30 Sep [Social Enterprise 101] How can SEs increase the chances of corporate collaborations?
Social Enterprises (SE) prioritize social impact while corporations emphasize more on profit. Though these two may seem irrelevant, they can actually complement each other. Hong Kong’s SEs are mostly startups, but it doesn’t mean that they cannot collaborate with corporates. Of course, they have to equip themselves first. Social startups mostly rely on angel investors or founder’s investment, which means the amount is limited. More capital and bigger projects are required to scale up social impact. As for corporates, the emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is increasing and would reserve a part of their budget to support related projects. However, they might not have much experience in the social sector, nor insights on organizing projects with social impact. Therefore, both SEs and corporates have great incentives for collaboration.
However, these collaborations are rare. How can social startups increase their chances?
Products and Services
Regarding the product, some social startups might not be able to correspond to the needs of customers or corporates as they focus mostly on social impact. No matter if you have services or products, marketing needs are as important as social impact. Building a super product in secret with a high degree of completion may not suit the needs of customers or corporates. Rather go out and ask for feedback from the targeted and potential customers in order to adjust the design of the product or service. In this way, the product can be aligned with the demand of the buyers. This is called “Design Thinking”. But concepts are not enough, corporates or customers want something beyond the scope of products or services.
A customer’s impression of a corporate level service does not always come from the product or the service itself, more likely it is from the professional attitude of the person providing the service. On the other hand, social startups focus on how innovative or useful the product is, and the team is often composed of energetic young people. Sometimes the impression might not be professional and accountable. Simply put, it is hard to imagine a “cha chan tang” (local Hong Kong style tea house) can serve an exquisite three Michelin-star meal. To establish a professional and accountable image is not easy, but it’s not unattainable. As simple as a smile or a gentle greeting, or being proactive can always help to build a better image. A more subtle approach can be the choice of word or style of conversation. It is impossible to list every factor that constitutes professional service, but what is more important is the business acumen and professional attitude. This means that from founders to the employees, everyone needs to keep the customers in mind and be mindful of what will leave an impression behind so that social startups can strive to provide a better service journey.
Dream Impact also has a young and vibrant team, but we envision to be a platform and a bridge amongst social startups and with corporates to bring greater social impact. If you are trying to make your dreams come true by starting your own social business or looking to collaborate with SEsm, drop us a line.
Let’s be the force of collective social impact.