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Business Rx: A good heart is not enough for 'social' entrepreneuers

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By Special to Capital Business
Monday, August 30, 2010

A growing breed of entrepreneur is popping up in the business world. "Social entrepreneurs" are using business principles to create ventures that include an element of making positive and sustainable changes in their communities.

Locally, we have some strong players in this arena -- take Honest Tea, based in Bethesda, for example. The beverage company, which makes all-natural products that are Fair Trade Certified -- meaning the production and trade of their ingredients meet certain economic and environmental criteria -- received a big investment from Coca-Cola, but remains focused on creating "healthy and honest relationships with its customers, suppliers and the environment," according to the company Web site. That's just one example of how businesses can be successful but still conscious of how their decisions affect people and the planet.

Businesses in any industry can have a social component. For entrepreneurs just starting up, or more established businesses looking to address a social problem, there are some things to consider to help plan your attack. The Center for Social Value Creation at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business has some advice:

1. Identify the problem and its root cause.

Melissa Carrier, executive director of the Center for Social Value Creation

"Too often, social entrepreneurs go right to the solution. As the complexity of social problems continues to rise, it is critical for would-be change agents to understand the underlying cause of the social issue they want to address. In doing so, they will create a more effective solution and achieve their goals more quickly."

2. Dream up your solution.

Carrier

"Think big! As author and business expert Jim Collins famously coined the phrase BHAG, this is your time to create big, hairy, audacious goals. The recipe for success: Be imaginative, innovative and spirited in your solution-creation process."

3. Create your action plan.

Carrier

"Now is the time to build a plan that is specific, achievable and time-bound. Start with key milestones in the development process and build detailed steps from there. Take your time with this step, but also recognize that your plan will inevitably change. That's the nature of entrepreneurship."


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