If Detroit Startup Week is demonstrating anything, it’s that the startup world is adapting to the new normal created by the coronavirus lockdowns. As they say in the theater, the show must go on, and Detroit Startup Week, a week-long virtual celebration of all things entrepreneurship, is offering a wealth of tips, training sessions, and panels about how to keep calm and carry on.
Thursday morning saw a thoughtful discussion of social entrepreneurship featuring Dr. Marcus D. Harris, a lecturer in entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Dispelling the myth that social entrepreneurs are somehow different from all other entrepreneurs, Harris said that social entrepreneurship follows the same process that traditional entrepreneurship does.
“You still have to raise capital,” he said. “You still have to have a product or service that fills a customer or market need.”
What’s different, he said, is the motivation. The goal is to pursue a social mission, perhaps creating more jobs for low-income people or generating profits to share with the community. But you’re pursuing that social mission through commercial means. Generating social value begins with having a successful business.
“Social entrepreneurs make money,” Harris said. “They still generate profit. The only difference is that the main goal is designed to create social impact.”
He cited the example of Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, New York, whose motto is, “We don’t hire people to bake brownies. We bake brownies to hire people.”
Meanwhile, a session presented by StartupNation, Dell Technologies and WJR offered an optimistic look at today’s remote working. Workers almost everywhere have been doing their jobs from home for the past three months and many find they enjoy it.
Guy Gordon of WJR quipped that he enjoys remote working so much that “I don’t even want to come back to the office….” He said he’s discovered hidden benefits to remote working.
“Especially if you have a contentious relationship with a co-worker, this has led to me having a much healthier relationship with some of the teammates I work with,” he said. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder. The reflexive digging in my heels doesn’t happen as much.”
And rather than just a temporary adjustment to the virus, remote working may represent the new normal going forward. Jeff Sloan, founder and CEO of StartupNation, said the coronavirus crisis has revealed how unnecessary some of the old ways of doing business were, like flying to the west coast for a one-hour business meeting.
“A lot of these things are being shaken out of business today,” he said, but it took a crisis to break down such hardened business habits. “It was a hard thing to disrupt how we were doing business before,” he said.
These sessions and more at Detroit Startup Week illustrate that the coronavirus crisis presents opportunities for entrepreneurs as well as challenges.
As Jeff Sloan said, “More than ever, the intuition of an entrepreneur comes into play today like never before.”
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