Is social enterprise for everyone? Well not really as the essential quality that any social entrepreneur must possess is a “social bent of mind”. Having said that here are 5 steps to building a social enterprise elucidated with the UTMT (Under The Mango Tree) model…
1. Finding a worthy cause
Look around you…hopefully you won’t have to look very far. Each place has its own social issues…garbage disposal, recycling needs, under privileged people, struggling artisans, marginal farmers…these are just some issues that need concrete solutions. Just in case you are wondering about whether you will find takers for products/services provided by your social enterprise, then don’t worry most people and companies with renewed/resurgent interest in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) will be more than willing to spend on a “cause”.
UTMT’s cause: Achieving human and economic security through partnership and support of rural farmers, producer networks and communities across India, UTMT is engaged in promotion of organic certified and non-chemical managed agriculture and forest produce based on sustainable farming and fair trade practices.
2. Forging Strategic partnerships
While a “cause” is at the core of a viable social enterprise model, establishing strategic partnerships is equally important. NGO’s (non-government organizations), SHG’s (Self Help Groups) are just a couple of partners you can zero in on to get the benefit of an established organization structure (even if it is loosely built) and access to a group of people bound by a common goal.
At UTMT: On one hand the company is a market-focused, customer-centric, and profit-driven business enterprise while on the other hand it is a social enterprise supported by its endeavors in technical and capacity building, credit linkages and institutional development support all of which is aimed at improving the quality of life of primary producer families.
3. Win-Win Relationships Make Long Term Business Sense
You have a for profit social enterprise to earn profits…What else? Yes, but do not forget the people who make it possible for you are the real reason why you could be in business for a long time. Any long term relationship would be “win-win” so by all means make profits but not at the cost of others.
UTMT’s Partnerships: Through “The Hive”, its endeavor to promote community-based beekeeping, UTMT supports trains and partners with beekeepers across the country to produce and market high quality single flora gourmet honey that is available seasonally across India. In the process it provides small and marginal farmers with the opportunity to supplement their income from farming with bee-keeping. Most small farmers are also traditional honey hunters who usually walk for around five hours just to locate a bee hive, they then proceed to cut the entire hive and squeeze out the honey, which is a completely unsustainable approach. This is where UTMT steps in and encourages farmers to put up a bee box on their farm, as an alternative to traditional honey hunting methods and this is also where the challenge to deter farmers from using traditional honey hunting methods for UTMT lies.
Opting for a good brand name is just as important for a social enterprise as it is for any other venture. A logo to match with the brand is an important element of creating memorability and visibility. Depending on your target market…get a brand name that is in sync with the cause you support and you certainly won’t go wrong.
UTMT: Under the Mango Tree is symbolic of rural India where most revolutionary changes are brought about by people who meet under a shady tree in the heart of the village.
The all important move…is setting yourself apart from other products/services in the market. This involves strategically highlighting your role which could be the only company that is engaged in training artisans, working with prisoners to create products or helping less privileged groups. Using social networking tools to further entrench your products and services is worth a try.
At UTMT: Providing long-term market linkages between rural producers and urban consumers searching for pure, fairly-traded, organic certified agriculture and forest produce is at the core of the venture. The company’s marketing endeavors include promotions on Facebook, a popular social networking site to enhance product visibility.