Business planning, whether done to attract potential investors, raise philanthropic funding, or to help guide strategic decision-making, is critical to the success of any social or environmental enterprise. It can be a challenging and sometimes grueling process to dissect an idea and see if it’s worth pursuing, but one of the most important steps you’ll take if you’re interested in launching your own social venture.
This week’s highlighted resource was designed by the folks at Social Traders, an innovative organization dedicated to supporting and encouraging the establishment of commercially viable social enterprises throughout Australia. Social Traders was created from a unique collaboration between the Victorian Government and a private Foundation, and focuses on supporting social enterprise development throughout Victoria and on a national level. Lucky for all of us, they’ve built a fantastic business planning tool that, while specific to the needs of social enterprises operating in Australia, can be used for free by anyone interested in creating a strong business case for a social enterprise.
What’s unique about this resource is its online, interactive format. Unlike most manuals, guides, or toolkits, The Builder is an online tool that, once you’ve registered, tracks your page views, downloads, and activities completed. A bit like an online tax software, you log in and The Builder takes you back to where you left off. You can navigate through the seven stages of social enterprise development (understanding, inspiring, exploring, focusing, designing, pursuing, and implementing), or you can start at the beginning and let The Builder guide you through a step-by-step planning process designed to help clarify, hone, and strengthen your social enterprise concept.
The Builder is designed for anyone wanting to understand more about social enterprise in general as well as for people who already have an idea for a social enterprise and want to make it a reality. It starts out with an overview of social enterprise, how it relates to nonprofit and for profit ventures, and provides a list of case studies to give you ideas and get you inspired. It suggests some models and industries that have proven successful applications for social enterprise, and asks you to start thinking about projected revenues against social costs related to your mission. For example, if your social enterprise plans to employ people with barriers to employment, you may have to budget for additional social service supports to your employees, a “social cost” that a traditional business wouldn’t incur.
The Builder has a whole section to help you come up with a good idea for a social enterprise if you’re not sure what kind of venture you want to launch, and steps you through a process for brainstorming ideas, assessing them, and choosing the best one to pursue. From there, you’ll be guided through a rigorous feasibility and business planning process, culminating with a detailed business plan template and guidance on how to set up a board, plan for evaluation and monitoring, and pitch your idea to funders and investors.
Maybe you’ve been thinking about starting up your own paper shredding business to employ people with disabilities, or maybe you have a business idea to help empower disadvantaged women, or maybe you just know that you want to start a business that makes a difference. Social Trader’s The Builder can help you shape and sharpen your idea, so that you can make it a reality.