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Daily Nation : February 18th 2014
14 smart company social venture Your local community is often the best place to start when looking for funding opportunities, but if you can’t find anyone suitable to work with, the logical next step is to broaden your search to the national or even international level Q: I am a social entrepreneur, striving to develop a business in Africa that makes a difference, but my struggle is the same as that of millions of others: finding funding. I come from Denmark, and potential investors always tell me, “The idea is great, but please prove that your business model works first, and then come back.” Should I look abroad for funding instead? - Christian Høegh-Guldberg Hoff, Nairobi, Kenya hear from people like you, who are in our field for the right reasons. It’s very encouraging to see enterprising social entrepreneurs prove that they want to help people and the planet by doing good business. It can sometimes be more difficult for social entrepreneurs to secure funding than for those proposing to run purely commercial, profit-driven enterprises. Getting your message across M to potential investors can be particularly challenging, since they may assume that because you intend to solve a problem or help people, you must be adopting the nonprofit model. Your local community is of- ten the best place to start when looking for funding opportunities, but if you can’t find anyone suitable to work with, the logical MANAGEMENT » DAVID MUTURI To think creatively, you have to gather relevant information ONE OF the most common urges among leaders in the workplace is the urge to get people to think creatively. Supervisors are commonly flus- tered by the thought that things do not seem to be moving as swiftly as they would want them to move. They demand of their charges to think creatively or – as is often put – to think outside the box. What could confound some of the subordinates is that the box is never defined. Nor is the process of thinking outside the box. So what is the box and where does it sit? How do you know when you are thinking within the box and when you are out of the box? You cannot think creatively just like that. You cannot just sit somewhere and – like the proverbial magical abracadabra – ideas just well into you from nowhere. You must prepare thoroughly to be able to think creatively. You prepare to think creatively by gathering facts on the situation at hand. You try to obtain as much information as you can on all issues relevant to the situation. This enables you to define and redefine the problem so as to be able to look at it from a broad perspective. Share information It is futile to attempt to think crea- tively with inadequate information. It is equally frustrating to demand of your team to think creatively and yet you are economical with information. Indeed the starting point in creative thinking is sharing of information. Creative thinkers are gatherers of information. Creative thinking is only possible for those who are engaged and interested in what they do. For when you are interested you are keen to obtain information. This includes incidental information that you may not immediately consider important. Such information may in fact become useful in future. You also freely share information you have, for you know it is in giving that you also receive. You are now ready for the effort phase. This phase can be equally rewarding and frustrating. You are ready to engage in what the American management guru Dale Carnegie called green light thinking. You allow thoughts to flow freely and generate many ideas. Some are outrageous and far out of the way. Others represent reasonable possibilities. No matter, allow them to flow. For this is the stage in which you may just generate the brilliant new idea. When you are trying to generate fresh ideas you may find it helpful to incubate your thoughts and indeed the problem. Fresh insights You incubate the thoughts by leav- ing them in your subconscious. This will help them to continue processed, refined and clearer. Psychologists have taught us that it is in such moments that you get fresh insights. They are likely to come in flashes of illumination. During this phase you subconsciously start tracing the dots in your thoughts. You start seeing how the various dots relate to each other and how they can be conjoined to give you the solution you are looking for. Creative thinking is being able to see the productive interplay between things that may at first sight appear unrelated. You may want to agree with Steve Jobs when he said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something they feel guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something, it seemed obvious to them after a while.” Such is the power of incubation of thoughts, once you have adequate information. Mr Muturi is the executive director, Kenya Institute of Management Tuesday February 18, 2014 DAILY NATION COUNSEL » IF YOU LOOK LONG AND HARD ENOUGH, YOU’LL FIND SOMEONE WITH A SHARED VISION WHO WANTS TO HELP YOU Finding the right path for funding PHOTO | AFP Carbon War Room, which Virgin Unite incubated, helps to accelerate businesses that aim to reduce carbon emissions and advance the low-carbon economy. who will be interested in what you’re doing. Such people are all potential investors. Another great way to generate excitement about your idea and raise funds is through crowdfunding, an option many startups are choosing. Thanks to websites like Kickstarter and EquityNet, it’s now easier than ever before to drum up interest around your new idea or innovation and find small loans and pledges that supply the money you need to take things forward. There are other benefits to taking the crowdfunding route. Pitching an idea to a room full of investors can be tricky; while preparing a pitch for an online forum is not easy, it does require a different set of skills - perhaps this is an area where you and your business idea shine. Create a buzz Gaining momentum is also ore and more often I next step is to broaden your search to the national or even international level. And if you do have the option of bringing in foreign investors, this may be to your advantage in the long run. Your business could gain some important contacts, while their outsider perspectives on your business may offer some interesting insights. When you’re ready to expand the business internationally, the process will be a lot easier if you have contacts already in place. There are many organisa- tions aside from venture capital funds or banks that socially responsible startups can try in their search for funding. Virgin has been involved in the Dutch Postcode Lottery for years, and last year I chaired its sustainable competition jury, which provides a lot of funding to green businesses. Included in the prize are opportunities to work with a mentor, which are just as important as cash. On a similar theme, I was also Richard Branson ENTREPRENEURSHIP on the jury for the $4 million Zayed Future Energy Prize, based in the United Arab Emirates, which encourages entrepreneurs to find innovative solutions “that will meet the challenges of climate change, energy security and the environment.” Another option might be the Carbon War Room, which Virgin Unite incubated and which helps to accelerate businesses that aim to reduce carbon emissions and advance the low-carbon economy. While the Carbon War Room cannot directly fund businesses, working with them enables entrepreneurs like you to bring their ideas to thought leaders, industry experts and many more potential investors. Whatever your business idea, if you look long and hard enough, more often than not you’ll be able to find someone with a shared vision who will want to help you on your way. Online communities and fo- rums about issues in your sector can help you to contact those very important: The crowdfunding process may create a buzz about your business as the money begins to roll in. If things go well, you could soon find people from all over the world hoping to buy your product or service - so make sure you’re ready to provide it. Entrepreneurship isn’t just about selling things - it’s also about finding ways to make a difference in people’s lives. Setting up a company explicitly to bring about positive change may be challenging, but keep in mind that enterprises that survive and thrive in the long run are ones that have won the trust and respect of their communities. If you build your mission into your business model, it’s likely you’ll lay the foundation for success. Good luck! Questions from readers will be answered in future columns. Send them to RichardBranson@ nytimes.com.
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