The Challenges of Being a Social Entrepreneur

social, entrepreneurLet’s start off by addressing that being an entrepreneur is difficult. However, being a social entrepreneur brings about its own set of challenges and obstacles. It combines social impact with sustainable business growth. Social entrepreneurs are faced with having to solve or alleviate a real-world issue while also maintaining positive financial performance. . Here are  the two main challenges social entrepreneurs face. Though considered challenges, many have overcome them in the past.

1. Competing on prices while having enough money to make a social impact

In order to remain competitive, social enterprises need to take advantage of creative pricing strategies. Social entrepreneurs need to establish a pricing strategy that will consider price point, allowing for enough revenue to serve their chosen cause, without compromising their customers’ expectation of their product. Though social enterprises have to overcome additional challenges when pricing, they can use original pricing techniques that are not as readily available to other start-ups. Social entrepreneurs should strategically highlight their cause and mission. Socially conscious consumers who agree with this mission will be willing to purchase at a higher price point in order to support the cause. Furthermore, bundling will incentivize sales. Shoe company, Toms, has made great use of this. For every shoe sold, a pair is donated someone in need. In order to build and grow brand equity, social entrepreneurs should also look into certification. For instance, being certified as fair trade, or B Corp will help maintain a positive reputation and better positioning.

2.  Quantifying your impact

Measuring impact for social entrepreneurs can be complex. Not only do you have to establish metrics for your business performance, you have to measure your social impact to prove credibility, as well as attract investors and potential business partners. Impact investments are investments that not only yield financial return, but social and environmental return as well. With the rise of the number of social enterprises, credible organizations have developed frameworks to standardize the calculation of social impact. The IRIS Framework consists of an organization’s description, product description, financial performance, operational impact, and product impact. If your mission is to have impact on a global scale, The Global Impact Investing Ratings System (GIIRS) gathers a range of information with regards to company’s work, size, sector, and region.  These assessments are carried out annually and validated by the GIIRS.

Many resources are available to Montrealers looking to take a step into social enterprise. Luckily, numerous grants, and funding opportunities are available, that do not require giving away equity or paying back an investor. YES Montreal, FuturpreneurQuartier de l’Innovation and  PMEMTL  all offer workshops and/or grant opportunities for social enterprises in the city, just to name a few.

With millennials harnessing the wave of activism and social awareness, social entrepreneurship has risen for the past decade. They are working towards incubating ground-breaking innovations, alleviating life-threatening issues, and pioneering some of the future’s most resourceful projects. While it is true that many obstacles can interfere with business operations, the key is taking advantage of the resources available your given city and finding creative ways of overcoming these challenges.

5 Must-See TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

TED Talks have a unique way of inspiring people to follow their dreams. TED Talks entail more than just watching people speak about their experiences. Viewers get a boost in creativity, and more importantly, exposure to perspective on a matter they hold near and dear. The words of another fellow entrepreneur that has gone through your struggles can introduce you to new strategies that you may not have thought of. Here are the 5 TED TALKS that every entrepreneur must take the time to watch. Take a gander, hopefully they will provide quality insight!

  1. Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action

This TEDTalk by Simon Sinek explores the idea of leadership and why some people are better at inspiring action than others. Starting with examples from Martin Luther King’s leadership in the Civil Rights Movement to Apple’s leadership in the business world, Sinek examines patterns that seemingly predict the success rates of various leaders.

 

  1. Navi Radjou: Creative Problem Solving in the Face of Extreme Limits

This TED Talk by Navi Radjou is about how to make something extraordinary out of very little (or nothing, in some cases). It’s a good one if you’re running short on runway. It’s also insightful if you don’t know how you’re going to do this while keeping your day job.

    3. Seth Godin: How to get your Ideas to Spread

This TEDTalk by Seth Godin spells out why, when it comes to getting our attention, bad or bizarre ideas are more successful than boring ones.

  1. Linda Hill: How to manage for collective creativity

This TEDTalk by Linda Hill is perfect for entrepreneurs trying to maximize the creative potential of their top teams. Exploring different tactics as they are used by some of the world’s most respected and most created companies, Hill examines the root causes for creative greatness.

     5. Bill Gross: The single biggest reason why startups succeed. 

Bill Gross attempts to quantify all the reasons why one startup might be more successful than another. As a serial entrepreneur and a mentor for other startups, Gross has had much experience in the business world. He’s seen great businesses fail and questionable businesses succeed. This experience drove him to quantify exactly why these differences exist.

Finding the Right Location for Your Business

Finding the right location for your business is one of the most crucial tasks you’ll have to undertake as a business owner. The matter no longer solely questions the physical location of your business, but also whether a physical location is even needed. It’s a difficult decision that requires you to take into consideration almost all aspects of your business functioning, whether that be cost and revenue, or branding. There are many moving pieces to this puzzle. Here are the most important factors you should consider when looking for a business space.

1. Demographics of an Area.

When considering demographics, you should think about two important angles. First, you should think about who your customers are and how close they are to your location. This is critical for some service providers and retailers but not so for other businesses. The demographic profile that you have for your target audience will allow you to make this decision. The area you plan to establish your business in should be attractive to members of your target market. This, will be more important to some business owners as opposed to others.

For instance, those working in retail or the restaurant business should take this more seriously than those working in legal offices. The accessibility of your location to members of your market should be one of the first things you consider. Secondly, you should consider your community. Is your customer base local, and does a percentage of it support your business or match your customer profile? When choosing communities that are largely dependent on a specific industry, you need to be careful because a slump can be bad for business.

2. Look Out for Nearby Competition

Finding the right location is serious business. There are many factors to consider in your decision making and often times it will require compromise. Whilst a perfect business location is different for every business, covering these crucial areas will certainly give you the best chance of beating the odds and keeping your business on track for future success.

3. Consider the Foot Traffic of the Area

Foot traffic is simply the presence of movement of people walking around in a particular space. It is important for businesses since it refers to those exposed to commercial establishments, whether they are walking or driving by the building. While this may be of more importance for businesses in retail, it should not be undermined by those running offices. Accessibility is important regardless of your industry. It is crucial that you consider the kind of foot traffic you need, and do a scan of the area to see if your goals and foot traffic line up. Remember, not everyone who comes by your business is going to leave with a purchase. So the more people you have in proximity, and the more accessible your business is to the general public, the higher your chances of turning a profit.

4. Look at the Success of Other Businesses in the Area

As the old saying goes, you are who you surround yourself with. Have a look around the area to see how successful the businesses in the area are. If businesses in the area are booming, chances are the traffic they bring in the area will help you out. It can also mean that the area you are in is up and coming. On the other hand, if businesses aren’t doing well, you should probably rethink your move. For one, you shouldn’t be too confident as to carry the burden of reviving the area.

5. Is the Building High Quality with a Good History?

Surroundings aside, you should examine the property itself. Whether it is in good shape or needs renovation matters. Establishing whether the property management company undertakes responsibilities over common areas matters as well. In order to make proper assessment speaking to previous and nearby tenants is a must. If the property requires too much work and money, this is can be a red flag depending on the area and the cost associated. Additionally, if you are buying a large piece of land make sure to check the Registry for servitudes or other rights attached to your property.

6. How Much Would It Cost Monthly and What Does the Lease Look Like

Rent can be heavy burden to businesses located in hot-spot areas. What you must pay particular attention to is not just the cost, but the measures you will have to take if ever you want to get out of your lease. Make sure to read all details in order to see if there are any restrictions to the things you can do to the property (ex. Artwork on your walls, staying open after a certain hours, etc.)

7. Check for Adequate Parking and Accessibility

There is nothing a person hates more than driving around to look for parking, just to realize their time is better spent elsewhere. Being located in an area with enough parking isn’t mandatory. But if this is not the case, make sure the area is easily accessible by public transit. This is not only important for your customers, but for your employees as well. Subsequently, if you decide to create or buy an existing parking lot, make sure it is well taken care of.

8. How Does Your Business Plan to Operate?

This is all about figuring out your style of operation. Are you going casual? Professional? Formal? The area you where you will set up shop, especially for restaurants and retailers, has a lot to do with the vibe you are putting out. You must make sure that your style of operation and the area you are in are compatible. It must be in line with the demographics and audience you are working with.

 

Finding the right location is serious business. There are many factors to consider in your decision making and often times it will require compromise. Whilst a perfect business location is different for every business, covering these crucial areas will certainly give you the best chance of beating the odds and keeping your business on track for future success.
 

 

Ugo Smoothies

Jewish Businesses Changing the World

Jewish Businesses Changing the World

Daniel Blumer Co-Founder Revols

Why Investors Like Startups Focused on Solving Social Problems

The social impact of businesses has been held to the highest of regards in the past decade. Part of the reason for that is millennials have grown up with a more socially responsible mindset than previous generations. Though this has now become today’s norm, many entrepreneurs have gone the extra mile by making solving social problems their main focus. Companies such as Thread International, TOMS, Belu Water, and CellInk are just a few example. With unfortunate social problems making news headlines, one thing is for certain, solving social problems has become what the corporate world would refer to as “good business”.

An uneasy relationship has always existed between investors and entrepreneurs when social problems were in question. If you planned on utilizing socially friendly practices the hope was that it did not excessively affect your profit margins, and if you’re main focus was solving a particular social problem the worry was that you wouldn’t be making enough revenue. All this to say that many investors were hesitant to put too much focus in such businesses. However, with changing societal climates, we are in the midst of a shift. What we see today is that investors no longer have to choose between money, and their values. Hence, the rise of sustainable investing. The reason for its rise in popularity amongst interested investors is simple. People want to make a difference, and figuring out which companies are truthful to their social initiatives has become easier to monitor.

Sustainable investing is a term for investment approaches that consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors and their impact. Point in fact, after the controversial era of banking secrecy, sustainable investing has come to the forefront and become one of the fastest growing segments in finance. It is an opportunity to make money and make a difference in the world. By acknowledging its importance and popularity, organizations have further facilitated and incentivized investments in companies focused on solving social problems. For instance, PME funded company Co-Power, identifies energy efficiency projects that generate, or are expected to generate steady, predictable revenue streams by either selling clean power or by reducing energy consumption.

With societal consciousness becoming of increased importance in today’s corporate culture, investors have begun to fish out companies promoting such agenda simply for positive PR. Genuine social impact companies integrate doing good into everything they do. Successful social impact ventures balance for-profit work with community-oriented resources. Failing to do so diminishes credibility and increases customer mistrust. Therefore, entrepreneurs should make a habit of working with institutions and platforms that help verify and certify social impact, examine their supply chain, look for like-minded investors, and build a team that understand the importance of its principles. Act on your beliefs instead of just talking about them.

Making the world a better place and making money can go together. Startups focused on solving social problems endure many challenges that other businesses might not. However, it is important to remember that this is a better time than ever before to appeal to investors. Assuming millennials continue to make social responsibility a priority when it comes to where they work, what they buy, and whom they support, it is safe to say that many investors out there are open and willing to contribute to a greater good.

How to Read an Income Statement

financials

For many new in the business world, reading an income statement can be a confusing and intimidating experience. However if you know where to look you will realize that it is not as intimidating as it may appear. Understanding an income statement is a very important skill to have for entrepreneurs as it aids with making sound business decisions. Basically, an income statement tells you how much money came into your company during a specific period, how much a business spent in order to generate income, and how much profit a business has after having paid all expenses. Here are a few points that will make income statements easier to understand.

  1. Income statements cover a period of time

Before you delve into reading the income statement, make sure to take note of the specific time period covered. Questions you should be able to answer for the said period include: What are the revenues of the company during the period? Have the revenues increased or decreased over the last few periods? What are the various components of cost? How profitable was the company during this period? What are the earnings attributable to a share or the Earnings per Share?

 

  1. Income statements follow a simple formula

Income statements may have slight variations, depending on the company. However, they all possess the same data. Essentially, total revenue, total expenses, and net income (Total revenue-total expenses= Net income). Additional information is simply added in order to give the reader a more detailed depiction of financial status.

  1. Don’t let the jargon throw you off

What can make income statements difficult to understand is wording. Keep in mind that businesses can use different words to describe the same concept. For instance, the term “sale” or “income” can be used instead of “revenue”. The word “expenses” can be used instead “costs.” “Profits” and “net income” are also interchangeable.

 

  1. Expenses are often split into different parts
Expenses tend to be broken down into components. Cost of Goods Sold is the direct cost attributable to goods sold. Selling, General and Administrative Expenses combines payroll costs, except for what has been included in labour costs. Depreciation and amortization are charges with regards to fixed and intangible assets that have been capitalized on the balance sheet over time. Sales & marketing, as well as Research & Development costs are also almost always included in income statements.

 

  1. Keep an eye for cash flow
Comparing an income statement to a cash flow statement is highly recommended. The reason for this is to see if the profits earned are supported by the cash coming into the company. High profits on an income statement paired with low cash flow can imply weak quality of earnings. Know your key drivers and manage them. Keep a careful eye on areas that affect cash flow: accounts receivable collections and inventory turnover. How are you doing compared to past performance and your peers? Watch key areas that affect profits, net and gross margins, labor and fixed asset utilization. Though this is more acceptable with start-ups since they likely have to make substantial inventory investment before collecting from customers, this is something that should improve over time.

 

  1. Take note of the profit margin and earnings per share

The profit margin will give you an indication of the percentage of revenue that is left for shareholders after expenses are paid. Earnings per share will tell you the portion of earnings you would be entitled to if you owned one share.

 

Income statements can be very intimidating if you are a first-time business owner. If you are an entrepreneur needing help with your financial statements, remember that some aspects of running a business are not worth saving money on. There’s no need to turn yourself into a CPA, but you must be able to read financial statements, talk with better qualified financial people and assess your company’s performance.This will lower your stress level and get the job done efficiently.

PME Mentor: Nancy Cleman

Mentorship is at the heart of PME’s success. On this 18th anniversary, it would only be appropriate to give thanks to our mentors. Our mentors spend countless hours helping our entrepreneurs reach their full potential. We recently got the chance to catch up with our longtime mentor, Me Nancy Cleman. Nancy is a member of the Quebec Bar and the law society of Upper Canada. Over her years of experience, she has provided legal advice to a variety of corporate and commercial clients, including a range of industries such as software, fashion, film and services for the elderly. Nancy is also an accomplished speaker and author. Here are her thoughts on mentorship, and why it matters.

Q: What aspects of mentorship do you enjoy most?

A: What I enjoy most about mentorship is being introduced to entrepreneurs and learning about their visions. Speaking to them and offering guidance businesses they are seeking to build is an essential part of being a mentor. I enjoy offering perspective and working collaboratively with entrepreneurs.

 

Q: How can an entrepreneur make the best out of their relationship with their mentor?

A: The entrepreneur can make the best of the relationship by respecting the relationship that is being built with a mentor. As mentors, we get many calls, however often times there is no follow up. The relationship of mentor and mentee is one of respect and trust. Mutual trust and respect is the only way of getting the work done in an efficient manner.

 

Q: What advice would you give an entrepreneur thinking of working with a mentor?

A: It is important to listen and to be clear with the facts. Thank the mentor for his or her time. If you have an appointment then keep it or tell the mentor, you cannot make it. Mentorship is a rewarding relationship for both parties. As a mentor, I benefit from the opportunity to learn new things and share my experiences.

Our mentors are passionate people dedicated to helping others. With their help, entrepreneurs have been able to reach great heights. Thanks to the efforts and unwavering dedication of professionals like Nancy, we look forward to what the next 18 years have in store for PME.