Charles Maisel is the owner of Innovation Shack.
1. What made you decide to become a Social Entrepreneur?
I didn’t decide to become a Social Entrepreneur. I studied economics and I was offered a job to work with a real pioneer called Peter Templeton who just happened to be the best Social Entrepreneur at the time. At the time in the 1990’s the term Social Entrepreneur did not exist so we were just called innovators or pioneers looking for innovative solutions to pressing social problems.
2. What are the fundamental differences between a Social Entrepreneur and a for-profit Entrepreneur?
It is important to understand on a continuum the difference. One the one side of the continuum you have the humanitarian such as Mother Theresa. Then you get the social activist such as Zachie Achmat. After that, you get the SE who is predominantly someone who can make profits BUT is involved in companies that don’t have a shareholding. After that, you get people involved in Social Enterprises that have a hybrid structure of a shareholding and non-shareholding structure. Lastly, you have a for- profit entrepreneur that is a shareholding structure. The essence of the difference is the structure of the company and wether there is a shareholding structure or not. I am involved in both non-shareholding and shareholding structures today but I am not a humanitarian or social activist. All my structure can make a profit!
3. What inspires you to do more?
Innovation inspires me. There are so many challenges and problems that only innovation and innovative thinking can make a difference. I am inspired by all people who want to be more innovative and people who make these innovative ideas a reality.
4. There are some entrepreneurs out there who don’t think it is possible to do good and still make money, what would you say to someone who thinks like that?
It is possible. The decision for any entrepreneur is a pragmatic one. What type of company structure do you fit into and why. My model is controversial, but generally I like to start new ventures and receive a type of royalty, as a fee, rather than a shareholding. However it definitely is possible to male money and do good, and this is becoming the trend in all new ventures. Also, it’s vital that you make money to become sustainable as donor funding is very difficult to get and maintain.
5. What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
For me the most important thing is your idea. Is it innovative? Is it viable? Have you made it if it’s a product or tested it in the market if it’s a service and will someone buy it!
My other piece of advice is if it doesn’t work keep innovating or start something new.
My last piece of advice is if no one tries to copy you it’s not an innovative idea and copying is the highest form of flattery.
6. Who/what inspires you?
Anybody or any new venture that’s innovative in any field.
7. What are some of your future plans?
I have recently launched BeBold, the largest ( 24000 members in 18 months) entrepreneurship network at universities with university students. BeBold created this network as I believe it is university students who should be the next level innovators. BeBold does pitch events and the National Intervarsity Pitch Competition. Together with BeBold I have also started CLR VARSITY the first equity-based crowdsource model where students will be investing in student businesses.