23 November 2010: 8/10

Same as yesterday.

My life as a social entrepreneur has got to be better than that of a regular entrepreneur.  I am not judging or saying that social entrepreneurs are more worthy.  However, as a social entrepreneur, part of what motivates me and the people who work with me, and part of what defines our success, is “doing bread” with others for no charge.  Although arguably all of Virtuousbread.com’s activities, commercial or charitable, benefit society, an important aspect of the “social” part of “social enterprise”, in our case, is the commitment to spend 20% of our time working with others for no fee.  To that end, although we have a very real need to make money, it does not matter if we are not making money every day.  In fact, it is imperative that we do not and that does take the pressure off a bit.  Because I am used to days where I deliberately do not make money, I think it makes the days when I am neither doing something charitable nor earning money rather more bearable.

At this stage in our development there are plenty of days when we neither make money nor are engaged in charitable activities.  OK, not great, but we don’t yet have a team of sales people, lead generators, marketing executives…or anyone else going out to hustle for us:  pitching ideas, applying for grants, researching the sources of support that are available to social enterprises, or selling work.  So, at this stage in the game we need to accept that we will spend time hustling and, with scarce resources, we cannot be making money whilst hustling.  Today was a somewhat hustling kind of day.

I baked in the morning with Alastair Instone, founder of the School of Food that offers fantastic cookery classes in the comfort and safety of your own kitchen.  He is great:  a real grafter who has been chefing in one way or another since he was in his teens.  Full of ideas and connected to a different crowd from mine, I believe we can help each other a lot.  Over the dough, and as we relaxed and drank coffee waiting for the dough to rise and the bread to bake, he gave me some great ideas as regards how to market and sell Executive problem solving/team building with bread (it was what we were doing, afterall) and bread events for groups.  So, thanks for that, Al.

Sadly, my meeting with Business Link London, to talk to a social enterprise expert and find out how they can support us, was postponed because the lady I was going to meet was ill.  However I did meet with Alex from the RSA, of which I am a fellow, who administers the Catalyst programme – a fantastic source of support, both monetary and practical, for social enterprises.  Alex was super helpful in explaining to me what Catalyst is all about and how to apply for a grant and other sources of support.  He understood what we are all about and is putting me in touch with a guy who is building communal ovens (watch this space, I have not spoken to him yet) and will look for someone who knows something about franchising.  In return, I have done, and will continue to do some business coaching for some of the other social entrepreneurs – the idea being we all know something and we all need help.

Then, to round it off, coffee and cake with my friend the lovely, supportive, and enthusiastic Bhav who has his own company that provides IT support and who is one of the only IT professionals who can actually speak to me in a language I can understand (no long IT words, no IT acronyms of any number of letters) and who is definately someone to know if you have a business and need IT support and turn into a jibbering rabbit in the headlights if your computer does something weird.  He knows what it is like to be an entrepreneur and is always full of good advice (IT and otherwise).  We met at the Polish Centre in Hammersmith which, if you don’t know it, it is worth getting to know.  Fresh, home made cake for 2.50; yesterday’s cake for 1.00; great Polish food and, for the past couple of years with so many Polish people in London, an amazing atmosphere.  It is as if you were in Poland and not in London at all!

Hustle, chat, cake: it’s leading somewhere good.

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