When I founded Creators for Good, I had no problems with being a solo-entrepreneur.
In my opinion, it was the best way to stop compromising (one of the reason I did not want to be an employee anymore!). The best way to be 100% in line with my work. The best way to use my skills & creativity at their fullest. The best way to be free to do it “my way”.
Some of my friends asked me “aren’t you afraid to feel alone?!”. I wasn’t: for the very reason that being a solo-entrepreneur do not mean working alone!
Independent, not isolated
As an entrepreneur, you for sure need to interact with prospects and clients. You can also work with experts for parts of your business you prefer to externalize (legal, accounting, branding, webdesign, and more). And most importantly, that doesn’t prevent you from collaborating with others (solo-entrepreneurs, associations, enterprises) with who to partner, co-create, and grow!
Later, I realized that my friends where not the only ones having a negative misconception about solo-entrepreneurship. Many aspiring social entrepreneurs do too!
Solo yet social?
In the ecosystem of social entrepreneurship – where collaboration is a pre-requisite, and impact on other people’s life the number one priority – solo and social can seem incompatible.
Many people also seem to believe that creating a positive impact in the world is “by definition” NOT a one man’s job, and that you cannot initiate a change unless you have multiple co-founders and a huge team to deploy your impact.
I understand why it seems logical. However, I think it is important to remind aspiring social entrepreneurs that EVERY initiative has to start from somewhere, and cannot have an immediate global impact. It is much more sustainable to start small, fine-tune the solution until it is replicable, and then scale. Having a large team from the beginning is a mistake. And having a co-founder, not an absolute necessity!!
There are as many impactful solo-entrepreneurs as thriving co-founded initiatives (even if most “old school” incubators and investors seem to find it “less risky” to support teams then individuals, unfortunately).
In my consulting practice, I offer 5 pro-bono consulting sessions every months, to aspiring or early-stage social entrepreneurs. Over the last 12 months, I have thus consulted with 60+ individuals, and I noticed that this “question” of starting solo is blocking many potential social entrepreneurs:
- Because they think they cannot have an impact unless they have co-founders,
- Because they are afraid to feel/be lonely,
- Because they feel exposed, and shy to start their truly own initiative.
I can relate with that, because starting as a solo-entrepreneur really is scarier! The fear of failing is de-multiplied, because you necessary associate your own person with the potential success (or failure) of your initiative. True. BUT since when do we base strategic decisions on fears?! Starting an initiative alone or with a co-founder should not be a decision based on fear of failing, lack of self-confidence or anticipated potential loneliness.
The risk of starting with co-founders
I have met MANY entrepreneurs who started with a co-founder thinking that was the (only) way to go, and ended up “breaking up” along the way. Sometimes at the expense of the enterprise, and its (potential) social impact!!
I do not want to make any generalization, but one of the reason might be the following: when starting a new enterprise, we all have our own plans and expectations. Our own hopes and ideas. Our own personal motivations. However, bringing ideas into reality requires to adapt to the demand. Entrepreneurs thus have to adapt plans, expectations and ideas to “how things turn out”. Adaptability is key!!
The choice of changing direction is simply harder when different people (with different personal motivation) have to still be fulfilled in the process.
Example: when I started Creators for Good, I had in mind to work with Artists and Creative professionals (by providing business mindset and strategic support to their socially impactful initiatives). I tried. It did not work as planned. (For many reasons.) It was OK: things never works as planned anyways!
I had to adapt, to adjust my offers. To try other things. In the end, I realized that helping Global Citizen becoming social entrepreneurs was my best fit (where I could be the most useful and impactful, but also what I enjoy the most). It took time to adapt, to find my place in the ecosystem. I found my sweet spot.
If we had been two individuals starting Creators for Good together, could we have been that flexible? What happens when the solution only fits with one of the co-founder’s initial motivations?!
If after reading the first part of this article, your limiting believes about solo-entrepreneurship starts fading, this part is for you ;)
Here is my list with 12 top advantages of being a solo-yet-social-entrepreneur:
- You can choose everything. Absolutely every aspect of your business,
- You get to use your skills and creativity at their fullest,
- You can start an initiative 100% in line with your personality, motivations, values, and life purpose, and adapt it along the way until you find your sweet spot (cf. nb 1 reason why co-founding teams split up being the fit of the project when it needs to evolve),
- If you have an idea, it is up to you to make it happen. No convincing, no negotiation, just courage!,
- You’ll have no excuse : it is up to you to find a way to “make it work”,
- You get to choose how high you want to go, how fast, and how much work you put in (cf. 2nd reason why co-founding teams split up being the resentment/feeling of guild or duty toward work intensity),
- You’ll get to reach financial self-sustainability much faster than if you have to split every penny into two (or more), and reinvest extra profit into your cause instead of numerous salaries,
- You’ll get to be recognized as an expert in your field, and attract potential collaborations easily
- You won’t need to argue to choose who’s going to talk at that conference, or be the one interviewed for such or such media (cf. 3rd reason why co-founding teams split up being one person necessary taking the lead on the others even in a 50/50 collaboration),
- Your parents will be so proud of you ;),
- Your friends will be impressed,
- Yourself, once you have secure your financial self-sustainability, will feel truly fulfilled and at the right place. You’ll be able to project yourself in the mid- and long-term future without restrictions.
Pfiou! That’s a long list ;)
Up to you, once your social business model is validated and that you have secured a number of clients, to hire people to grow your team.. or buy the services of other solo-entrepreneurs, for the parts of your business you want to delegate!
Last but not least: solo-entrepreneurship might even become a trend. There are even incubators in Paris planning to “incubate people, not stratups”, as part of the personal growth movement initiated in the US and that is spreading across the world. Entrepreneurship is more and more becoming a way to create one’s fulfilling work-style!
Social entrepreneurship 2.0
Internet has revolutionized entrepreneurship, allowing people to start initiatives for a very small investment, while being able to connect with millions of potential beneficiaries around the globe… faster than humanity has ever experienced.
Beyond this “material” transformation, I strongly believe Internet also allow new forms of working mindsets.
Imagine a world where EVERYONE (who has the motivation), can indeed put his skills at their best use. Connect with like-minded initiatives and potential partners. Reach out to beneficiaries using the power of social medias. And most importantly, create an impact in the world by changing other people’s life, one person at a time.
Imagine a world with individuals fully fulfilled with their work. Sharing co-working spaces. Collaborating with each-other on a project base, co-creating fruitful ecosystems where everyone can contribute. Imagine a world with less inhuman corporations, and more meaningful co-created initiatives.
This can take many forms:
- You can sell organic / fair trade products,
- You can promote healthy life-style,
- You can connect wealthy people with the poorest on the planet,
- You can empower woman entrepreneur, and girls going to school,
- You can support isolated elderlies,
- You can innovate to fight unemployment,
- You can share your expertise to change people’s life – on the other side of the planet…
This movement is already starting. Through Creators for Good’s accelerators programs, I am supporting individuals to find THEIR project, launch efficiently, and scale sustainably. I am thrilled with the results of my clients, and so grateful they chose me to be their mentor in their quest for meaning and impact. And I cannot wait for more like-minded individuals to join this fantastic movement!
I’d love to hear from you!
What do you think about solo-yet-social entrepreneurship? Have you had bad experiences with co-founders in the past? Do you feel a “social pressure” that prevents you from starting solo?
Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear your opinion and experience on the matter ;)
Solène is the Chief Empowerment Officer of Creators for Good.
She developed a methodology that allows Global Citizen to start and grow their own impactful businesses from anywhere in the world – and with no need for investors or government support.