I had no idea I was a social entrepreneur until Clare Mulvaney interviewed me for her book, One Wild Life, about social entrepreneurs. As part of the interview she asked me “so how does it feel to be a social entrepreneur”?
But the moment I heard the title I was like “yeah, that’s exactly what I am” – and to be honest it was a lot easier to explain than elephant handler!
My journey to becoming a social entrepreneur was by no means direct. I had many pit stops along the way – archaeologist, landscape gardener, masseuse, management consultant throwing in waitress, wall painter and fruit picker for fun! And I never planned to become a social entrepreneur, as I have never planned anything in my life. But, as with many social entrepreneurs, something happened in my life and it was as if I had no choice.
From the moment I realised that the issue of disability was deeply misunderstood and virtually invisible on the global agenda in comparison to other social issues it was if a light switch went off in my head. I couldn’t ignore it or walk away or just simply hope someone else would fix it. I wanted to try and be part of the solution. With very little idea of how or what I was going to do, when I returned from my epic elephant adventure in India I resigned from my well paid job and jumped headlong into the magic and mayhem of developing the seed of an idea I conjured up – reframing disability using the power of business influence.
For me, social entrepreneurship is deeply personal and it is that personal connection that seems to drive you beyond yourself in ways you never imagined. If I had thought about the reality of what I was trying to do all those years ago; if I had any sense; if I had analyzed what was – there is no way I would have walked off the cliff. But that’s the thing about being a social entrepreneur – you are driven by an internal belief that things can change, charged by an insatiable passion to never give up. And when I did walk off that cliff I realised that, like a bungee jump, there was a rope attached to my feet protecting me, allowing me to jump into the sky for my ambitions – and that rope was the fabulous people around me. The big thing was to have the courage to jump in the first place, be willing to take the risk, to not control or know what was going to happen but to believe that in trying things could be better.
Social entrepreneurs need that bungee rope to succeed -they need people to believe in them and support them. They need to be allowed to fail. They need to be encouraged to never stop thinking or dreaming big. They need to continue to take risks. Their passion should be encouraged not dampened because it is that crazy bungee jumping passion and the ability to do things differently that changes the world. And if you don’t believe me take a look at here.