The “First Book” that turns into a reader
What makes a social enterprise sustainable over time and successful in terms of impact on its beneficiaries? What are the skills needed and appreciated in order to reach success in the social sphere? The story of “First Book” helps us have a better picture of what are the needs and skills in order to create and make a social enterprise successful over time. In an interview with Wharton University (Pennsylvania), the CEO Kyle Zimmer speaks about their almost 30-years experience.
“First Book” aims at providing books and educational resources for schools and educational centres in disadvantaged areas of the US. The innovative side of the company is that they try to stay away from the charity approach and, rather than providing the books for free, they apply a low fee for shipping the books. This allows teachers, educators, but also single users to afford the cost and buy the books, but it also allow the company to cover the costs and break-even the expenses. The resources distributed come from direct donations, but they are also in touch with publishers who might be interested in approaching the market portion they cater for and provide books for them at a competitive rate. Ms Zimmer has also an important advice for young people willing to start social enterprises, besides having an accurate business plan, she thinks that they shall be able to network and ask for the right advice in order to not lose the focus and keep in mind the economic dimension of their business.
Entrepreneurial skills are what make social businesses successful and sustainable over time. Focus on cost effectiveness, efficiency and profit will not only allow the enterprises to pay back their costs, but will also contribute actively to the empowerment of the beneficiaries, who will not feel to have received something out of charity but will feel like they earned that good or service.