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The Social Entrepreneur

Social Entrepreneur

Graduate students in the Knight School of Communication are taking on a summer project with an ambitious goal: Create a new way to tell the story of a thriving community of Charlotte social entrepreneurs.

They're learning that social entrepreneurship represents a new business model that is still in the process of definition.

“A social entrepreneur is someone who tackles social problems using principles from business”

–Lelia King, grad student

Lelia King is one of about a dozen students in a summer course focused on the growing field. Lelia continues, "John Mackey, one of the co-founders of Whole Foods, defines it as a form of capitalism that looks out for a 'win' for each and every stakeholder, including everyone from customers to team members to suppliers." 

Social entrepreneurship is challenging and transforming traditional business models proving that profit maximization isn't the only goal of free enterprise.  Businesses can draw upon capitalist structures and the commitment of passionate employees to achieve a higher purpose and bring about sustainable social change.

Placing a Charlotte lens on the subject, the class meets weekly with entrepreneurs from business incubators that include Packard Place and Area 15. In an overarching class project, the students are lending their communication skills to Queen City Forward, a local hub for social entrepreneurs designed to foster and support a "cluster" of innovative new businesses in Charlotte that address social, environmental and civic problems. 

Working with Charles Thomas, executive director of Queen City Forward, the students are creating a strategic communication plan that increases awareness of its mission and the social entrepreneurship community in Charlotte.  Communication deliverables that may spring from the plan include clearly articulated messaging about mission, new website positioning and language, social media strategies and presentation tactics.

"Collaborating with Queens graduate students has been terrific," Thomas says. "The term 'social entrepreneurship' is new to the Charlotte region and our organization is in the early stages of growth.  The guidance the students are providing will assist us in refining our communication strategy and growing our impact."

"It's an exciting time for the Charlotte entrepreneurial community," says Dr. Kim Weller Gregory, who leads the class. "Many are realizing the powerful potential of these alternative business models and the large scale social change that can come about when people use their passion and skills to tackle some of today's tough problems.  Our students are combining their knowledge of traditional, social and web communication strategies with new learning about social enterprise to support our local community and Queen City Forward's important mission."

Related Information

Queen City Forward

Queens graduate students partner with Queen City Forward on marketing and branding needs (Charlotte Observer, June 15, 2013)

Social Entrepreneurship Resources

Social enterprises need a solid measurement system, Harvard Business Review Blog Network, March 29, 2013

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