Originally published June 10, 2014.
One in Four, a UK-based magazine written by people with mental health difficulties, for people with mental health difficulties, recently had to face one of the sad and very real realities of entrepreneurship. It managed to build up a subscriber base and publish for six years, but had to shut down the presses once and for all earlier this month due to financial difficulties. Founder and editor, Mark Brown shared this insight with The Guardian's Social Enterprise Network:
"If you're all about the money, making the decision to end a project that hasn't paid its way is a relief. Finally: no more sleepless nights trying to make the balance sheet add up, no more time explaining the gap between your aspiration and your achievement. But if your motivations are social rather than financial, closing a project that you've invested your time, money, energy and belief in is far more difficult."
This is especially true for entrepreneurs in the social sector. While failure in mainstream business often becomes a back-from-the-brink adventure tale, in the world of social enterprise the topic seems to be taboo.
Martin Murphy, of Failure Consulting, suggests that this might be because each failure is seen as having wider implications, "The failure of a social enterprise becomes not just a failure of the particular business but a failure to prove the strongly held belief that there is a better way [of doing business]. Perhaps for the average social entrepreneur there's just a little bit more at stake even than the success or failure of a business?" (For more thoughts on this, check out this article here.)
Often our ambition and enthusiasm for a new idea, or a new way of doing business, cloud our judgement when we ask ourselves the oft-uttered business question: there may be a gap in the market, but is there a market in the gap? The market might be especially small and financially constricted if the public and government sector are the main funders and spenders, as is often the case in the social sector.
As we heard in a previous Peace Innovation Lab Meetup, “Don’t fall in love with an idea. It is 99% likely to be crap. It’s not the idea that matters, it’s the process for developing the right idea. Fail often, fail fast and fail cheap. But do fail. Celebrate failure because it means that you are one step closer to success.”
Mark Brown continues to help people make change happen as the Development Director at Social Spider CIC.
Read to full article on One in Four over at theguardian.com.