How to Start a Social Enterprise - Greg Overholt at TEDxYouth@Toronto

everybody's asleep this is done right in our lifetime today's generation of youth we're faced with some pretty critical problems both socially and environmentally from from climate change to global poverty to food crisis to a shortage of oil and the list goes on we have not yet been a part of the problem so far but we sure can be part of that solution over the last 10 years I've searched to figure out the best way that I can do my part and I'm firm to say that the best thing that I can do is just start and be a part of social enterprises my name is Greg Overholt and as Blake said I'm the founder of students offering support a social venture that I started when I was 19 back at Laurier and together what I want to do over the next 13 minutes is talk about social entrepreneurship the power that it has to change and create real strides to some of the problems our world is facing and the six steps to discover your inner rock star nests for those interested in starting a social enterprise and so to start you've got to know about the what so what is social entrepreneurship well the social enterprise is an organization that leverages commercial principles to maximize improvement on human and environmental well-being instead of maximizing profits for investors it's the idea of business for good okay so there's a definition but the best way to see this is to think of the whoo-hoo what are you know who are these organizations that are social enterprises and they can be massive massive corporations or they can be really small one that you guys probably know quite well is goodwill goodwill is an organization a social enterprise that has two awesome aspects to it one it takes millions of tons of what would normally be garbage and keeps it back in use and repurposes it in their stores and then sells it to students and people in low-income situations that can't otherwise afford though Goods at full price helping environmentally reduce the landfill demand as well as helping socially helping people get access to these goods an awesome organization and then you can go to really small scale this new startup from Harvard from for grads created this organization called socket their principle is taking a soccer ball and putting technology within it that when you kick it around it generates enough charge so that it can create light have a little socket on the side so that people around the world without access to electricity can have light at the end of the day and then you take somewhere in between where my organization students offering support we are an organization of student volunteers across Canada that teach first-year students right before exams and group review sessions accounting economics you name it we ask for $20 and at the end of the year that money that we generate goes to fund education based development projects in rural Latin America these projects aren't just funded by students they're built by students as we take them on trips in two weeks at the end of the year so they can see the power and impact that their time has had over the course of the year and so those are some examples of social enterprises now the last kind of big question is why our society has done such an amazing job of creating of an efficient market market-based economy you can have an idea you can pitch it to Dragon's Den you can get a boatload of money then you can take that product that you made sell it on Amazon and make a ton of money right and going back to your investors and yourself and so that system that has been built for centuries is extremely efficient you look at the other side you look at traditional charities and they have operated traditionally by asking for donations individual corporate donations fundraisers in essentially an in a rather hard hard way why don't we find a bridge between these two worlds social entrepreneurship is in the middle leveraging the fast market economy of the Amazons and all that kind of stuff business principles but for social and environmental injustice and so that is the core which is why I firmly believe that this is going to be the reason and the biggest impact that we can have as individuals to actually have real change in our lifetime and so great you have a little bit of the theory now let's talk about actually doing it and so this is the how so I've got six steps for you if ever interested in actually starting one and so step one we have a problem and so your first thing you need to know is what is the cause that you care so much about that you want to put all your time and all but a lot of your time into is it an environmental cause or social cause you need to be passionate about it because that passion is what's going to get other people passionate about your cause and get other people around the table be it's be it customers via partners be it employees or volunteers it's got to come from the heart for me and SOS I've grown up from a family of teachers and education has always been a big part of my life and I knew when I got to university I wanted to do something to help those without access to that type of education that I and my peers are so privileged to have here in Canada and so I knew that was my problem that I wanted to work towards step to what's next we'll see find superstars the next thing you need to do is that realize that you can't do this alone who's going to help make this happen and so you need to find teammates people that you can join with you to make this really happen don't find people who owe you 20 bucks because finding people that owe you a debt or do it because you're a friend they're not the right type of person you want somebody who also can be passionate about your cause so that together your can work as a team and so for me and it SOS the first thing I did was I went to my best friend and university stupid kendry and I said Stu I've got this idea to create the Social Venture on campus but I need some help I want to work towards education and he was in and here's a picture of the very first day of SOS with me Stu McKendree and Dave Cameron at clubs day in 2004 and we were there for the sole purpose of finding superstars other people who could have be passionate but what we care about as you can probably tell we come from some humble beginnings as that sign was made for my aunt and it could use a little bit of work but needless to say it's all about getting those people on the table and in the bus on the bus so you can figure out where that bus is going so let's take a look at step three determine your model and give it a shot and so when you're thinking around the table with your superstars to figure out how are you actually going to operate and you have to think of two things one what is the impact that you're going to have what is the impact that you want to have in your your social or environmental cause and then as you go in and do that you got to think about how is your organization going to be sustainable how are you going to sustain the growth and hopeful growth of your organization and so if it's a phone app in which you want to target students or children who have ADHD to help them focus great well it's gonna be an app that you sell for four dollars that is going to generate support back to your organization so you can grow get it out to more children you know do more apps version 2.0 and so you see the social side helping children we also see the sustainable side of making sure that your business can grow and flourish business principles social good awesome and so for us it was the idea that there was also a local need on campus first-year students have a hard time getting through classes and so that was a real out reality that we saw so we booked some classrooms and we said hey how can we help you and so we here's a picture of one of our very first sessions if with a couple students helping them get through first year economics and so it was all we needed to do to give it a shot you can't just sit and think you've got to actually do it and so the next step is the idea that as you go you have to have fun you have to have fun failing have to have fun learning and kicking ass now this is a step that will take who knows you know as long as you continue with this process and so the best thing that you can do is fail and learn from those failures especially at this age you know very little to risk it's a chance for you to grow and develop and so do it learn from people listen from people listen to customers listen to your partners for us back in the day what we realize was that our model of just having classroom and asking you guys what don't you know this didn't work out so well because what we realize is that students came to us because they wanted to figure out what I know and what I don't know not coming with questions because if you don't our generation if you don't know something you Wikipedia you google it you ask a friend we are very very resourceful people and so what we realize is we needed to spend more time beforehand creating an epic presentation to share so you could see what you know and what you don't know and that change was only due to listening and failing and so we realized once we flip the model we got to a picture here where after our second year is a hundred and thirty students in a room and those students are all here for economics and they all pay twenty dollars to be there in two and a half hours we ended up raising twenty six hundred dollars for school in Belize and at the same time helped 130 students do better in economics and we as volunteers were loving it because we were getting all this cool experience running a social enterprise it was a true win-win-win and that's when I really became inspired by this idea of social enterprise being able to help so many people at the exact same time and so great we're you know you're growing you're growing your enterprise you're learning and you have to remember along the whole way don't be an island because Islands don't grow as a social entrepreneur there aren't many people like you you're unique so you have to make sure you bring people peers professors teachers advisers in to your organization get their help at every step of the way because with their help it'll allow you to grow it's so imperative that you do it from day one and to the the last day at SOS we realized that there was a when we were at university we included all of our professors and the deans of the schools and the print print the president of the University not to gloat but to ask them for help and tell them what we want to do and we want your help and it came back to us because when we decided that we wanted to close our volunteer model not just raise money and donate it but actually take those students down and be a part of that build in process we asked the school for help and they came with $5,000 saying we want to see you guys make this happen and here's $5,000 and our very first trip to Belize happened in 2007 with 20 other students from will fill our University we made it happen with the help of all of the people who supported us and so finally as you move on in your journey there may be a time where you need to figure out an inflection point do you need a transition out of the organization or are you ready to develop up and so in both those situations the key is thinking about it as early as possible if you're ready to move on to something else maybe you're graduating maybe you're on to another idea you need to make sure you put in the net the right amount of time to prepare somebody else to take on that role and to prepare the organization so that it doesn't drop the moment you leave the number one issue is that people leave that organization and the impact dies you created the organization to last make sure you put the time in it properly or maybe you're really eager and you want to develop it up and you want to keep working on it you have to make sure you you reflect and say what are the barriers that I have to making that happen maybe it's money since the more capital to actually grow maybe it's advice maybe it's a board of directors or maybe it's legal help think about that before you make that jump because if you do it too late you may not be able to jump and so to me and ours in our situation I was ready to graduate University and I realized I wanted to develop up I was so enamored by what happened at Laurier in my undergrad I wanted to help other students at other universities see if it could happen on their campus and so I worked with the entrepreneur center I worked with all of the advisers that I had in place to say how do I do this and let's do this together and so over the last I'm so proud to say that over the last five years I've been able to continue doing this and in helping thousands of student leaders across this country be social entrepreneurs in their own campus and it's something that I'm just as passionate now as I was five or ten years ago and when I look five or ten years out the one thing I know is I will always be working in social enterprises be it SOS be it not SOS because it is the most impactful thing that I can do with my time and so five and ten years out from now I also hope that social entrepreneurship is something that isn't just an industry of a few it's something that isn't just something that is a growing industry but social entrepreneurship or being social entrepreneurial is something that can be part of every one of you it could be something from the new Mark Zuckerberg to the CEO of Microsoft the CEO of McDonald's to every teacher accountant doctor and professional hockey player we can all work to create creative and innovative solutions to not only create new businesses but shape businesses to think about creating wealth not just for shareholders but creating wealth for everybody thank you very much you

  1. You just suggested to kids that being the ceo of McDonalds was a good idea. You just lost me. Did you get paid for that little plug. Promoting McDonalds to children is fucking horrible.

  2. I saw a mobile game startup called vidribute. They share their profits with ngos. Look it up n please support them on or on

  3. So many of these social enterprise videos just talk a whole lot of nothing. A lot of I's and personal stories. Need the way to employ unskilled people and produce income.

  4. I'm working social entrepreneurs to help them tackle world problems and the Global Sustainable Goals through their profitable social enterprises. So your concept of leveraging commercial principles to maximize social impacts is right on the money.

  5. an organisation that leveridges commercial principles etc etc

    the only problem i have with social enterprise as i do with private sector business, too much 'business speak' why cant we just speak in spade is a spade laymans terms for those of us with some brain cells missing, it would attract more people to social enterprise if we were just more clear and simple.

    Having said that, as one of those with a brain cell or two gone AWOL, im really into social enterprise and really want to immerse myself in it as much as possible.

  6. Great work Greg!  Glad to see you've been able to expand the impact of SOS and to share your vision more broadly.  Loved the shout out to Stew!  Keep it up!

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