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Personal Growth

Becoming a Social Entrepreneur

With the economy struggling, it can be hard enough to operate a profitable business—let alone one that tries to improve the world. But tough times may be increasing interest in social ventures.

What’s the Latest Development?

How is the economic slowdown affecting the development of socially responsible business? Wes Selke, investment manager at Good Capital, a social-impact venture capital firm in San Francisco, says: “I get the sense that the recession actually has resulted in more people taking interest in investing in companies that are doing the right thing right from the start.” But whether or not a new business is socially responsible, it carries with it the same risks all upstarts are prone to. So if you’re looking to start your own social venture, consider the wisdom of those who came before you.

What’s the Big Idea?

What can you glean from the experiences of other social entrepreneurs? Don’t be afraid to make money: “You can’t pay employees a livable wage if you don’t have money in the bank,”said Lisa Lorimer, former chief executive of the Vermont Bread Company, which started making organic cookies in 1978. Be wary of rapid growth: When James Gutierrez started a micro-lending bank in California, he found that rapid expansion shouldn’t have been his first priority. His mistake? Expanding into places where there was no market for his product. 


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