Profiting From Helping People
One strategy to generate extra income for yourself is to find ways to solve people's challenging issues, and package your product or service appropriately to meet their needs. Most persons will be only too happy to pay for a well-needed solution to their painful problems.
However, there are occasions where you may have created the perfect answer for a difficulty faced by many people, but find that they are not as willing as you thought they would be to pay for it. This situation can be very frustrating for entrepreneurs who believe in the benefits of their offerings.
No profits for a problem-solver
There are several reasons why persons may be reluctant to pay for solutions to their problems. They may genuinely not be in a position to afford the product or service, no matter how useful it is. This is the case in the medical arena, as the high cost prohibits people from purchasing needed items.
Another cause for lacklustre sales for a good problem-solver is that although persons think that the product or service can fix their troubles, they may not put enough value on it to pay for it. They may believe that it should be offered for free, and resist the entrepreneur's efforts to retail it to them.
This entitlement mentality is demonstrated in the educational field, where people often place little worth on items that can improve their minds. This is especially so in societies that have benefited from social services that have been traditionally provided free of cost by the state or government.
Who will pay for the solution?
Even if people are reluctant to buy your offering, once you truly believe that it will solve a major societal problem, then you should try to find another way to get paid for your creation. Ask yourself, "Who will pay me to deliver my product or service to the people who need it most?"
Note that there is a difference between customers and consumers; the customer is the person or entity that pays for the product or service, while the consumer uses it. The customer and consumer are often the same, but they can be separate, as in the case of a mother who purchases a toy for her child.
The key is to think how your offering may satisfy a potential customer who may not be the consumer. For example, if you provided Spanish language training, you could develop a radio show and sell the programme to advertisers. Your audience would get free tutoring and your revenue would come from ads.
Social entrepreneurs to the rescue
Another option is to look at your offering as a benefit to humanity, and focus on how you can make a difference in the world instead of how to make a fortune from retailing it. Even if you adopt an altruistic approach to your work, it is still possible for you to earn a living while serving others.
A social entrepreneur is a person who conceives of solutions to social problems and uses business principles to develop a viable enterprise that can effect the change which is envisioned. This person is usually pioneering and proactive in imparting their ideas to benefit the affected community.
While social entrepreneurs are commonly associated with non-profit organisations, it is possible for these persons to create viable businesses and generate an income for themselves. The focus of their entities' operations should be on furthering societal development as against just making profit.
Fixing your own problems
Very often, social entrepreneurs are born out of the need to solve their own problems or create change in their environment. Let's look at how Elvis Austins, a young Nigerian man, found an innovative way to overcome his educational challenges and eventually formed an organisation that is creating waves today.
According to Austins, he was functionally illiterate at age 20, due to the lack of affordable education in his Nigerian hometown. After watching the movie, Akeelah and the Bee, in which an 11-year-old black girl triumphs in the Spelling Bee competition, Austins was moved to do something about his illiteracy.
He challenged himself to learn one new word from the English dictionary every day, and had the idea to use SMS technology to send a daily message with a word and its meaning to his own mobile phone. He thought others could benefit as well, and shared his text messages with friends and family.
No pay, no problem
After recognising that his recipients liked his texts, he asked them if they would pay for it. While 20 per cent said they would give US$1 per month, the rest said they wanted it to remain free. His research revealed that millions of Africans had poor English vocabulary and he saw his service as a solution.
Austins turned to the Internet to find a way to incorporate the nonprofit organisation that he envisioned would tackle this major issue. Overcoming one obstacle after another, he eventually realised his dream and formed SpellAfrica with no start-up capital except his own sweat equity.
Three years later, SpellAfrica now runs a radio and TV program called Spell101 in addition to the SMS service, mVocabulary, which has over 300,000 subscribers. Austins and his organisation have won several scholarships and continue to forge partnerships to further his social goals.
Do you have a business idea that could make a difference? Be inspired by Austins' story and keep persevering until you make it into a reality!
Cherryl is a money coach, business mentor and founder of Financially S.M.A.R.T. Services. Her upcoming book, "The 3 Ms of Money" will reveal all the secrets she learned about financial success. Read more on money and business matters at financiallysmartadvice.com and entrepreneursinjamaica.com. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.