Social entrepreneurs are an enviable lot; they run businesses not for the sole intent of making money but for the betterment of society. Bill Gates, perhaps the world's greatest philanthropist, once said “Humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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Social entrepreneurs dedicate their lives to coming up with innovative solutions that address some of the world's most pressing social issues like healthcare and poverty. And while they are trying to take care of others, they also need someone to guide and nurture them. Social entrepreneurship is anything but easy, and those undertaking such ventures need a guiding hand if they want to succeed. That's where mentors play an essential role. Here are a few reasons why social entrepreneurs benefit greatly from having mentors:
The path to becoming a successful social entrepreneur is littered with hurdles and obstacles. With the objective of positively impacting society present in addition to running a sustainable business, such entrepreneurs are in need of all the experience and wisdom they can get. And while making mistakes is unavoidable, sidestepping the common ones is essential. As the saying goes, “A smart man learns from his mistakes. A wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” With a mentor who has experienced a fair share of mistakes, social entrepreneurs can avoid the blunders that every person commits while starting their own business. From securing funding to hiring the right team and marketing effectively, mentors can be invaluable to social entrepreneurs.
“It's not who you know. It's who knows you.” This adage about the importance of networking holds true for social entrepreneurs. In the course of running a business, there will invariably come a time when they have to reach out to someone with expertise in tackling the particular problem that they're facing. Whether it's securing funding, scaling their business, or forming partnerships, knowing the right people can go a long way. A mentor typically comes with a vast trove of connections garnered through years of networking. Instead of spending time running around trying to find the people they need, social entrepreneurs can leverage their mentor's network to seek help and find guidance for their own business.
People often think that the CEOs or founders of successful ventures know it all. But ask those who actually hold these positions and they'll tell you that there is always something more to learn. But when you're at the top, the question is not whether or not you should learn, but from whom you can do so. That's where mentors play the role of ‘masters’ of old who took apprentices under their wing and brought them to the level of mastery themselves. With very few people having been in similar situations, the advice from mentors who have faced the trials of business themselves is invaluable for social entrepreneurs.
Having a mentor not only helps social entrepreneurs to develop their businesses successfully, it also helps them to develop into more effective leaders and change makers.