Growing and scaling a sustainable business has its unique challenges, both positive and negative. On the positive side more and more funders are looking for entrepreneurs to help build the new “green economy”. Yet, purpose-driven entrepreneurs often fail to build the fundamentals of a successful business. To create social and environmental impact at scale, we need to understand the unique challenges sustainable startups face as well as other threats that cause them to fizzle out. Here are 5 useful tips for entrepreneurs/founders/investors looking to make a difference at scale:
1. Prototype and validate your sustainable product in the marketplace
Research and R&D have their place, however, testing and piloting on the market provide a real time and real world feedback loop, giving you a head start on subtle or big changes needed before scaling. Validating your product quickly signals something to investors greater than potential and gets the funding conversation stared early enough for an investment to scale production.
Take for example, the idea of creating “leather” from cactus, apples, or pineapple. Several companies are doing just this. We’ll see which ones take off beyond a cottage industry and actually get to scale.
2. Planning is often best done in advance
Like riding a Mt. Bike, scaling a sustainable business requires looking ahead to where you want to go. Thinking ahead toward how your business can grow or easily developed for a large audience is critical, not only for business success, but to ensure sustainable solutions to the worlds wicked problems actually get done and make an impact. To attract investors your sustainable solution must be able to scale exponentially and deliver value to customers simultaneously. In other words is it commercially viable at scale?
3. Hire right, hire to scale
Almost 25% of startups fail because they lack the right team. The ideal mix is a business strategist, a business developer, a stellar creative team and brand identity developer, and a seasoned project manager who knows how to heard the cats and get the work done. This mix can scale with your business and can handle each stage of business growth without dragging the company backward or stalling out.
4. Start from why you do what you do—your purpose
Defining your purpose or your why gets to clearly defining the problem you are solving with your sustainable product or service. Connecting your why with the right target audience looking for your solution and willing to pay for it is vital to your success at scale.
5. Build branding and marketing into your startup, growth and scaling up budgets and strategies
Entrepreneurs , ecopreneurs, and socialpreneurs are often so in love with their idea that they think everyone will love it too. That investors will love it and come looking for them, when in fact, they won’t. In reality, it takes a strong creative team to make your idea come to life at scale for the masses. The earlier your business lands the brand piece the quicker you can scale.
Going beyond just a logo and truly developing a brand identity and culture will attract both customers and investors. Marketing and branding is less about selling the product and more about connecting with your audience on the why of your product or service and how it helps them feel like they are part of the making of a better world.
As Simon Sinek says: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it?” Without this connection to your brand, not amount of financial investment is going to convince your audience to buy, let alone scale your business. And, now. more than ever do we need sustainable businesses to succeed and scale. We’re counting on you.
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