Photo by Prixel Creative

Social entrepreneurship is an incredibly powerful tool for tackling today’s pressing social needs, and we’re only just witnessing the beginning of what social businesses can offer. It is up to the rising generations to explore their full potential and build social enterprises with power, scope, and breadth and reach of the Googles and Facebooks of today.

In a quest to find out what makes a social entrepreneur, thirty-one social entrepreneurs working in Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles were interviewed. These entrepreneurs were the kind of people that made headlines. They did not stop until they achieved what they imagined, got right back up after every blow, and communicated their vision with confidence to attract people and resources that helped them realize their dreams.

One might think that it takes a special inborn quality to be amongst them and build the social enterprises of tomorrow. However, what we have found is that there is a way to develop crucial entrepreneurial competencies suggesting that entrepreneurs can indeed be ‘made’. The trick is that the ‘making’ might need to happen at an earlier age than imagined.

Flexing the Entrepreneurial Muscle
The building blocks to the entrepreneurial muscle memory is linked through awareness, confidence, and the stamina to tackle a social problem through a business venture. A majority of entrepreneurs started flexing their entrepreneurial muscle by undergoing a series of challenges, from the ages of 10-14, which only increased in magnitude.

Daquan Oliver, Founder of WeThrive, explains how flexing his muscle memory enabled him to take numerous leaps of faith—“Whenever there was a challenge, I’d find my way around it. Life presented me with no shortage of challenges to the point where it just became a game. Facing these challenges and figuring out how to overcome them was my best entrepreneurial training.”

During this transitioning phase, children are able to solve real problems, often starting at the local grassroots level. They are able to lay the foundation to the skills necessary to start social enterprises, even if it is not able to thrive in the long run. Similar to a muscle memory built at a gym, starting to flex the entrepreneurial muscle while still young can increase the chances of becoming the entrepreneur that puts poverty in the museums.

The stored muscle memory manifests itself through an innate confidence that makes the actions needed to start a social enterprise feel natural. Once an action is stored in one’s brain, less brain power is used to repeat it. Nancy Lublin, Founder of Crisis Text Line, gives us an insight into what natural problem-solving feels like: “Whenever there is a problem, I would think: let’s just fix it. Maybe I was incredibly naïve and idealistic, but all of this has drawn a sense of agency, which made all the difference for me.”

What distinguishes a successful social entrepreneur from the one’s that have not realized their dreams could be this very muscle memory that resurfaces during plight.

Monica Yunus, a captivating opera singer, and co-founder of Sing for Hope flexed her entrepreneurial muscle by withstanding rejection she had to go through as an artist: ”You always need to find a way through. If you can’t get through the wall, think: can you go over it, can you go under it?”

Whenever they need a reminder that they can build game-changing solutions, a muscle memory enables them to move past the point where others give up.

The social entrepreneurs interviewed practiced getting into the mindset to identify problems, taking action to resolve them, and continuing to act when the first five, ten, or hundred attempts fail. Having the needed grit and sense of agency, they did not find it difficult to acquire additional skills needed as they were building their enterprises.

An entrepreneurial muscle memory is the ability to develop superpowers and never lose them, to hone critical skills to be a successful social entrepreneur, without having to think about it consciously. We need to find a way to use this discovery to build the new generations of social entrepreneurs. The kind of generations that will build impactful and scalable solutions that incorporate social entrepreneurship a powerful part of our economies.

Co-Written by Priyanka Jaisinghani and Bozhanka Vitanova from Connecting the Dots
Connecting the Dots is building the biggest repository of stories from pioneering social entrepreneurs worldwide. Together with WeThrive and their young aspiring change-makers, they are on a quest to identify crucial social entrepreneurial skills and real-life challenges that can develop the next league of entrepreneurs. If you would like to follow their journey, click here.

At Conscious, we are inspired by stories that cause us to think differently and think big-picture and so we set out to tell stories with the help of leaders and influencers within the social good community. You can read more stories like this when you join as a member.