Allen Proctor from SocialVentures balances optimism with an extremely realistic outlook on the development of social enterprises and community relations. He builds the ecosystem of social entrepreneurship. We talked through what is working well for social entrepreneurs and what they need to know.
Starting off strong, his first two points revolved around what some of the best social enterprises are doing right now. One part is social media, and the other relates to business models. Lingering on the topic of business models, Allen gave his take on a gap in business awareness within social enterprise.
Many people start from a similar viewpoint of the business world, but it is a viewpoint of tattered pieces. Allen explained the scenarios often found in the aftermath. Being aware of your business model and having a sustainable plan becomes crucial in longevity and scaling impact. While speaking through the decisions social enterprises should be aware of, he managed to bring our attention back to an old saying, “Hope for the best. Plan for the worst.” Soon after, he reassures that there are social enterprises doing well, but realistically points out where improvements could be made.
Along with laying out the business model, there are times of pivoting and boundaries. In business, you’ll make decisions about where and what to change, including when letting go to make more room for change. Concerning boundaries, Allen gave an excellent example using catering. He explained that if the business is equipped to order 10 to 25 lunch boxes, they shouldn’t agree to every delivery request significantly beyond that range. A fluctuating expectation is understandably unsustainable.
Our discussion shifted to the contrasting relation of funds available compared to impact on communities. Smaller companies more tied to the community are receiving less funding than larger corporations that have no focus on helping communities. In housing, for example, Allen shared his opinion on what’s been happening in opportunity zones around Columbus, and how it is not transformational for the communities.
Speaking of transformation, Allen has a strong take on entrepreneurship being the start to community wealth, and it’s not the take you may think. He shared observations and conversations on what actually occurs when trying to build wealth in community. One dilemma centers on placement and market exposure for the entrepreneurs. Chances are not in favor of the business owners, and lead to an opposite effect if business does not go well.
We also had a chance to discuss Allen’s work in initiatives, such as Impact Boxes. This particular venture is driven in response to the pandemic. Impact Boxes lessens the burden of delivery management small businesses suddenly faced amidst the pandemic. Allen talked about pivoting while staying connected with social impact and listening to the community. Fittingly, Allen then expressed the mission behind work with SocialVentures:
“SocialVentures’ mission is to empower mission-driven businesses to eliminate the social and economic divide in our community.”–– Allen Proctor