Moms Columns & Blogs

February 21, 2014

Doing good is the latest trend among entrepreneurs

This week’s “Ask the Mompreneur” features an interview with Sandra Marshall, a social impact consultant for both non-profit and for-profit organizations, on the topic of social entrepreneurship.


Social entrepreneurs are receiving increasing attention and support in Charlotte and beyond, including recent events at Packard Place and programs such as UNC’s Carolina Center for Public Service, which awards Bryan Fellowships to student entrepreneurs like Nikhil Jyothinagaram and Cody Owens, who are starting a company that connects donors to educational NGOs in India.


Ask the Mompreneur


What does it mean to be a social entrepreneur?


Sandra Marshall


Social entrepreneurs are people working to solve some of society’s most pressing issues. They are business people and change makers who have a passion for helping people and improving the community.


I consider myself a social entrepreneur. After working in the non-profit sector for more than 17 years I launched my company, Sandra Marshall & Associates, to work with individuals and organizations to help fuel social impact in the community here in Charlotte and around the world. I also founded a local nonprofit, Project Scientist, to help inspire and empower girls with an aptitude, talent and passion for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), a cause that has always been important to me, but especially since becoming the mom of two daughters.


Ask the Mompreneur


What are the current trends in social entrepreneurship?


Sandra  Marshall


More and more, kids, teens and young adults want to have a positive impact on the world. They are taking action and mobilizing their peers and even adults to address problems important to them. They are donating to charities, volunteering to help others and even engaging in social entrepreneurship, taking the passion they feel about a cause and undertaking a business-like activity that earns money (or provides other resources) to support that cause.


Alex Scott, for example, was four years old and battling cancer when she started a lemonade stand to raise money for cancer research. After a year, she had raised $2,000 and by the time she was eight, she’d raised $1 million through the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. Many kids like Alex are motivated to pursue a social entrepreneurial activity because they’ve been touched by something serious or significant and are moved to take action.


Ask the Mompreneur


Does being a social entrepreneur require setting up a non-profit organization?


Sandra  Marshall


You don’t have to start a non-profit to become a social entrepreneur. Blake Mycoskie was inspired to create a philanthropic “for-profit business that was sustainable and not reliant on donations.” The result was TOMS Shoes, which promises that for every pair of shoes it sells, it will give away another pair to a child in need. Today TOMS has given away millions of pairs of shoes to children living in poverty in more than 51 countries and extended its 1:1 model to include eyewear.


Ask the Mompreneur


What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who want to be financially successful while also making the world a better place?


Sandra  Marshall


People today want to support businesses that give back to the community. According to the 2013 Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR study, 91 percent of global consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause, given comparable price and quality. This means that embarking into social entrepreneurship or adding corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs to your business strategy can provide ways to extend your brand and business to appeal to a larger consumer base. This just proves being a responsible steward in your community doesn't necessarily mean you have to sacrifice your business profits.


Ask the Mompreneur


How do you get started?


Sandra  Marshall


The first step in social entrepreneurism is figuring out what you are passionate about – Is it improving the environment? Helping the homeless? Providing education to other kids like you who don’t have access to all the great resources you do? You want to do something important to you because it’s not always going to be easy. Project Scientist is incredibly demanding of my time – between grant writing, potential donor/sponsor meetings, camper recruitment – and it’s on top of my full-time job. At the end of the day though it’s something that is important to me and the girls and women we serve.


If you’re still not sure about the issue you want to tackle look at your business model and what goods and services you offer. Are there issues or causes that are a natural fit?


Once you have identified your issue start thinking outside the box. Social entrepreneurship usually requires that you approach a problem in an innovative way. Don’t be afraid to take risks and keep trying if your approach doesn't seem to work at first.



Jennie Wong, Ph.D. is a business coach and the creator of the social polling site  See her recent piece on “Pick the right charity for your business.”

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