Xavier Helgesen and Kreece Fuchs were about to receive graduate degrees from the University of Notre Dame in information systems and mechanical engineering. Despite their high-liner educations, they both had no idea how to translate that into a viable career. It was 2008, the stock market was in shambles and the economy wanted nothing to do with dot.com-ers.
So, they tutored athletes and made next-to-nothing. This pitiful gig did surmount to something, however, it led to an overflowed stack of books in Helgesen and Fuchs’s apartment. One summer, Helgesen grew tired of the toppling library of books crowding his living space and decided to sell some online. They sold out in minutes. So, he sold more, and again gone within the day. And like that he and Fuchs were flipping textbooks and making money, until they ran out of books to sell.
It was this dry-spell that inspired social action. When they ran out of books to run their online library, they asked members of the Notre Dame community to donate old books. The response was tremendous and led Helgesen and Fuchs to create their business: Better World Books.
Tutoring taught Helgesen and Fuchs the value of literacy and knowledge and also left them with their startup material. From then, they have developed a widely successful social entrepreneurial venture. Today, the company has donated nearly 26,502,000 books to people in need and raised $28,430,000 for the development of literacy and libraries.
Global pressure to solve climate change, poverty, illiteracy, discrimination, and inequality is felt by all members of society. However, only a few are in positions to drive change and resolve these issues. Namely, governments and innovators.
Social entrepreneurship is one of the only fields where your work actually benefits society, and can greatly benefit you as well. By solving global problems through smart business tactics, social ventures have inspired hope for millions in need. Whether it’s Better World Books confronting illiteracy or TOMS giving shoes to people in need, these companies operate in the for-profit sector, but their bottom line is their mission.
You can make an impact as well through social entrepreneurship if you develop your business prowess. Yes, Helgesen and Fuchs studied engineering, but it was their keen sense for an opportunity that led to their success. This third-eye is one cultivated through formal business education, like attending business school, in order to understanding market principles.
There are also plenty of programs that have courses specifically designed for social impact. Some of the top schools including Duke, Yale, and the University of Michigan are known for their education on social entrepreneurship. For now, however, a good place to start is understanding exactly what social entrepreneurship is and how it differs from adjacent sectors like nonprofit work, corporate responsibility, and traditional entrepreneurship. Read through this infographic to learn more about the field and how you can get involved.