I’m inspired by Toronto’s social entrepreneurs. As Keita Demming would say, we could drop the “social” epithet and recognise that they are really just good entrepreneurs, who understand that innovation and business success must serve people and planet. Over the last month I’ve met so many inspiring people at the Centre for Social Innovation, including:

Update on coaching giveaway

Four amazing GTA-based social entrepreneurs (not listed above), with businesses and visions at least as big as those mentioned above, and in many cases much bigger, have taken up my Winter 2024 Free Offer. I promised progress reports – and of course I won’t tell you their names or details of the work they are doing with me. Here’s what’s emerging as we work together:

Funding a startup goes way beyond mere money

Yes, there is no such thing as free money, and whether you choose a sweat equity route or find funding partners of some sort, there is always a cost. As Keita Demming said recently at the launch of his book Strategy to Action, mission drift is a particularly big risk when working with very large funding institutions.

And as a social justice entrepreneur friend pointed out yesterday, if you have a partner with a regular job, it isn’t just the security of their salary you depend on. It is also about the solid emotional support you get from the people closest to you – even as your business goes on rollercoaster rides.

Putting your body on the line for your business isn’t as sustainable as you think

Many entrepreneurs, including Toronto social entrepreneurs, when faced with challenges, simply work harder. But the truth is that hard work only tends to raise production output and technical solutions, not strategy or key relationships.

The bigger strategic and human challenges take more time and space. And for that you need downtime and a supportive team. Building a team, and carving out time to think big, ultimately make more difference than working harder yourself.

It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is to balance strategy and action

I am thrilled by the breathtaking vision of my clients to address major business, social and sustainability challenges facing our world. Inherently, they already have amazing strategies and vision, as well as the crucial spark of demand from their markets.

But many of them are so busy working in the business, that they don’t have much time to work on the business. I have struggled with that in my own startups, where energy and action are so central, and operations so demanding, that I don’t always take enough time to step back and reconnect with the enterprise’s true North Star.

This week we even had my first outdoor coaching session of the year, in the unseasonable late winter warmth of the sun. It is a pleasure to hold the space for busy social entrepreneurs to engage in much needed exploration of the bigger picture for their enterprise. For the sake of their own sustainability.