As active social entrepreneurs, we frequently hear the stories of many successful leaders, student ‘treps, and innovators through networking, fellowships, competitions, and conferences. And, in many cases, the narratives can start to sound similar, the goal of “changing the world” are generally similar, and the starting points are— you guessed it— similar.
So when we hear a story that’s different, we listen.
I recently turned on my ear during a social entrepreneurship class sessions at Washington University in St. Louis whereby local entrepreneurs and speakers visit weekly to share their start-up experiences and venture journeys. Teresa Wilson, Founder of The Blessing Basket Project, was one of the speakers during the session, and she shared a story that turned out to be an awe-inspiring call to action unlike few that I’d experienced thus far. In her talk, she spoke of the value of “true grit” and the resilience that all entrepreneurs must encompass in order to sustain their efforts. Her top 7 key points include:
- Define what’s within you. We are each uniquely equipped with all that we need to make our impact.
- “Momma don’t take no mess.” Be honest. Work hard. Hold a zero-tolerance for corruption.
- You never know when you will need to “lay the evidence on the table.”Document what’s happening, every step of the journey, every transaction.
- Eliminate ego. Admit what you don’t know. Acknowledge what you do know. Ask for help.
- Always think: what is in the best interest of those we serve?
- Start operating before you ask for money. Show ‘em that your model works.
- Plan for your exit when you start. Have a succession plan.
In addition to these key points, Wilson also identified 4 aspects needed when pursuing competitions, pitch opportunities, and grants:
- The sustainable component: Identify where income will be generated outside of grants.
- The Leading Edge: Know what CLEARLY sets you apart and makes your venture different.
- Winning Collaborations: Create clear deliverables that can foster partnerships with others.
- True Grit: Be resilient. Be unwavering in actualizing your idea.