And what it takes to last…
It’s midnight, and the beginning of day six of our journey. We climb in the freezing dark with headlamps and poles, and five layers of clothes, setting one foot in front of the other, concentrating on our breath and staying in the rhythm. Pole, pole (slowly, slowly), we remind each other as the high altitude makes every breath and step more difficult. We can’t see beyond a couple meters, and the path seems endless. It starts to snow, getting colder and icier as we go. And then, finally, at 6:30am, we see them, just as the sun’s first rays appear – giant towers of ice: the snows of Kilimanjaro!
What sparked the vision for a story and online fundraising site specifically for charity climbs, treks, hikes and charity adventures, was my first charity climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2010 with my husband Mike. We realized the vast number of people wanting to adventure for charity, but more than often lacking the tools, resources, and know-how to get started easily. And so ClimbForChange.com was born.
Where passion and need meet
It doesn’t just happen overnight, becoming a social entrepreneur. I believe it’s a process very often brought on by a profound life experience or deep passion. It might start with experiencing a societal or environmental need or problem, then becoming passionate about it, and finally trying to satisfy the need in an ethical, enduring way.
For my role models Mickey McLeod, Salt Spring Coffee Co., it was the enjoyment of a good cup of freshly roasted coffee married with a life-long concern for the environment; for Aaron Stevens, Nature’s Path, it was his passion for helping people improve their health and eating habits; for Shannon Boase, Earthcycle Packaging, it was the waste and pollution created by Malaysia’s palm oil industry coupled with North America’s addiction to petroleum packaging; for Madeleine Shaw, Lunapads, it was a personal health issue and love for fashion design and textiles that got her the start.
5 fundamental bricks of success
So what have I learned from these resilient social entrepreneurs that is guiding me in my own social venture start-up? Here are the five fundamental bricks successful social entrepreneurs lay to build a lasting venture (based on a primary research study of 13 successful social entrepreneurs I conducted in 2009):
1. Stay grounded by your values and live by your values.
2. Believe in your cause and be truly passionate about your cause.
3. Be resolute in your mission and consistent across your mission.
4. Keep like-minded relationships and be transparent in your relationships.
5. Learn for life and give back for life.
Sounds easier said than done, right? For me, much is intuitive – the values, the passion, the transparent and like-minded relationships, giving back and learning for life. After all, we didn’t start our venture with an objective to just make money in the online crowdfunding industry. We got started with a passion for climbing and identifying a need for fundraising campaign tools specifically for charity climbs and adventure challenges. The business model followed suit in order to keep the engine fuelled.
The joy of creating value
For each of these social entrepreneurs, it hasn’t been about sacrificing their values or relationships for the next deal or the bottom line, reaping all the rewards to achieve exponential growth or the big win. Rather, I think it’s been about the joy and fulfillment of achieving incremental progress and creating value in their organizations and communities, each and every moment they spend on their mission.
Like climbing the mountain, it takes a careful balance of remembering what is important (why you got started in the first place), and delivering and executing consistently in order to keep one foot ahead of the other, staying on track, and ultimately having a deeply fulfilling journey.
Chantal Schauch, MA, BCom, is a social entrepreneur and brand strategist with a 10-year background in developing and implementing marketing communications for non-profit organizations and small to medium-sized enterprises, in particular social ventures and start-ups. She is also the co-founder and VP of Climb For Change (a social venture and the first and only online community and fundraising platform for charity climbs, treks, hikes and adventures worldwide). Her master thesis, “Authentic Identity: The Essence of How Successful Ecopreneurs Communicate” was published in the Journal of Values-Based Leadership in 2009.