Summit15 – Excelling in Social Enterprise
Betsy Densmore is the founder/managing director of the Academies for Social Entrepreneurship (ASE), which helps address community issues by providing training, mentoring and access to resources for social entrepreneurs. To date, ASE’s programs have expanded capacity in nearly 200 organizations, catalyzing more than 10 million dollars—including start-up and earned income— in new revenue for organizations. ASE’s core program is a Social Enterprise Academy—typically a six-month program for groups of six to 10 organizations.
Betsy’s desire to empower social entrepreneurs is coupled with a desire to ensure quality standards for social enterprise consultants. For this purpose, eight social enterprise consultants who are also Social Enterprise Alliance members came together in a collaborative effort to create a set of recommendations for those working in this space. Betsy will moderate a discussion based on their draft “white paper” and welcomes all attending participants to join in Friday morning. The workgroup is seeking feedback and additional insight from other consultants as well as practitioners who are hire consultants. Below, Betsy shares additional information on the recommendations paper and seasoned insight for social entrepreneurs.
How do you benefit from attending the Social Enterprise Alliance’s Summit?
Densmore— I come back every year because I am completely committed to social purpose businesses and to the Social Enterprise Alliance. It is deeply energizing to be among kindred spirits and to learn and borrow from their models. This year, I am also very excited about having elevated conversations about best practices for social enterprise consultants.
Can you explain how the “Recommendations for Consulting in Social Enterprise” paper was created?
Densmore—Two Summits ago, I rounded up a few colleagues for dinner. We talked about what worked and what did not in an informal discussion. Last year, a group of us got together again and decided to write something that articulated our shared values and principles. Many weeks of phone calls, drafts and discussion later, we articulated our ideas in this paper. We’ll be doing a panel discussion on Friday at the conference and also hope to gather fellow consultants for our own dinner during Wednesday’s Dine Around. We look forward to more input and to seeing if it’s something other people find useful. We want to create a standard in our industry that helps everyone do their best work.
Do you see any emerging opportunities or threats for social entrepreneurs?
Densmore—Our opportunity is that consumers of all ages are seeking products and services made by companies that are helping to address social problems. The challenge is that being found and being recognized as a legitimate social enterprise requires considerable marketing skill.
If you could offer one piece of advice to a social entrepreneur, what would that be?
Densmore—The reasons for the high rate of small business failure apply to you too! Make sure you have done thorough market research, that you have done a cost analysis for your business model and you have the cash for a worst, worst case scenario in the first six to 12 months.
Tell me about a success story from Academies for Social Entrepreneurship?
Densmore—The problem we solve with our Social Enterprise Academy is the need to expose blind spots in market research and business models before investing too much time, money and political capital. For example, a recent client came into the program certain that they should purchase a restaurant for use as a job-training site. We helped them realize that thin margins and a weak location were likely to sink the venture and to develop a much more profitable landscaping business instead.
If you are interested in contacting Betsy or obtaining a copy of the White Paper, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The White Paper can also be accessed at http://jvaconsulting.com/wp-content/uploads/SE-Consulting-Principles-Jun2015-Final.pdf.
Written by Anna Upchurch from the fabulous team at JVA Consulting.