5 mistakes Social Entrepreneurs make when starting and growing their business

Recently in my Facebook Group – The Impact Entrepreneurs Club – a member asked “…what are the most common mistakes new Social Entrepreneurs make, which I could avoid?”

And I loved this question because it recognises that those who have gone before us have probably made many of the same mistakes which we can learn from and avoid making ourselves.

So, I had a think about the 5 most common mistakes I see Social Entrepreneurs make and created this blog post.

Now bear in mind these 5 mistakes come from both my 6+ years’ experience as a Social Entrepreneur, growing a social impact programme that has delivered to over 10,000 young people in the past 5 years and generated over £150k/annum through trading income; as well as observing and talking to hundreds of social enterprises in my role as an Impact Strategist here at Share Impact.

So, they do focus on the things I’ve learnt myself and see others still making. It’s not an exhaustive list and someone else is likely to have a very different perspective.

I’d love to read about the mistakes you made and the lessons you’ve learnt along the way in the comments below so we help those who are half a step behind us.  

5 mistakes social entrepreneurs make

 1.      Do, Do, Do….

Probably one of the biggest mistakes most new entrepreneurs can make and I definitely did in the early days.

“Do, do, do…” is when you get all caught up in the day-to-day delivery and running of your business or programme delivery and not staying focused on your big vision and purpose.

As the Founder and CEO of your social enterprise this is essential.

Yes, you might be the sole person in your business and have to do everything yourself but it’s upper important to take the time to step out of just doing and re—focus on the bigger picture.

What are you really working towards? And what’s the best way to get there?

All to often as change-makers we say yes to everything and soon enough become completely overwhelmed in task after task after task, completely losing sight of our role and responsibility as CEO and stalling in our ability to drive the business forward.

Sometimes in doing we also feel safe, are taking action in our comfort zone and aren’t actually doing the things that scare us but will make a big difference to the business.

A really useful question to ask yourself is:

 “What can I do today / this week to help me move towards achieving my vision?”

Everything else is inconsequential, or certainly less urgent, because tasks that don’t help you work towards or deliver your vision are not essential tasks.

You won’t necessarily end up doing less but you will end up being more effective with your time and seeing big shifts each day or week.


2.      Not communicating their ‘why’

Now if you’ve read or watched any of my content before (here on this blog or in my Facebook group) you will know I’m super passionate about helping social entrepreneurs discover and communicate their big ‘why’.

Why does their organisation exist? Why did they set it up? Why does it matter?

This is exactly the reason why I set up my business.

The vast majority of social enterprises (and entrepreneurs) never communicate why their organisation exists and instead focus on describing what they do.  

Communicating your why is essential though, because it is the best way to engage and connect with people. It draws them in to the real issue of why what you do matters and helps them decide more quickly whether they want to be involved or support it in some way (even as customers).  

So describing why you do what you do rather than what you do should form the basis of all your internal and external communications.

Not convinced? Read Simon Sinek’s book “Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action”. He really explains how ‘why’ works and how you can use it to grow your business.  


3.      Not developing and communicating their Impact Story

Although most social enterprises are set up with a clear vision and purpose to deliver change on something, after the initial set up many forget to focus on developing or evidencing their impact.

Even fewer share the impact they deliver - another key reason why I set up Share Impact, to help more enterprises do just this.

I saw the difference on our bottom line (at Solutions for the Planet) once we started communicating our social impact and evidencing the difference we made. Without this our target audiences (i.e. customers) just didn’t really get what we were about or why we did what we did, or whether we actually delivered what we said we did.

Your impact story matters and is fundamental to making your social enterprise a success so make sure you’re building this in to your day-to-day business activity.

It’s a good idea to have a communications strategy which is built around your impact story. This way it’s planned into your workload and just happens. The worst thing you can do is see it as a nice to do someday. It really will make or break your business.


4.      Not measuring their impact

To be fair it’s very difficult to communicate your impact story if you haven’t done some work to measure or capture your impact in the first place.

I see so many social entrepreneurs waiting two, sometimes three years, before they even start thinking about measuring their impact. This is way too late!

You should be thinking about impact from day one and exploring ways to collect evidence of your impact from the beginning.

Those enterprises that build in impact measurement from day one generally develop quicker because they put their vision and impact goals at the forefront of everything they do. They make decisions on the impact they deliver and can discover whether what they’re doing is actually making the difference they want to make.

I know what you’re thinking though…Kat I just don’t know how to do it yet and we don’t have funds to get the expertise we need. Trust me in the early days of your enterprise impact measurement really doesn’t have to be cumbersome or difficult. Simply define what impact matters to your brand and select one or two indicators that would demonstrate this impact (change) has taken place.

[If you need ideas or support I offer free 30 minute strategy calls where we can discuss some ideas]


5.      Waiting for perfection

Stop waiting for everything to be perfect!

Waiting for perfection before you reach out and tell people about your vision, why you exist and your impact is a sure fired way not to have any customers.

We all want to present our best selves, test things out and make sure everything is right before we put it out in to the world but in doing so you’re stopping yourself from generating income and delivering impact.

You have to believe in your idea and be bold enough to share well before your ready.

By doing this you also allow for input, adaptation and improvement along the way. Research shows that businesses who develop their products and services with their customers achieve much quicker because they respond to market demand and research about what people actually want.

Remember, you’re vision and the potential impact you could deliver are too important for you to not put it out there. People are waiting to buy your product or service and support you in delivering change - so don’t delay!

Share Impact helps organisations measure and communicate their social or environmental impact so they can confidently communicate: why they exist, the difference they make and why others should care.

We provide research & evaluation services; training; consultancy, business mentoring and communication management with a focus on social impact measurement and reporting.

Want to find out more about how we could help your organisation? Book a free 30 minute call with Kat here.