What does it take to be a successful social entrepreneur? These 65 leaders from #SOCAP17 weighed in

Mark Horoszowski

Mark Horoszowski is the co-founder and CEO of MovingWorlds.org, as well as an adjunct lecturer on Corporate Social Responsibility at the University of Washington Tacoma's Center for Leadership and Social Responsibility.

#1: Akash Bhavsar, Co-founder & Director of WaterQuest Hydroresources Management

As you grow, it’s critical to keep evaluating, representing, and scaling the impact of our solution

WaterQuest Hydroresources Management is a social enterprise working on Water Security, Safe drinking water, environment across North America, South America, North Africa, East Africa, South Africa, Middle East, West Asia, Southeast Asia, Western Europe. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#2: Akhil Sivanandan, Co-Founder of Green Story

The longer you stay in the game, the luckier you get.

Green Story is a social enterprise working on Environment, consumer education, sustainability impact measurement across North America, Central America, West Africa, Western Europe. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#3: Albert Tai, CEO and Co-founder of Hypercare Inc.

Find a problem that you have to solve it, since it is so core to your personality. That way no matter what happens, you can keep pushing forward.

Hypercare Inc. is a social enterprise working on Improving patient care through empowering clinicians with better tools across North America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#4: Allen Bailochan Tuladhar, CEO of Picosoft P Ltd

Expect your idea to change and for your startup to adapt the change. The only thing that is constant is change itself

Picosoft P Ltd is a social enterprise working on connecting the unconnected across Southeast Asia. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#5: Amarys Preuss, Development Manager of The Nubian Vault Association

We’d recommend to know exactly what your destination is, and how you can reach long-term impact, not just distribute products, but inserting your project into a large ecosystem of improvement and empowerment beneficial for the many.

The Nubian Vault Association is a social enterprise working on Housing, Employment, Rural development, Community empowerment, Climate change adaptation and mitigation across West Africa. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#6: Angel Mejia Santiago, CEO of Inventive Power

Don´t stop believing in yourself, your team and your dreams!

Inventive Power is a social enterprise working on Renewable Energy across North America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#7: Ankit Agarwal, Founder of Helpusgreen®

Social impact enterprises are positioned uniquely to create solutions, operating in a space where ingenuity can pay off and impact investors are willing to take the risk. So – be confident and clear on your vision, know the value in the change you enabling. Gaining a competitive advantage relies on articulating your impact. It takes all of use to continue to build the dialogue and create the world we wish to see.

Helpusgreen® is a social enterprise working on Livelihoods, pollution reduction, women empowerment, sustainable product innovation across Southeast Asia. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#8: Ann Runnel, Founder, CEO of Reverse Resources

When looking for funding, look across geographic boundaries for mission-aligned investors.

Reverse Resources is a social enterprise working on garment production waste, environment, circular economy across Southeast Asia, Western Europe, Eastern Europe. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#9: Arianne Engelberg, Creative Director of The New Denim Project

Know always that the work you are doing goes beyond your product and/or service, and beyond yourself.

The New Denim Project is a social enterprise working on Environment, textile waste, sustainable/responsible textile manufacturing across North America, Central America, East Asia, Western Europe. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#10: Bicky Nguyen, Cofounder – BDD of Circket One

Keep doing what you are passionate about!

Circket One is a social enterprise working on environment, poverty reduction, income enhancement across Southeast Asia. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#11: Brittany Déjean, Founder & Executive Director of AbleThrive

Find those who support you personally and professionally as early as possible and keep them close to endure the roller coaster of social entrepreneurship.

AbleThrive is a social enterprise working on Disability empowerment, Tech for Good, across North America, Oceania, Western Europe. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#12: Carl Jensen, CEO of Good Nature Agro

Plan but don’t be paralyzed – eventually you will just need to act!

Good Nature Agro is a social enterprise working on Poverty, agriculture and sustainable land use across South Africa. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#13: Cassie Hoffman, Director of Field Operations of Conservation X Labs

Open mindedness and willingness to talk to others – seek others’ input and feedback, customer feedback, and mentors’ and others who have gone before you’s advice…and take it all with humility, sincerity, and a willingness to improve.

Conservation X Labs is a social enterprise working on Harnessing open innovation, exponential technology, & entrepreneurship to address conservation and climate change challenges across Global. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#14: Chike Aguh, CEO of EveryoneOn

Obsessively seek solutions that are as big, scary and massive as the problems they are meant to solve.

EveryoneOn is a social enterprise working on Creating opportunity for all by connecting everyone everywhere to the internet across North America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#15: Divine Nabaweesi, CEO of Divine Bamboo

I would advise other entrepreneurs starting their journey to design solutions for existing social problems instead of working towards making problems that fit their solutions.

Divine Bamboo is a social enterprise working on Conservation, Environment, Climate Change across East Africa. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#16: Dmitry Fotiyev, Managing Partner of Brightmore Capital

Rather than just seeking capital, look for ‘smart money’ that will provide acceleration and support to enable your business to scale.

Brightmore Capital is a social enterprise working on poverty reduction, food value chain development, entrepreneur empowerment, healthcare, education across West Africa. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#17: Eric Dales, Operations Director of TAMGA Designs

Don’t allow yourself to be dissuaded by people who don’t know the problem you’re solving. Find people who really know the problem, and seek their advice.

TAMGA Designs is a social enterprise working on Environment and Ethical Labour across Southeast Asia. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#18: Eugene Maseya, Founder of Flying Labs Malawi, MamaBird

Articulating your mission clearly is really important, It needs to both convince and attract investors and partners, and it needs at all times to drive what the company does. The mission must remind all your staff and partners why they are doing this work. It should encompass the benefit(s) you want to deliver, the people you will be impacting, and how you’re going to accomplish it.

Flying Labs Malawi, MamaBird is a social enterprise working on environment,women and children’s health across East Africa, South Africa. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#19: Evin Ollinger, CEO & Co-Fouder of Golden

Start with great clarity and execute with great people.

Golden is a social enterprise working on Senior Financial Health, Poverty, Elder Fraud across North America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#20: Fanyu Lin, CEO of Fluxus, llc

It is no easy task, but you are not alone. Impact enterprise will be a new normal for businesses guided by long term visions for sustainable development. Try to envision, define and measure the impacts of your business, and make sure social, environmental and financial returns are valued equally.

Fluxus, llc. is a social enterprise working on housing, building environment, sustainability across the Globe. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#21: Gayatri Datar, Co-Founder and CEO of EarthEnable

Surround yourself with a team of people who believe in your mission as fiercely as you do.

EarthEnable is a social enterprise working on health, WASH, housing, employment, sustainability across East Africa. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#22: Heather Hochrein, CEO of EVmatch, Inc.

Work to develop a minimum viable product as quickly as possible and test it with your target market. Customer validation is key.

EVmatch, Inc. is a social enterprise working on climate change mitigation, air quality improvement across North America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#23: Isaac Baker, Co-President & Founder of Resonant Energy

My biggest piece of advice for other social entrepreneurs is to think about doing good in the world in a way that can still return scaleable, market rate returns; there are almost no investors, impact or otherwise, who are willing to take concessionary returns and we have to design for that reality.

Resonant Energy is a social enterprise working on Clean Energy, Social Equity, Workforce Development & Diversity across North America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#24: Jon Kornik, Founder & CEO of Plentify

Honestly interrogate all the reasons why your organization could fail in its mission, and design your execution plan to systematically tackle each of these risks as early as possible.

Plentify is a social enterprise working on Urban resilience to climate change, clean energy, water across South Africa. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#25: Joseph Nkandu, Executive Director of NUCAFE

Patience is a cornerstone to the success of any a social entrepreneur. Never give up in doing good.

NUCAFE is a social enterprise working on Poverty, inequitable trading, across East Africa. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#26: Juliana Gutierrez Rua, Co-director of Low Carbon City

As long as you are happy and passionate about your work, it is going to be wort it. Allow yourself to feel vulnerable, be prepared to unexpected adventures, and be open to receive the good and the bad because both will teach you something. What matters the most is enjoying the path, the outcomes will come…

Low Carbon City is a social enterprise working on Climate Change, Citizen engagement, Cities, Sustainable development across North America, Central America, South America, North Africa, West Africa, East Africa, South Africa, Middle East, West Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, Oceania, Western Europe, Eastern Europe. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#27: Julio Lavalle, CEO of Poupa Certo (Save Right in Portuguese)

Work your way towards networking, collaboration and community partnerships. If you want to create new market for the cause you are working on (revolutionazing savings for financial inclusion in Brazil in our case), the power of more players is essential. Seek ways on how you can join efforts together to leverage your solutions . This strategy has proven effective in our case by strenghtening partnerships with similar and complementary products and services working on the local field.

Poupa Certo (Save Right in Portuguese) is a social enterprise working on Revolutionazing savings for financial inclusion across South America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#28: Kristian Lundquist, CEO / Co-founder of Gro Play

Don’t waste your time talking to old-school investors because they will never get your vision, but go straight to the next generation business partners who value both financial and social returns.

Gro Play is a social enterprise working on Environment, Education, Social isolation across Worldwide. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#29: Kyle Wiggins, Co-Founder/CEO of Keteka

My advice is to not wait. Instead of looking for the big foundation or investor to launch you project at scale, utilize whatever resources you have to pilot your project on a small scale, and you’ll be amazed at the momentum you can build from there.

Keteka is a social enterprise working on Eco-tourism/Economic empowerment across North America, Central America, South America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#30: Lalit Gautam, Founder/CEO of Handscart

Three Important Ps in social entrepreneurship : Process, Purpose, and Principles.” If you know all three about your startup you will be a great entrepreneur.

Handscart is a social enterprise working on Employment, Poverty alleviation across South America, North Africa, West Africa, East Africa, Southeast Asia, Western Europe, Global. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#31: Lauren Servin, Co-Founder of Desert Date Co./Di LORÉN

Always focus on your goal and your vision. Do whatever it takes to get there, no matter how difficult and painful. They are temporary and you will wade through the struggles to a beautiful outcome.

Desert Date Co./Di LORÉN is a social enterprise working on Women income, Forest Conservation, Climate Change, Medicinal tree Preservation, Women Empowerment across East Africa. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#32: Luis Garza, Founder, CEO of Kinedu

Make sure you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, why your entry into the space makes sense for what the world needs. A lot of people go out with cool “solutions” to problems nobody has, without being conscious of the societal needs, and how their own strengths will help move the world forward.

Kinedu is a social enterprise working on Early Childhood Education across North America, Central America, South America, Southeast Asia, Western Europe, Eastern Europe. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#33: Mariángela Ramírez Díaz, Company Lead of Impulsa Bacao

Is important to have a clear path towards achieving a proof of concept. This is critical to receive attention and interest of partners that can propel the social entrepreneur´s efforts and is the best proof of her/his execution ability.

Impulsa Bacao is a social enterprise working on Poverty alleviation in smallholder cacao farmers in Colombia across South America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#34: Marten Susebeek, CEO of Susteq

Just ask, many people are willing to help you succeed in making a positive impact.

Susteq is a social enterprise working on Water, poverty across West Africa, East Africa. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#35: Megan Hryndza, CoFounder & CEO of Mighty

Getting people to care about your cause is easier than getting them to adopt the cause as one of their own. Focus on equipping people to take inspiration from your cause and make it their own.

Mighty is a social enterprise working on Community development across North America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#36: Michael Lwin, Managing Director of Koe Koe Tech

You’re going to make mistakes – lots and lots of them – but as long as you have passion for your mission and the open-mindedness to seek out others in the community that will help you improve, you and your organization will keep getting better and better.

Koe Koe Tech is a social enterprise working on M4D, mHealth, law software, health software, women empowerment, maternal and child health across Southeast Asia. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#37: Michelle Brown, CEO of CommonLit

Work hard to build a network of incredible people. It’s the only way to solve the big, intractable problems.

CommonLit is a social enterprise working on children’s literacy across North America, Global. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#38: Mubarak Lawrence, Vice President of Ones Up

I would advise current and aspiring social entrepreneurs to always believe in their vision; all while being aware of the the development required to grow and sustain.

Ones Up is a social enterprise working on Economic and Community Sustainability across North America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#39: Ricky Ashenfelter, CEO of Spoiler Alert

Don’t wait till you’re in need of funding to engage investors. Start conversations early, introduce them to your vision, and ask them what progress they’ll want to see in order to have a more productive discussion. More often than not, they’ll give you their criteria and playbook, which puts you in control of determining when (if at all) the right time is to follow-up for investment.

Spoiler Alert is a social enterprise working on Environment, food waste, hunger relief across North America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#40: Rochelle Nawrocki Gorey, Co-Founder & CEO of SpringFour

Social entrepreneurs need to remember that the journey to change can be hard and slow. Be patient and trust in yourself and your team that you have what it takes to create the solution. Don’t let the “No’s” stop you because eventually you will get to that “Yes” that will change your trajectory and has the power to create meaningful impact.

SpringFour is a social enterprise working on Financial health for consumers, income volatility across North America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#41: Saad Ahmad, CEO of Nizam Bijli

Do more, get to market as soon as possible and then spend as much time with your customers. Try to walk in their shoes and adapt to feedback as our perception of what the customer needs or how they interact with our product or service is not always as we assume. So it is very important to hear the voice of our customers.

Nizam Bijli is a social enterprise working on Rural Electrification, Energy Access, Financial Inclusion across South Asia (Pakistan). Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#42: Sandra Kwak, CEO, Founder of 10Power

My advice for new social entrepreneurs is to stay fearless. There are many problems facing our planet, tackle the biggest issue that you can and stay focused. Partnerships are the name of the game – especially in impact – we are all here to make a difference and the more we support each other, the more positive change we can make together.

10Power is a social enterprise working on energy access, commercial scale solar, international renewables, productive uses, gender empowerment, environment across Haiti. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#43: Sara Minkara, Founder and CEO of Empowerment Through Integration (ETI)

You can’t do this alone. Social entrepreneurship is addressing systemic issues and changing systems, and it takes all different kinds of partners to be successful. It’s not something you can do alone. Use your drive and passion to identify people who can buy into your vision. And don’t give up!

Empowerment Through Integration (ETI) is a social enterprise working on Empowering Blind Youth across North America, Middle East, Southeast Asia. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#44: Sheeza Shah, Founder & CEO of UpEffect

Although grants can be an excellent way of getting an idea off the ground, it’s incredibly important to learn how to build a business that can survive without public funding, grants and donations. Building a financially sustainable model for your social venture is vital for its survival – without it, your impact will be limited and short-lived.

UpEffect is a social enterprise working on renewable energy technology, ethical fashion, health tech across North America, Central America, West Africa, East Africa, Southeast Asia, Western Europe, Eastern Europe. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#45: Shrenik Jain, Founder of Sunrise Health

When embarking on a social enterprise, decide where you will be responsive to feedback, and what is non-negotiable for you to feel you are doing the right thing.

Sunrise Health is a social enterprise working on Health, mental health, stigma, substance use, opioids across North America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#46: Sishir Garemella, Founder & CEO of Sunvest

Grit and integrity beats everything.

Sunvest is a social enterprise working on Environment, Climate Change across Southeast Asia. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#47: Sonali Mehta-Rao, Co-Founder & Chief Growth Officer of Awaaz.De

The most important thing in the early days is physical proximity to your customer or user. Live in the communities/countries where you work, and always put your customers first.

Awaaz.De is a social enterprise working on Poverty, through access to information technologies; ICT4D across South Asia (India). Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#48: Sonya Renee Taylor, Founder & REO of The Body is Not An Apology

Do not be a jack of all trades. Know where your specific gifts lie. Nurture and cultivate them. Look for what you don’t have early and fill those spaces. Build a team of experts who do what they do, exceptionally. Entrepreneur need not be synonymous with one person band.

The Body is Not An Apology is a social enterprise working on intersection of social justice and body based oppressions (racism, sexism, homo/transphobia, ageism, weight bias across North America, Western Europe, New Zealand. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#49: Stephanie Carlson, Co-founder & CEO of Reflection Sciences, Inc.

Do not be afraid to ask for help!

Reflection Sciences, Inc. is a social enterprise working on Achievement Gap, Early Childhood across North America, South America, South Africa, Oceania, Western Europe. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#50: Tessa Cook, Co-Founder & CEO of OLIO

Be bold, be brave, seek out collaborators and supporters, and most of all, believe that change IS possible! Oh, and come to SOCAP next year :)

OLIO is a social enterprise working on Food waste, hidden hunger, social isolation across North America, Western Europe. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#51: Tumwebaze Khamutima, Chief Executive Officer of Young Farmers Champions Network

It takes patience, working smart and improving your product or service every single day if you are to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Young Farmers Champions Network is a social enterprise working on Poverty across East Africa. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#52: Wesley Meier, Co-Founder & CEO of EOS International

I would recommend social entrepreneurs who are just starting their journey to attend events similar to SOCAP17 to network, as this is a critical component of their future growth and success.

EOS International is a social enterprise working on Poverty, economic empowerment, clean water across Central America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#53: Yi Wang, Director of Strategy, MyH2O

Find a mentor(s) that is willing to help you navigate the landscape and boost the growth trajectory of your venture.

MyH2O is a social enterprise working on environment, sanitation, health across East Asia. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#54: Gator Halpern, Founder of Coral Vita

Panels at events like SOCAP are a great way to reach an interested audience and connect with those willing to support your organization.

Coral Vita is a social enterprise working on Coral Reef Restoration across North America, Central America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#55: Eli Mitchell-Larson, Director of Operations of SunFarmer Nepal

Share what you’re doing with other entrepreneurs and they’ll share back! I love how collaborative this field is – chances are there are others doing something similar to you that you can learn a lot from.

SunFarmer Nepal is a social enterprise working on Solar, affordable irrigation for smallholder farmers across South Asia (Nepal). Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#56: Erin Keaney, COO of Nonspec

My advice is to write down every bit of feedback you receive – especially detailed responses. This will allow you to have a place to look when you need motivation, to not get hung up on the negative comments, and to learn how you can improve your story as you talk to more people.

Nonspec is a social enterprise working on Amputee empowerment, prosthetics, health across North America, Southeast Asia. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#57: Angelo Campus, CEO of BoxPower Inc.

Its not about how many times you fail, its about what you learn from each pivot. It is only through iterations of innovation that true impact is achieved.

BoxPower Inc. is a social enterprise working on Rural electrification, energy equality, environment across North America, Native American Sovereign Nations/Reservations. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#58: Reid Saaris, CEO & Founder of Equal Opportunity Schools

Social entrepreneurs are too often celebrated for their individual leadership. We heard at SOCAP about the need to move past an “ego-system” to the ecosystem needed for broad and sustained social impact. The quicker you can move as an entrepreneur to the sense of your integration in a broader movement for impact, the bigger your impact can be.

Equal Opportunity Schools is a social enterprise working on education, equity, low-income, across North America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#59: Diana Yousef, Founder, CEO of change:WATER Labs

I would advise a daily balancing of persistence, purpose and pragmatism–envision a new future but always calibrate the pathway there with some dose of reality.

change:WATER Labs is a social enterprise working on Improved sanitation access, sustainability, Water & Waste across North America, Central America, South America, West Africa, East Africa, South Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia, East Asia, Refugee camps, Disaster relief camps. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#60: Carles Alonso Torras, Interim COO of Suyo

I would advice prioritizing close contact with the customer base in order to identify pivoting opportunities and areas of improvement as quickly as possible.

Suyo is a social enterprise working on Property rights formalization services across South America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#61: Stephen Bediako, Founder of TSIP

Always recruit people smarter than you.

TSIP is a social enterprise working on Empowerment across North America, Western Europe. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#62: Aaron Olson, Co-Founder of NovoMoto

I encourage social entrepreneurs to find great mentors and develop a strong support network for their cause.

NovoMoto is a social enterprise working on NovoMoto provides clean electricity for off-grid rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa. NovoMoto’s stand-alone solar-powered systems are cheaper, more efficient, and cleaner than the kerosene and diesel currently used in these communities. across Central Africa. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#63: Michelle Arevalo-Carpenter, CEO of IMPAQTO

Listen to the market. It’s the best way to know how viable your project is financially. Also, surround yourself with people who believe in your vision – so they bring you back up when the rollercoaster of entrepreneurship brings you momentarily down.

IMPAQTO is a social enterprise working on Social enterprise, impact investing, women’s entrepreneurship across South America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#64: Ashley King-Bischof, CEO and Co-founder of Annona

If you have a vision, start working on it now. Even if it is just a few hours a week that you spend on it, begin now. Research relevant topics. Conduct informational interviews. Start asking questions about the challenge you want to solve. Whether you continue at a slow roll or find a solution that begins to pick up steam, you’ll be glad you started when you did.

Annona is a social enterprise working on Supply Chain Transparency, Food Traceability, Fair Trade across North America, South America, West Africa, East Africa, Western Europe. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

#65: Meg Erskine, Co-founder and CEO of Multicultural Refugee Coalition

Surround yourself with great mentors and others in the field of social entrepreneurship. There is lots of great support out there and you don’t have to go at this alone. Also- get to know the people that you most want to impact and make sure that what you are doing is truly needed and welcomed.

Multicultural Refugee Coalition is a social enterprise working on refugee livelihoods across North America. Learn more by connecting with them via their website.

 

SOCAP is a pretty incredible event, made that way because of the inspiring social entrepreneurs that are leading the real change in the field. I hope to see you there next year!

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