4 Lessons from an Internet Start Up Social Enterprise in Brazil

“The bravest step I’ve ever taken in business thus far, but I thought it’s about time I did something a bit brave.”
-Peter McAteer

Watching social entrepreneurs in action is always exciting.

Learning from Other Social Entrepreneurs

They’re out to change the world and make a difference. It’s great because you can also learn from them. You can learn from their mistakes and model their successes.

With reality TV shows that showcase budding entrepreneurs, such as Theo’s Adventure Capitalists, you can actually get up close and find out about the endeavours of real life entrepreneurs, including social entrepreneurs.

A Social Entrepreneur Takes His Idea to Brazil

The episode which takes Theo Paphitis to Brazil along with 3 British entrepreneurs is very interesting.

One of the most engaging aspects about this particular episode is the fact that Theo follows around Peter McAteer from the social enterprise, Dreamaid.

In the show, we discover that Dreamaid is just starting out as an internet social enterprise. Peter, its founder is very passionate about helping artists and artisans from poorer parts of the world.

Using the Internet to Change the World

His mission is to use Dreamaid as an online platform to connect poor artists and artisans worldwide to buyers overseas, to sell their products at a fair price.

We see him travelling to Brazil in order to meet with a number of artists and artisans, especially ones that work as vendors in small markets.

Many of the people he speaks with seem very optimistic about his idea.

While the linkages between Brazilian craftspeople to richer buyers seems like a good idea, Theo then unravels some of the challenges faced by this start up social enterprise online.

4 Social Entrepreneurship Lessons from a Case Study in Brazil

Here are 4 lessons that you can learn from the experiences of Peter McAteer and Dreamaid:

1) Expenses Involved in Cause Related Marketing Online

You discover in the show that Peter has spent thousands of dollars in order to build the Dreamaid website and to market it online. Unfortunately, even with the large investment into the website, you soon discover that only a few visitors got to the site per week.

It was astonishing to find out the large costs involved in setting up the website! According to Theo, Peter may need even more capital to compete with the millions of other internet websites.

Additionally, Theo points out that marketing is key on the internet because there are several great products on the web but not enough visitors and customers.

For social entrepreneurs who want to get an online presence and market their website, remember that there are cheap and even free methods to market your social enterprise website.

Some free internet marketing methods for social enterprises include joining social media networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook, creating a blog and posting on related internet forums.

These free strategies can be just as effective as paid online marketing strategies.

2) Conduct Due Diligence for Overseas Partners

Visit your partners overseas and find out what they can (and can’t) do. Due diligence means investigating a business or person before partnering up with them in a contract or other business deal.

If you watch the Theo’s Adventure Capitalists series, you soon discover that many of the British entrepreneurs get overwhelmed with a number of unexpected twists and turns.

Many of the shocks come from the differences in culture and the unique ways of doing business in other countries.

Peter meets up with a number of Brazil’s artists and artisans. He asks them questions and observes their situation and their needs.

A key question that he asks is whether or not his Dreamaid service would be of value to them, and whether they’d actually use it.

While conducting due diligence and other research is important, one of the real tests for social enterprise is whether or not clients will actually use your service, not just that they say they will.

3) Get Profitable ASAP

Find ways to make your social enterprise financially sustainable as quickly as possible.

One of the major concerns that Theo expresses about Dreamaid at the time was in regards to the profitability of the entire venture.

At the time of the show’s filming, there were only a few online visitors to the Dreamaid website.

Peter had already invested thousands of dollars into creating and marketing the site.

Theo was worried how long it would take for Dreamaid to break even, considering the low volume of visitors and low sales.

4) Be Optimistic & Practical

Theo admired Peter’s inspirational mission for Dreamaid. Nevertheless, Theo critiqued various aspects of the Dreamaid social enterprise, particularly on the great need for marketing.

I think he was trying to give pointers to help the business succeed, rather than to put it down entirely. I think Theo’s comments were fair too.

It’s not good enough for a social enterprise to have an inspirational mission. The social enterprise must also be profitable so that it is sustainable for the long term.

Peter, the founder of Dreamaid, keeps optimistic about his venture, and I believe it’s important for social entrepreneurs to be positive in the face of criticism.

While optimism is necessary, it’s also essential to mix that optimism with pragmatism.

Lessons of Social Entrepreneurship

While there were evidently a number of hurdles that Peter and Dreamaid had to face, especially in their earlier days, I think the overall lesson is that it’s still worthwhile to try.

I respect Peter for trying it out and getting on the show to share his experiences at social entrepreneurship in Brazil.

If you want to become a social entrepreneur, be flexible with your approach. Continously improve and learn more about your business.

Also, learn from the trials and tribulations of other social entrepreneurs.

And if need be, change along the way so that your venture can succeed.