Starter Kits for Social Entrepreneurs

Submitted by: Anonymous on 07/23/10

This post was written by Featured Contributor, Meera Krishnan.

You need more than just an idea to start a new social entrepreneurship. You need to conduct market research. You need to write a business plan. You need to figure out how to raise funding and how to market yourself. The question is, how do you do these things?

There are countless resources on starting new businesses, but social entrepreneurships are different from other businesses. They have a unique investor base, market to a different audience, and have to think about both mission-based and economic goals. Luckily, a number of free tutorials or “toolkits” designed specifically for social entrepreneurs are now available on the web. Below are a few useful ones:

1. Toolkit for Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs: This is a wiki-based toolkit, designed to be dynamic and easy to navigate. It is organized by three categories: topic, sector, and country, and provides resources specific to several countries, including the US. Users can edit content or submit new pages. New entrepreneurs can start with the page on business planning for sustainable enterprises or the high-level how-to’s. Other useful pages: case studies and a list of some sources of financing for social entrepreneurs in the US.

While a good high-level resource, some important pages have not yet been added to this toolkit (such as sample business and fundraising plans).

2. SME Toolkit: Produced by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), this site provides information divided into categories such as Accounting & Finance, Business Planning, and Technology. It also provides tailored content for a number of different countries. Some helpful pages include a checklist for starting a new business and sample business plans, among others.

This toolkit has more resources than the others. However, it meant for all entrepreneurs rather than only social entrepreneurs. Some of the content is not relevant for certain organizations, such as NGO’s.

3. The Creative Activist Toolkit: This toolkit is meant for young social entrepreneurs, and is designed as a set of slide presentations on various topics, such as a root cause analysis, or how to create a marketing video. It allows viewers to comment on and add additional content.

This toolkit is still in development, but its presentation format and its focus on multimedia makes it especially modern. It is missing a few topics but the topics that are available (mostly marketing-related) are very well done.

In addition, two guides in the form of PDF documents provide step-by-step starter advice (though some of the content is not relevant to organizations in the US): the UnLtd Built to Last Toolkit and the Youth Social Enterprise Initiative (YSEI) guide. Both are especially helpful for young entrepreneurs.