This year, I started a social enterprise. It hasn’t gone as I expected, but it has given me a lot of lessons, an opportunity to help my society, and most importantly, made me meet amazing people who have influenced my way of thinking and doing.
In order for you to understand this post, I decided to find the meaning of social enterprise as it appears quite a number of people aren’t really familiar with it. Of all the definitions I read, this one was simple enough without mincing words.
My motivation for starting the social enterprise, Radix Nest was to solve a long-standing problem I had observed in the locality I grew in. I never thought I wanted to solve it, much less be able to solve it. My reaction was usually that of irritation at the kind of life lived by the youth in the locality. I only desired to leave the locality. But that couldn’t happen since my family was permanently based there. Digital Opportunity Trust through the Ghana Think Foundation made it possible for me to do something worthwhile. Seeing an opportunity to help young people get a better sense of life and exposure blossomed out of the intense hatred I had for the non-achievement exhibited.
The solution wasn’t one I had always wanted to implement or mulled over for long. But it was what had worked in my life, it was what had made me very different from most of the young people I grew up with. So I sought to provide this same soft skills training, exposure and mentorship for the young people. But to solve the issue of poverty and unemployment, there needed to be vocational skills training and employment avenues too, thus the structure of the Radix Nest services. Though it will eventually expand to tackle more problems and generate more jobs within the locality.
I only learned what a social enterprise was in January this year. I learnt to draw a business plan and perform market analysis this same year. I had absolutely no idea what financial statements for businesses were or are, but the experience afforded me an opportunity to learn all these and much more. I got to understand and experience what it meant to run a pilot of a project, budgeting for it and actually implementing it. Not to forget the lessons of having some of the projects go awry because your beneficiaries don’t see the vision you see. And their inability to recognise some of the problems you’re trying to solve. Which is because they’ve grown used to the problem. If you are at the crossroads of starting any initiative, be it a social enterprise or otherwise, I hope these three nuggets make a difference to you.
- Stay Driven: The only reason you would be willing to get out of your own comfort zone to help anybody or solve a problem is basically a product of your motivation. It is the motivation that got you started on the project, that will keep you until the end, keep the motivation alive. There are different things that get people motivated, some are motivated to create wealth for themselves and their generations, others seek to help another individual escape the throes that accompany poverty. For some people, they want to create some buzz which would make them famous. However, if you desire to make a lasting impact, then develop a knack for solving problems in society. Just because you want society to be at least a person better. Don’t just start a foundation or NGO or social enterprise for that matter because of FOMO(Fear Of Missing Out), you don’t have to run a social enterprise to help society. Your education, intellect, talents, aptitudes and skills are enough to make a difference in your society if only you are willing to employ them.
- Learn, Unlearn, Relearn: Learning is an ongoing life process that never ends. The only time learning ends is when you die. But even that, those who are still alive, learn a thing or two from your death. I had no idea what a social enterprise was, neither had I performed a market research or employed design thinking to solve societal problems. I learned all these because I wanted to make a difference in at least one young person’s life. I spent hours after work staying in the office to carry out research, read articles, listened to tapes, signed up for courses etc. Just so that I could easily navigate these topics. And today, I can say that all that time, being frustrated, getting often confused, doubting if I was doing the right thing and fearing if the enterprise would even survive at all have been worth it. We haven’t been able to cover much ground yet, but even if the enterprise ceases to exist today, I know that at least 5 young people got an opportunity to look at life differently because I allowed them to ride on my shoulder. They were able to glimpse into a brighter future for a second and entertain the thoughts of it actually happening. And that is the essence of life. To be able to learn, and teach others. Whatever it is you are starting, other people may have tried it, no matter how unique your solution is, there are some similarities that all social enterprises carry, seek them out and learn!
- Get Mentors: Mentors aren’t always people who have gone ahead of you or are older than you. Sometimes mentors can be your colleagues, except that they may have had certain experiences due to their exposure which you wouldn’t have had. Lean on them to aid you to understand certain things. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes despite their guidance, it teaches you tenacity. You only appreciate how far you have come when you look at how tough or easy the journey has been. Don’t look out for only physical mentors, find mentors everywhere. Especially in books and articles that you would read online. The person may not know you personally, but they would be making an immense contribution to your life and your knowledge library which would benefit generations to come. Don’t forget that “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction”. Never be afraid of sharing your ideas and strategies with friends who can help. It is peer mentoring that really really helped me. Having a stranger become a friend whom I could count on for immediate feedback and corrections is something I am very thankful for.
In concluding, face your fears, chase fulfillment and value the contributions you make to humanity. The only reason why anyone would be crazy enough to step into an entirely new industry, path or field is because they are passionate about something. What drives you will determine how far you drive. You have the power in your mind and heart to change the world. I hope on this #GivingTuesday, you would decide to give something to the people who surround you!
Written by Enam Ami Agbozo, Writer, Blogger and Digital Strategist.