Dec
17
2010

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Fellows Friday is a weekly series on the TED Blog that profiles one TED Fellow each week. We have asked the Fellows to answer our question below to share their knowledge and advice with other social entrepreneurs, innovators, and changemakers who are coming up with big ideas that can change the world.

Growing up amidst the violence of inner city Toronto, Gavin Sheppard started The Remix Project to catapult creative young people from troubled neighborhoods into lucrative careers. From presidential meetings to local crime scenes to celebrity parties, Gavin stays focused on finding new ways to keep The Remix Project evolving, and improving young people's lives.

Stephanie: There are many aspiring social entrepreneurs out there who are trying to take their passion and ideas to the next level. What is one piece of advice you would give to them based on your own experiences and successes?

Gavin: My advice for someone who is taking their social enterprise to the next level would definitely be to plan. Think ahead. Do a market scan of what type of services are being offered, and then, depending on if you are a non-profit looking to start the for-profit side, or whether you're just looking to start a social enterprise, my advice would vary.

If you're a non-profit looking to start a social enterprise, my number one thing that I would say is make sure that you don't sacrifice your programming for the sake of starting the enterprise. Because at the end of the day, the programming is what you're passionate about, it's the reason why you do what you do, and it's also the key service that your community is accessing and is probably in need of.

While self-sustainability is a beautiful dream, and it can be actualized, it's also a very hard road. Most start-ups lose money for the first couple years. You're going to have to have the right support around you. But it can also really drag you away from what your vision is in terms of community programming and the services that you're offering. You get so caught up in trying to make this thing profitable, that to sustain it, the non-profit suffers.

I would say, just be very, very honest with yourself in terms of what your expectations are, what's realistic in terms of the market for your product or service, and is the investment of time and energy and resources worth the return. Because if you're just becoming sustainable as a for-profit entity, and you're really only turning over a couple thousand every month, outside of your sustainability as a for-profit, then is it really worth what you're doing? You probably could have spent those hours a lot more profitably somewhere else.

My number one thing would just be, "Is it worth it?" Because right now it's a hot topic, it's a big trend. And it can be worth it, and it can be profitable, but it's only going to be for a very small number of people. And otherwise it's just going to bastardize your vision and hurt the services that your community counts on.

Read the rest of Gavin's Fellows Friday interview here.

TED announces the 2011 Fellows and Senior Fellows

We're excited to share that this week, TED announced the newest class of Fellows. This extraordinary group of 19 members includes a cellist, a fashion designer, and a nightclub behaviorist. In addition, 12 Senior Fellows were selected to participate in the TED community for another two years. For more information about the Fellows’ work and for a full list of members, read the TED press release, and continue to read our Fellows Friday posts to learn more about these incredible innovators.

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