The World Will Be Saved by Social Entrepreneurs

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I was recently called Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the Hawaii Venture Capital Association. It brought great joy to be recognized among so many amazing business leaders in Hawaii. As I continue on my journey I am motivated to serve as a positive example for others but most importantly as an inspiration for all entrepreneurs to see that they can build stronger businesses if they are socially conscious. Technology has the world connected and at the same time there is an urgency to solve environment and social problems of major scale. Entrepreneurs have the power to build businesses that can solve the world's most difficult problems.

In fact, the world will be saved by a generation of social entrepreneurs.

This generation has a responsibility to think big and collaboratively about how communities can bring their resources together to build a better world.

Social Entrepreneurship is a term developed in the 1960's that didn't start to receive mainstream exposure until just recently. Simply, social entrepreneurship is identifying a social problem and executing entrepreneurial principles to build a business that addresses this problem. It is often associated with sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility, but it is much more than a fad or a buzz word. It is a holistic way to look at business as a part of an entire ecosystem that includes people and the environment. Being a social entrepreneur is about making the same aggressive leaps as any entrepreneur but being mindful of the effect that the leap has on society and the environment.   Entrepreneurship is about challenging the status quo by identifying a problem and building a business model that generates revenue by providing a solution.

The biggest businesses are ones that solve big problems that touch all of society.

For this reason it is in the best interest of entrepreneurs to understand that strong businesses address social problems and all entrepreneurs are in fact change makers. Social entrepreneurship has developed a stigma of being only about altruism, but in actuality social entrepreneurs are just as capitalistic as the rest. Businesses are motivated to make money; it's the only way they can exist. Social entrepreneurs look to address large scale problems in society that can generate revenue for the business in a sustainable way.

With this in mind entrepreneurs should look at themselves as catalysts of positive change in our communities.

They have a responsibility to become more conscious of their environment when making business decisions. This consciousness cannot be delegated to a department within the business but must be a part of the culture in which the organization operates. Startup founders and executives of large corporations have the power to inspire positive action within their organizations. Great businesses are a part of the foundation of the community. In return for building something with a positive impact these entrepreneurs will be rewarded with great success. I am proud to call myself an entrepreneur but I am even more proud to call myself a social entrepreneur.

Elyse Petersen is the Founder of Tealet, a startup which connects tea growers and tea drinkers, delivering tea direct from the grower to the customer's door. Elyse is a Global Tea Ambassador with the International Tea Farms Alliance. She has spent time working with tea farmers in Wazuka, Kyoto, Japan. This experience has inspired her to help tea culture across the U.S. and around the world. Petersen is an experienced international development worker in the area of food security, natural resource management, and sustainable food preservation, having served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, West Africa and Antigua and Barbuda, Eastern Caribbean. Petersen graduated from Shidler College of Business with a Japan-focused M.B.A and from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona with a B.S. in Food Science and Technology.

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