(Written by Dhairya Pujara for BDX Access)
In 2014, I officially launched Ycenter in Philadelphia. I registered my company as a typical for-profit LLC structure and started raising funds. The Global experiential learning enterprise has dual intent; let’s solve real world problems and let’s build capacities for young people to do it through hands-on entrepreneurship training programs. As soon as I used the phrase “solving problems for the world” and words like “Africa, Malaria, rural”, people would assume I was running a non-profit. After clearing the confusion, they would still call me a Social Entrepreneur, a Social Impact Entrepreneur and all of that – this is when I learned of the compulsive need for people to put everyone in some kind of a box.
The problem is not just being put in a box, but being constantly moved from one box to another. The typical Angel or VC would tell me they’re only interested in financial bottom-line, while a foundation wasn’t interested because Ycenter makes money while making impact – which still feels like an alien concept to many. And then, of course, there are Impact Investors (but we’d need a different blog post to dissect these species). Yes, there are B-corporations, hybrid organizations, and social enterprises all around us – some very successful ones – but if Entrepreneurship in its entirety is really about solving a problem for someone else, wouldn’t every enterprise then be categorized as “Social”?
Here are some examples of amazing companies in the world for inspiration: Founded in India in 1946, AMUL is a co-operative organization owned by 3.6 million milk producers, and has become one of the world’s largest dairy companies. TerraCycle collects hard-to-recycle materials to create green consumer products. They recorded 20 million dollars in sales last year. There’s Barefoot College, Aravind Eye Hospitals, and many more examples of companies that make money and do good – because those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive
Whatever type of company you eventually choose to build – B2B or B2C – your work will have an impact on society. Good or Bad is your choice. You can do it intentionally – or not. You can measure it – or don’t. It’s your choice. Your company is going to have a social, cultural, economic, and environmental impact anyway.
If there are successful companies that can sell products which harm our bodies; companies that escalate prices despite keeping their overseas employees at less than minimum pay, and still have no problem running a business and earning profit, then, why should an Entrepreneur (a Social Entrepreneur) like me be questioned for earning money through creating something of real value?If I sell a bottle of water for 10 cents to someone earning 5 dollars a day, that’s not exploitation, that’s creating genuine value and getting paid for it. Profit isn’t always “bad”, and non-profit doesn’t always mean “good” – it’s about value and impact. So, I repeat –
I am a (Social) Entrepreneur and I plead not guilty!
Connect with Dhairya Pujara:
Founder & CEO of Ycenter – creating Experiential learning programs in the USA, Africa, and India that teach Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He is a Social Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Benjamin’s Desk.