During Global Entrepreneurship Week, at Pickwell Manor in North Devon, a group of students on the CMS Pioneer Leadership Course will learn how to apply models of social enterprise to ideas that seek to enhance the lives of people and communities. The five-day residential is hosted by the Church Mission Society and students are encouraged to come along with a business idea to work on during the week. They will attend sessions on formulating a mission statement, devising a business plan, accessing different sources of funding and evaluating success. In addition, they will hear stories of social enterprises that are already thriving and get the opportunity to quiz their owners to discover the secrets of their success.
One example of good practice to be shared is Global SeeSaw, a company that sells wholesale, online and through their shop goods made by women who have been exploited through global trafficking. Run as a social enterprise, all profits are reinvested into the business to create more jobs. This gives vulnerable women, who are disproportionately affected by poverty, greater freedom.
Mark Wakeling, the entrepreneur behind Global SeeSaw, explains: “We’re committed to finding quality products that not only impress with their contemporary design, but also use recycled materials in their manufacture. While many fair trade companies pay just wages and don’t use child labour, we go a step further and ensure that all our manufacturing partners also reinvest their profits. We measure success in human lives changed, rather than wealth generated.”
Course leader, Jonny Baker, says of this unique learning opportunity: “To be sustainable, we must embrace the practices of social enterprise and seek to make a difference, while generating finances where appropriate. For too long business principles have been seen as incompatible with social action, but if we are to be relevant and innovative in the longer term, creative ways of demonstrating our faith need to be self-supporting as well as transformative. We have created this module to begin to address this and we’re encouraging our students to pursue activities that will not need to be wholly dependent on charitable funding.”
For more information on this venture see the CMS website.
This is a question that would-be entrepreneurs need to ask themselves. It is not enough to have a good idea – or even a great idea – for a product or service. What you need to find out is whether you can provide that service or product to enough people who will pay enough so that you make enough profit.
So where do you start? The first thing is to research is what is out there already. If the market is saturated with competitors providing the same goods or services as you, then your business must have a pretty compelling USP (unique selling proposition) to make it stand out.
Check out the competition
How are your competitors doing? Companies must file their accounts at Companies House, and companies listed on the London Stock Exchange will have to provide detailed financial information to the public, which means that you can find out quite a lot about them after a few clicks on the internet.
The next thing to do is firm up the scale of your potential customer base and how much they would be prepared to pay. The best people to tell you about this are strangers (friends and family might fib to protect your feelings). If you need the results of the research for attracting funding, it can be worth paying professional market researchers who will present impartial findings in a clear way. If you end up doing the research yourself, strive for professional looking results. Common research methods include questionnaire and interviews with interested parties.
Conduct a realistic appraisal of costs
Think through every penny you need to spend to sell your goods or services, and make a note of them. Have you counted business premises, transport costs and tax implications? If you are making a product it is easy to focus on components and blank out these other issues which still have a bearing on whether your business can be profitable.
Think about business models
Finally, think about the structure of your business and whom you will be working with. If you lack certain skills, should you consider going into a partnership with someone who can make up that deficit? Or should you be considering setting up a limited company? Setting up a company can only take a couple of hours with a formation agent, and mitigates the risk in case your business turns out not to be viable.