by Marc Blackbird, Antioch University Los Angeles Student + Founder of U.R. Media.TV
Whenever you encounter one you feel like you were hit by a force of nature. They’re mostly unusual outside-the-lines types, people who just have to do what they do because they couldn’t do things any other way…
They are an amalgam, part artist, part philosopher, part master of the universe, and always believing that there is a new way to solve anything. They live to see the possibilities beyond the constraints of ideology or discipline. They are the entrepreneurs, the people who take big risks to build businesses.
When we think about entrepreneurs we usually think about guys like Henry Ford or Bill Gates — people who saw a deficiency in the marketplace and the next step in technology, so they built companies to take their vision to market and made themselves extremely wealthy. The same attributes that led Ford and Gates to build cars and operating systems are also leading to ventures that combine financial and social returns. These social entrepreneurs are more than just business people or do-gooders; they seek a triple bottom line of profits and people and planet. Making money while helping people and the planet is not a new idea, but the time has come to highlight those who have broken the molds of business person and charity organization and recombined them as social business ventures.
Enter the book The Power of Unreasonable People, How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan. Not only does this book highlight social entrepreneurs and the businesses they have started, it is also serves as a guide, giving the reader an understanding of emerging markets and their potential for profitable business while lifting the standard of living for some of the world’s poorest people.
A great example of what the social entrepreneur can do is the story of KickStart in East Africa, where Nick Moon and Martin Fisher were looking to make small-scale profitable industries that could help the local population. What became a big seller and was identified as one of “ten inventions that will change the world” by Newsweek magazine was KickStart’s foot-operated micro-irrigation pump. Now the authors could have told us just the numbers: it cost x to make and made x plus in profit and helped x farmers in the region. All important facts, but by telling the story of Samuel Ndungu Mburu, they take us right into the “on the ground” truth of what a social entrepreneur can accomplish. Samuel was a farmer who made about one hundred dollars a year from his crops. But after getting the micro-irrigation pump he started growing more valuable crops and now has sent his oldest son to college as well as having the rest of his children in school.
The Unreasonable Becomes Personal
This story inspired me more so then just the impressive facts. That is what a good book is supposed to do: give you the story but also deliver a feeling, and stories like this one throughout the book definitely gave me the real picture of what the social entrepreneur can paint in the world.
Starting a business is not for the fainthearted, and a business that has a mission beyond just profit with all those obstacles to entry is even more daunting. In fact it might be easier to juggle knives blindfolded, on one leg, while dodging killer bees. But by showing how it was done, the cases in the book transform some of the mystery into solid facts of good businesses, no bee dodging manual needed.
My big epiphany was to be true to your vision. Be flexible and willing but with the vision as a guide, and mostly be unreasonable. That doesn’t mean be a horrible person or act out like a spoiled toddler. It means do whatever you have to make your business succeed, even if you have to change course do it, but make sure you arrive at your destination with integrity and intentions intact.
So I now feel like I have to do something even bigger then what I’m doing now. While I’m not helping third-world farmers yield more crops, I am trying to help stories get told. I started U.R. Media.TV to promote what I call “citizen media”: media for us by us, where anyone can learn how to make effective media or share their expertise with the community. It’s a new social network for ideas, journalism and art. It’s YouTube meets Facebook meets blogs, where you can create original media or share your findings from around the web and store it all on your U.R. Media.TV channel. I hope you come and make U TV.
I’m a totally unreasonable person in the best sense of the word, and now armed with real world insights on how to make real quantitative good happen, I’m hopefully much better equipped to be the change I want to see in the world.
Guest Blogger Marc Blackbird is a longtime entrepreneur whose company, The Blackbird Group, provides consulting in new media and experiential marketing. He recently launched U.R. Media.TV while studying at Antioch.