Madison’s social entrepreneurs are being the change they want to see
Madison is filled with small businesses, many with one thing in common: a cause about which they are passionate. I’m not referring to the more than 5,400 nonprofit organizations in Dane County, but rather the rising number of small businesses that share a desire to change some aspect of society or culture for profit in Madison, nationally, or globally. Over the past six months I’ve met a diverse cross section of social entrepreneurs — or socialpreneurs — who are changing our community’s heartbeat and overcoming business challenges in the process.
As nontraditional and culturally diverse businesses, many of Madison’s socialpreneurs are in for a lot of hard work and will need to dig deep into their well of perseverance to be successful.
Having a clear mission and a solid long-term strategy helps them maintain focus, especially when the inevitable crises come. Successful social leaders lean into their mission, evaluate their strategy, and concentrate on fine tuning their societal impact during these times. Typical challenges are a high need for funding and having more work than one or two staffers — as well as the owner — can handle. Add to that the requirement to deliver the social benefit about which they are so impassioned. This is where mentors, collaborators, and partners play a key role in ensuring socialpreneurs gain the business acumen and social capital to effectively communicate their unique value proposition.
For Brandie de la Rosa, her relationships with a local tech company, attorneys specializing in domestic law, a local Latina co-working space owner who serves as her mentor, and the support of the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County have been lifelines for moving her company forward.
E3Inspire is Brandie’s social business with the mission to educate, empower, and engage the public about ways to overcome or escape domestic violence. As a domestic violence survivor, Brandie is determined to provide resources and options for people dealing with domestic abuse. One way she accomplishes this is through her app, PEVO (Purple Evolution). Purple is the color that represents domestic violence and evolution represents her desire for victims to evolve to deliverance from emotionally, mentally, and physically defeating and depressing situations.
PEVO is a national domestic violence one-stop app with information and resources for domestic violence victims, including state laws and policies by state. Brandie is also a workplace consultant collaborating with companies to supply cost-effective domestic violence prevention and intervention proactive resources, training, employee awareness campaigns, and policies and procedures.
Like E3Inspire, Mindfulness for the People is a social business lifting the status of our community through education and behavior change. Angela Rose Black and her for-profit social impact startup of clinicians, research scientists, and practitioners of color aim to design and implement culturally relevant and oppression-sensitive mindfulness trainings that engage racial battle fatigue among people of color and white fragility among white people. Dr. Black is a calming presence and a mighty force for disrupting “systemic whiteness by fostering awareness of implicit and explicit racial bias in the mindfulness movement.” She and her colleagues believe “this shift in consciousness cultivates revolutionary space for developing radically inclusive mindfulness initiatives that actually meet the needs of our racialized world.” In the case of Mindfulness for the People, they have a built-in cohort of mentors and support in one another.
They have a growing following of mindfulness devotees who are grappling with cultural misunderstandings and finding clarity about the terms “mindfulness” and “white fragility.” What works well for Mindfulness for the People is their intentional care in crafting consistent messaging about their brand through no-cost or low-cost methods, which include social media, radio, and seminars, an essential practice for socialpreneurs.
Gregg Potter, Project Kinect creator and owner, also knows the value of marketing a clear message. He’s dedicated an intern to social media marketing from his very lean staff of four. The reason: Gregg is committed to communicating his standard of delivering values, philosophy, and culture while providing tools and resources for causes and organizations dedicated to social change. In other words, he and his team provide consulting and project management for social change. Greg relies heavily on word-of-mouth referrals and social media to drive business. As white gay male, Gregg shared that he hasn’t been affected by any negative perceptions or stereotypes. In fact, he looks for openings to use his position to advocate for the LGBTQ community. Project Kinect has steadily grown over the five-plus years it’s been in business with plans to expand in Wisconsin and in the South.
Brandie, Angela, and Gregg have launched innovative and creative solutions to large-scale social problems in sustainable ways while confronting the same issues that traditional businesses face in their processes and development. They also have the added concern of delivering the social value of their enterprises along with commercial value. As socialpreneurs, they land themselves between being corporations and charitable organizations needing to produce sufficient profit from the sale of socially valuable goods or services to remain viable. Being the change they want to see in Madison hinges on their ability to convey a clear and compelling message about their social value to the community, as well as maintaining a healthy bottom line for their investors, while remaining focused on making smart decisions that move their businesses forward and increase their likelihood for long-term success.
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