Social entrepreneurism is an important model to observe and perfect if we’re going to make fundamental changes. It’s also important that we define and support it… and that’s not always easy to do.
When I interviewed Laurie Loew last year, what she told me about being a social entrepreneur stuck with me. Laurie is an Austin realtor who gives 25 percent of her commission to the charity of the seller’s choice in the seller’s name. She’s essentially a “realtor for good,” as is the rest of her team at GiveRealty. (Which donated almost $37,000 to local charities last year, BTW.)
And although you’d think nonprofits would be lining up to support her, that’s not always the case. Here’s Laurie:
“I think social entrepreneurs feel they need to do more for the community and be more involved and helpful, and we’re trying to figure out ways to do that. But it’s much harder for a small business – the price of admission to get on the nonprofit radar is way too high.
“Big companies can write the big checks that get attention. But the local coffee shop is just struggling to stay afloat. And it’s very hard for small businesses to feel like they can have an impact when the dollar amounts they can give are very small.
“I guess you would hope the nonprofit community would encourage small businesses – the ones that give back – and support what we’re doing. They can be some of your biggest promoters in a lot of ways. Their audience is the kind of people you’d want to be your clients.
“I understand why nonprofits can’t promote any particular small business. That’s why I’m a part of several groups – from Bootstrap Austin to I Live Here, I Give Here, the Austin Chamber, and others. We’re looking for ways for small businesses who want to have a social impact to work together to make the whole thing easier.
“Maybe that’s what it will take – someone forming a larger group that can make the case for social enterprise. But it’s got to be genuine and it’s got to be easy. I’m a small business owner. I’m very busy!”
Learn more about social enterprise in Austin.