Rebalance the Feminine for Gender Equality and Global Solutions

Rebalance the Feminine for Gender Equality and Global Solutions

In the world of entrepreneurship, we hear about having to hustle, compete, and focus on achieving that ever important goal.  But are these gendered expectations?  Within the continuum of gender, Cori recognizes nuances between "feminine" and "masculine" energies. She finds her path and power by embracing her feminine energy, rather than homogenizing differences for the sake of "equality".   

Put First Things First (Part 3/3)

By Isaiah Baldissera, lead educator, Groundswell BUILD.

This post is a continuation of 'Social Doesn't Mean Special' and 'Clarity is King' based on my learnings working with urban social entrepreneurs at Groundswell. 

**By the way, our annual showcase takes place tomorrow (Tuesday). More here: **

Put first things first

We hold entrepreneurs in high esteem because they do something extremely difficult: they manage dozens of roles singlehandedly in the midst of immense uncertainty. For those on the outside looking in, entrepreneurs may appear to be the ultimate multi-taskers. However, as I’ve found with this cohort, the most successful are those who maintain a relentless focus on the single most important task at hand and weed out distractions ruthlessly. I’ll add that many of these distractions come disguised as beneficial opportunities: a reporter’s request for an interview, a panel seat at a popular conference, or a partnership proposal.

The wise social entrepreneur understands that the only thing that matters is building a great product/service and getting into the hands of the people that need it. Everything else is a distraction.

Of course, getting bogged down in the myriad of to-dos and non-essentials of running a business is a common problem. I recommend that founders keep a detailed calendar and amend it in retrospect to accurately reflect what they’ve actually done, and for how long. At the beginning of each week, I encourage them to set priorities and explicit goals, then review what transpired before setting goals for the subsequent week.

Key takeaway: Find out how much of your week is devoted to building a better product or service. If this is below 60%, it’s time to rethink your agenda.


Final thoughts

After working with this year’s batch of aspiring social entrepreneurs, I’m more convinced than ever that the way we teach social entrepreneurship should align with how we instruct entrepreneurs to operate by remaining agile and testing ideas rapidly — throwing out the bad ones and refining the good ones. It’s essential that a teacher have a loose structure that allows for flexibility in light of ongoing feedback from students.

Just as an entrepreneur constantly tests hypotheses, seeking validation for what works, an effective teacher is constantly searching for better tools, activities, and methods to help students learn. Easier said than done? Yes. But I believe that is the type of progressive mentality that differentiates the Groundswell program: one which strives to adapt and meet participants where they are at.

Looking back at my first year teaching at Groundswell, I couldn’t have asked for a more diverse, interesting, and supportive community of aspiring entrepreneurs to work with. I’ve enjoyed seeing the progress, the epiphanies, and most importantly, the passion of each of the participants. Their visions for a better world give me hope that we will eventually solve the most pressing social and environmental challenges of our time.

Congrats to the Groundswell Class of ’18. Keep hustling.

Clarity is King (Part 2/3)

By Isaiah Baldissera, lead educator, Groundswell BUILD.

This post is a continuation of 'Social Doesn't Mean Special' based on my learnings working with urban social entrepreneurs at Groundswell. 

**By the way, our annual showcase takes place this Tuesday. More here: **

Clarity is king

This year’s cohort at Groundswell has included many talented and experienced participants. Some have led legal teams overseas, been trained as product designers, worked as specialist educators, or spent decades in the industries they’re now launching a venture in. Experience and expertise aside, the simple (yet crucial) parts of launching a venture often remain the most elusive. More specifically, I’m referring to clarity of communication. It seems that crafting a clear message and communicating it effectively are still a challenge no matter your experience level.

Clear communication is rooted in a sturdy understanding of the problem you are trying to solve and the people you are trying to solve it for. Without this insight, it is impossible to craft a compelling message that persuades your target audience to take action.

Once this is established, however, there’s still work to be done. This takes the form of identifying which parts of your product or service (1) solve the user’s problem, (2) solve the problem in a way that is different from other products or services, and (3) excite the user enough to remark about it.

Let’s focus on the third point. It’s no exaggeration that startups live and die on clear, thoughtful messaging. Given that founders are working with minuscule budgets, word of mouth is still the best form of marketing and therefore it is essential that what they say and write provokes a noticeable, positive response with the target audience. Direct, simple, compelling copy and language will be the only messaging that spreads.

I’ve found that getting participants to pitch and refine weekly (if not daily) with an audience is the fastest way to achieve this. I also encourage them to closely observe the facial expressions and body language of the person(s) they are pitching to. If the person seems at all confused, distracted, or ambivalent, it may be time to spruce up your spiel.

Key Takeaway: Refine your messaging to include a compelling one-liner, and 30-second pitch that strikes a chord with your target audience.


Social Doesn't Mean Special (Part 1/3)

By Isaiah Baldissera, lead educator, Groundswell BUILD.

Over the past six months, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a talented, inspiring group of urban entrepreneurs who are confronting the most important social and environmental challenges facing Metro Vancouver and beyond. I’m proud that Groundswell is an inclusive incubator program which empowers those from low-income and marginalized backgrounds to create a livelihood through self-employment.

**By the way, our annual showcase takes place this Tuesday. More here: **

My first year as lead educator of the Build program saw me overhauling the curriculum while simultaneously teaching it. This has been a wonderful way for me to test my own hypotheses surrounding entrepreneurial education with young adults.

Some of my assumptions proved false. I realized the concept of ‘validation’ couldn’t simply be introduced in the first week then left alone; instead, it was something that had to be woven into the fabric of each class.

Below (and in two other blog posts) are three important lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneurship educator which I hope will be helpful to other aspiring founders.

'Social’ doesn’t mean ‘special’ 

The social enterprise is a curious breed. Depending on how you define it, it could be a pure non-profit, a for-profit hybrid (think Benefit Corp or Community Contribution Corp), or perhaps even an enterprising wing of a charity. All that is certain is that social enterprises have something in their DNA that differentiates them from traditional corporations. It would be a mistake, however, for a social entrepreneur to adopt an exceptionalist mindset, or a paradigm that they are somehow special, or exempt from the rigorous validation standards expected of other early-stage startups.

Since social problems are often well-researched, well-publicized, and well-discussed in the public sphere, a social entrepreneur can develop a false sense of understanding which leads her to make unsubstantiated assumptions about the problem she is trying to solve. I see this harmful mentality creep up when founders settle for secondary research instead of doing the time-intensive work of talking to those affected by the problem. As uncomfortable as it may be, meeting face-to-face or picking up the phone is the best way to gain a deep understanding of who your user is and how the social issue in question affects them.

Beyond problem validation, a social entrepreneur must be vigilant when validating her solution and business model. A well-intentioned founder seeking to solve a social ill is likely to receive generic platitudes from friends, family, and the public when pitching a benevolent idea. This can often lead to a false sense of confidence in the validity of the idea itself. In light of this, I ask founders to ask the question ‘will he put his money where his mouth is?’ when deciding whether to act on feedback. The best way to do this is to actually have something small to sell — such as tickets to a pop-up event — or to ask for an email address.

It won’t take long for an entrepreneur to find that getting Facebook ‘likes’ is easy; but getting a paying user, client, or customer is hard. Keeping the focus on where there is demand and a willingness to pay for a product or service is the best way to build a sustainable venture.

Key takeaway: Don’t assume you understand the problem or have a robust solution until you run tests to validate it. And don’t expect a break because you’re trying to solve a social problem.


Budget Like a Rockstar

Budget Like a Rockstar

Real life rock star and Build cohort member Cass King finds the often intimidating job of budget building an exercise for empowerment instead.  Try her mentality on for size; it's a great fit for new solopreneurs and self employed folk: 

Budgets give us handrails for our decisions. They take away the stories (“I can’t”, “I’m hopeless with money”, “I’ve never done anything like this”, “I can’t afford this”, “I CAN afford this”) and replace them with a simple question: “OK, but how?”

Conlan Mansfield & Feral Strength

Conlan Mansfield & Feral Strength

I had always dreamed of creating a community organization to build solidarity, self reliance, and youth leadership. With a liberal arts degree, I had to follow the advice to "create my own job".  I found Groundswell and they helped me do that.

Feral offers training for the body and mind and youth leadership to mentor the next generations in building a more just world.  We train a variety of teams, athletes, and organizations.  For us, it's less about creating a "gym" than trying to create an alternative that's grounded in justice and practical social impact.  

Don’t worry about working too hard

Don’t worry about working too hard

"For us Groundswellians who are just at the eve of creation, it's definitely good to know things might get hard so we don't panic when the going does get rough. But it also might serve us a little better to focus on the joy and excitement we get from these crazy times. From looking at the infinite possibilities ahead of us. From juggling with a thousand things at once. From finding our flow, from making connections, from receiving messages from the universe."

Consciously Cooking Up Entrepreneurship in Cori’s Conscious Kitchen (Now that’s a Mouthful!)

Consciously Cooking Up Entrepreneurship in Cori’s Conscious Kitchen (Now that’s a Mouthful!)

Often times serendipity leads people to Groundswell.  That's the case for current cohort member Cori, who can finally say she's an entrepreneur and who is launching her new raw food business right now!  In this blog you'll get a special treat with the first edition of her Eat This Not That series with a recipe for raw vegan nanaimo bars - a superstar hit at our last potluck!