"Use no way as your way. Have no limitation as your limitation." - Bruce Lee
Cortni Grange, is the Founder for Future Leaders & Young Entrepreneurs (FLYE) and a Co-Founder of FutureFIRST. Cortni graduated from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University with a B.S. in Business Administration. After gaining experience in Sales with companies such as ADP, P&G and CVS, Cortni decided to pursue his passion for being a entrepreneur and making a impact. Cortni is also a Innovation Fellow with StartingBloc.
Taking the Path of Social Entrepreneurship
What inspired you to take the route of being a Social Entrepreneur?
I think it was discernment and not inspiration actually. Inspiration at first, was based on the typical concepts : Being my own boss, making a difference in the world, creating my own schedule, determining my own worth, etc. But, as I began to actually BE a social entrepreneur I began to realize that it is just a job that happens to have ridiculously more responsibilities, struggles and anxieties compared to working for a company or being a traditional entrepreneur. So when I began to despise being a social entrepreneur as much as I hated being a corporate sales executive what kept me, grew me and pushed me was discernment. It was as if no matter what I did I could not run from this work. Side hustles maxed out early or failed completely, attempts to go get a job failed, EVERYTHING outside of monetizing my universe by serving my universe, failed. In full transparency, it was only about 2-months ago that I fully accepted that as a social entrepreneur I am in less control than when I was as an employee as everything I am doing now is not “mine” nor about me but simply my gift from God that I must never stop giving.
How is the importance of profits in Social Entrepreneurship different/the same from those running a more traditional business model?
To be quite frank, the only differences are the asinine societal norm that doing “good” work is not suppose to make money. I chose to completely unsubscribe from this construct. If Jeff Bezos gets praised and paid every time he puts a traditional retailer out of business because Amazon (a.k.a digital Debo) makes it almost impossible to compete with as a brick and mortar business, why should I be asked to have meager financial aspirations simply because my work makes positive social impact? In my opinion the importance of profit is just as if not more important to social ventures as it is to traditional business.
We are in a time where social causes have become popular and organizations are always being created. What is the competition like today? Is there enough room for everyone?
There is always enough room as long as everyone remembers that YOU are what makes your market gap analysis most achievable. I tell everyone I work with from youth to adults if there is not enough of YOU in your idea or venture, you are going to have a hard time. So while there is always competition, it can be easily overcame IF you're able to truly identify what makes you you. Social causes (all business actually) are inherently about 2 things: people and sales. The people factor is all about what is happening, not happening or should be happening to people. The sales factor is can you then take your concept of effecting people and successfully convince others to support it. This affords almost an unlimited available market. As Dan Palotta said in his famous Ted Talk, “The Way We Think About Charity Is Dead Wrong” philanthropy IS the market for love. It is the market for all those people for whom there is no other market coming."
What are some hurdles and highlights from your experience with creating a business in the Social Entrepreneurship space?
Hurdles: When your passion becomes as stressful (if not more) than your job use to be, you really start to question your decisions. Similar to how everyone wants homeownership but when you get it, you damn sure miss the convenience an apartment complex provides you. Above all the fundraising, late nights, lost or messed up projects, by far, getting out of your own head and dealing with the anxiety, loneliness and depression that comes with everything riding on your shoulders is the biggest hurdle of this work.
Highlights: Every time I have my head completely down in work and something randomly comes along to provide praise or acknowledgement. I completely get a high off of accolades and acknowledgment. But, I have had to learn how to channel that narcism right back into the work! As I said earlier the gift of running a successful social venture does not belong to whom created it. It requires a constant filling and outpouring to remain purposeful and in discernments alignment. Another major highlight is seeing the young people this work has touched truly find their way through life. I've been fortunate to work with some incredible young humans and it is my heart's joy to see them prosper and blaze their own trails in life.
You are a Founder and a Co-Founder. What has it been like to start a business by yourself vs. a partnership?
This question right here might be the most difficult to answer. Entrepreneurship is lonesome so working with others helps to offload the anxiety but, in contrast working with a partner requires a serious ability to compromise. I have both enjoyed and disliked starting ventures alone and with others. This is again, for me where discernment comes in. I may not like having to do something on my own but, if that is what I am suppose to do, I must find a way to do it. The same goes with partnership. Sometimes, you do not have the full vision and it requires someone else to help realize it. You may not like having to share that vision but at the end of the day it is about the vision coming to fruition and not about how you feel about it. One of my business partners always says, “facts do not care about your emotions" and neither do your bills.
What are 3 tips you would give those looking to start a business focused on a social cause or adding a social component to their business?
- DO NOT think a nonprofit is the only way to create a social venture. A 501c3 is simply a tax status. Instead, take time to really think about how you want your cause to show up in the world AND how much money you personally need to make to truly focus on it unencumbered.
- Research research research. Do not get into a cause for good without knowing why this cause is or is not currently being attacked/addressed and what is valuable and unique about your approach method. It will make you look unprepared rather than someone to be taken seriously. Folks will hit you with “I’m so proud of you, keep up the good work” as oppose to “how do I get involved?' or "what's the minimum equity stake?". I learned this lesson the hard way thinking people would support me simply because I meant well. While people will support people they like, people with REAL investment power will like you if you've done your research.
- Stop asking for permission and never ask for forgiveness when you fail. Listen to any successful business person (social or otherwise) and they will tell you they have failed much more than they have succeeded. While it may seem cliche and overused, what exist behind the words is most important. It is telling us not to wait for failure to find us, but to hunt it. Find out what makes it happen, why it happens for you specifically and then, when you have cornered failing like a game of prey, you will know exactly what is needed to succeed. Will Smith might have put it best, " fail early, fail often, but fail forward".