each other, to help them feel more of a sense of family and that they are cared about within the school.

    My organization's work would not apply strictly to schools, however. We could tailor this kind of work to basically any kind of organization. For example, a large corporate business could come to us for assistance in forming a more cohesive atmosphere and helping its employees feel closer to one another and work better as a team. This obviously would benefit the company in many positive ways by increasing productivity, employee satisfaction, reducing turnover, etc. Our work with the client company would be similar in that we would assess the needs and act as consultants. In a case like this, the "burning problems" we would help the client organization solve may include employees not feeling satisfied, them not feeling loyal to the client organization, low productivity, low enthusiasm, employees not getting along with each other, etc.

    I hope that gives you an idea of what the "burning problems" I want to solve are. Right now, my main goal is to find a way to get this organization off the ground so I can start getting clients. If you have any advice on how I might do this, please let me know! Thank you so much, I really appreciate it! :)
     
  6. NMdad
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    NMdad Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    OK, I'm not trying to berate you, but I find that getting very specific creates clarify of focus.

    So, say you want to focus on high schools. What specific segment of high schools do you want to focus on AND who you hypothesize (a) have the pain your describe (b) want to solve it and (c) have the ability to take action to solve it (i.e., they're not constrained by overarching bureaucracy)?
    • Charter high schools?
    • Public school magnet high schools?
    • Private high schools?
    • Private religious high schools?
    • High schools with how many students?
    • High schools only, or combined middle school + high schools?
    Similarly, the pain you're considering solving is vague.

    When you--or anyone--says something like "...helping organizations of all kinds..." or "we can [help | make software for | manufacture widgets for] any company", it creates an inability to focus. Where do you start? Who should you talk to? What do they need?

    Vagueness also prevents potential clients/customers from seeing how you might help them. They shouldn't have to work to figure out if you can help them. Tell them exactly how you help them solve a specific problem they already want solved.

    For example, you might start with a more concrete idea--which won't necessarily be your final idea, but just your hypothesis for now. You'll talk to prospective clients, see if there's interest, and if not, change your idea & test the new idea. For example:
    • I help inner-city charter high schools increase graduation rates.
    The formula can be:
    • I help [specific organization type] create [specific benefit].
     

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