Start With Who

Q: I want to be a social entrepreneur but I care about so many issues. I don't really know where to begin and what to work on.

A: I think the best place to start is with a question. And, it’s not a question that begins with How or What or even Why.* I believe one of the most powerful questions we can ask ourselves is this: Who do I want to serve? Who do I most care about in the world? Who might I help? Growing up, I was heartbroken by issues of poverty. Over time, this heartbreak became a passion to understand the lives of those living with severe economic need. Specifically, I found myself absolutely fascinated by entrepreneurs living in these conditions who had small, simple enterprises. They were proactive, solution-finding individuals who weren’t waiting for things around them to change; they were trying to work their way out of poverty by building sustainable ventures. Many wanted to grow those enterprises with a small grant or loan. They were goat herders. Fishermen. Seamstresses. Farmers. Brick makers. Rickshaw drivers.

These were the people I longed to understand. These were the people I wanted to serve.

So I figured out a way to go spend time with them – even when it meant flying to the other side of the world. The more time I spent, the more I could begin to understand what they wanted and needed. The more I understood what they wanted and needed, the better I got at actually being helpful. And then, I was finally ready to create a solution.

Starting with who helped me find my focus and take those first crucial steps along my own entrepreneurial path. 

* My friend Simon Sinek is well-known and loved for helping people tap into their inspiration and purpose by “starting with why.” He argues that all organizations can explain what they do; some can explain how they do it; but very few can clearly articulate why they do what they do. But, when orgs – and people – can articulate this, he believes they will tap into an endless source of inspiration for their teams. I actually do think this perspective can be incredibly helpful to aspiring entrepreneurs as well, and definitely recommend Simon’s books and courses!