Starting a social enterprise can be rewarding and fulfilling. However, it's important to remember that the key to success is in the business development strategies that are put in place. In this blog post, we will explore four strategies that should be considered when starting a social enterprise: product business development, distribution business development, brand-enhancing business development, and channel distribution business development.
Product Business Development:
Product business development is about developing a product or service that addresses a specific need in the market. For example, a social enterprise that focuses on providing clean drinking water to communities in developing countries could develop a water filtration system that is affordable and easy to use. By conducting extensive research and testing, the social enterprise can ensure that its product meets the needs of its target market and can scale to reach a larger number of people.
Another example of a social enterprise addressing a specific need in the market is MyKibby.com, which was founded in Calgary, Canada. The employment placement sector in the city desperately needs a solution to the massive gap in the service industry to find employees. While there are a plethora of employment and recruiting firms, MyKibby.com goes above and beyond to engage newcomers and decrease the barriers that refugees and newcomers face when searching for jobs. The startup works closely with service industry experts to ensure that they have access to the best job candidates.
MyKibby.com was started as a community project by Hong Phuc Nguyen, who migrated to Canada in 2020 and struggled to navigate the labyrinth of barriers to finding work. Realizing the difficulties that newcomers in particular, have with finding jobs, she created an app with a team of fellow immigrants to be part of the solution.
The concept behind MyKibby is to lower barriers to work for career starters by making the job market more inclusive and accessible. The company is on a mission to redefine the job search experience for entry-level job seekers, many of whom are newcomers and young people. By doing so, businesses will be able to improve the success rate of their “Help Wanted” listings by connecting them with underemployed communities and nearby job seekers.
Distribution Business Development:
Distribution business development involves getting the product or service to the target market. For example, a social enterprise that produces eco-friendly, sustainable products may focus on distribution through online channels, such as an e-commerce website, to reach a global audience. Or, it may focus on working with local retailers and distributors. Another option for social enterprises could be to sell their product on popular e-commerce platforms like Etsy, and Amazon, or even start a Shopify site. The barriers to entry to introduce a new product to the market through these distribution channels have never been so easy and cheap. It’s an excellent opportunity to reach a global audience and find your niche customers.
Brand Enhancing Business Development:
Brand-enhancing business development is about building a strong brand that resonates with customers and sets the social enterprise apart from its competitors. This can be done through effective branding, marketing and public relations campaigns and by building a solid online presence through social media and other digital channels. A creative idea for this could be hosting live events or webinars to educate customers about the social enterprise's mission and values.
Channel Distribution Business Development:
Channel distribution business development is about identifying and working with the right partners to help get the product or service to the target market. For example, a social enterprise that focuses on providing education to children in underprivileged communities may partner with schools and non-profit organizations to reach a larger number of children. Or, it may partner with other social enterprises with similar missions and values to share resources and expand its reach.
TOMS Shoes is a great example of a social enterprise that utilizes channel distribution. TOMS has developed a "One for One" model, where a pair of shoes is donated to a child in need for every pair of shoes purchased. TOMS has partnered with various retailers and distributors, such as Nordstrom and Zappos, to get their products to a larger audience and make a greater impact. This strategy has helped TOMS grow its business and significantly impact the lives of children in need around the world.
Another example of a social enterprise that uses channel distribution is Warby Parker. Warby Parker is a socially-conscious eyewear company with a "Buy a Pair, Give a Pair" program. For every pair of glasses sold, Warby Parker provides a pair to someone in need. Warby Parker has partnered with various retailers and distributors, such as Nordstrom and Target, to reach a larger audience and make a greater impact. This strategy has helped Warby Parker grow its business and significantly impact the lives of people in need around the world.
In services, a great example of a social enterprise that utilizes channel distribution is the Grameen Bank. Grameen Bank is a Microfinance organization that provides small loans to poor entrepreneurs in developing countries. They have partnered with local organizations and NGOs to reach out to the target population and provide them with financial services. By collaborating with other organizations and leveraging their networks, Grameen Bank has scaled its impact and reached millions of people in need.
Channel distribution can be an effective strategy for social enterprises to reach a larger audience and make a greater impact. By identifying and working with the right partners, social enterprises can leverage the resources and networks of other organizations to scale their impact and achieve their mission.
Starting a social enterprise requires careful planning and execution of business development strategies. By focusing on product business development, distribution business development, brand-enhancing business development, and channel distribution business development, a social enterprise can increase its chances of success and make a greater impact on the world. Keep your target audience and mission in mind, and be creative in your approach.