I guarantee that if you poll 100 new entrepreneurs and ask them what they need most right now, 99 of them would say, "financial capital." This totally makes sense, right? Money affords staff, services, marketing, advertising, PR, inventory, supplies, and supports the entrepreneur as they embark on their business journey. But what would that 100th entrepreneur say? Given the title of this blog post, I'm sure you know my answer to this question--SOCIAL CAPITAL. Yes, while we want and need financial capital just like any other entrepreneur, we're also extremely focused on social capital. Here's why.
WHAT IS SOCIAL CAPITAL?
Simply put, social capital captures the reciprocal networks that give people the opportunity to lean on each other during times of need. In my previous life as a policymaker and researcher, my work showed that social capital was a major source of resilience for individuals and communities. Now, as a small business owner, I'm also realizing how pivotal it is to entrepreneurship.
FIVE REASONS WE'RE FOCUSED ON SOCIAL CAPITAL
We Have a $0 Marketing Budget
The first reason we're focused on social capital relates to brand awareness. When folks already know who you are, marketing and advertising can really take your business to the next level. BUT when you're like us, and the masses do not know who you are (YET!) AND you are bootstrapping your business, you have to get pretty creative with getting the word out. For us, right now, that means social media marketing, which is all about social capital--especially when many of your followers are other small businesses. You like my post, I'll like yours. You promote my event, I'll promote yours. Heck, now that I see you are out there grinding too, why don't we partner and introduce our respective audiences to each other. Everybody wins. While there are many articles written about social media negatives, from a small business perspective, it's been an absolutely essential part of our strategy.
Access to Information
We've never been CPG entrepreneurs before, which means there's A LOT we do not know (YET!). Shy of getting an MBA on the job, this means learning in real time. It means reading a ton, weeding through conflicting articles and advice, and watching a lot of youtube. It also means connecting with people who have answers, people who have been right where we're at now and have made it. It means learning from their successes and failures and it means accessing resources that they know about, but that may have taken us months and/or even years to come across. Since starting Bright Black last Fall, I've probably met with close to 30 entrepreneurs. They've graciously given me invaluable advice and connected me to amazing resources, saving me money and keeping me from making some pretty big mistakes (Please let it be known, I've made a TON of mistakes... they've simply kept me from making even more mistakes!).
Linking Social Capital
Linking social capital connects individuals and social networks to those with power and authority. This could be other business owners, political actors, and others with prestige and power. Similar to the reason above (access to info), linking social capital has afforded us invaluable advice and access to opportunities like popup markets, commissioned work, and networking opportunities.
We are Mission-Driven
As a mission-driven company, we're trying to sustain our livelihood and start a movement. We're trying to generate profits with a purpose and we're trying to implement a system of cooperative economics that benefits our household, our community, and global citizens writ large. Central to these goals is fostering trust between us, those we work with, and our customers. Trust is built through connection, and connection is part and parcel of social capital.
Social Capital and Financial Capital Are Connected
Last, but not least, we're focused on social capital because we're betting that in the end, it will foster financial capital. Our social media following will hopefully demonstrate to those with financial resources that there are a group of like-minded people passionate about supporting narratives that highlight the brilliance of Blackness through scent art. As our network expands and more and more people experience the transcendence of our candles, they will tell their family and friends, hopefully expanding our customer base. They may also ask stores in their area to carry Bright Black, increasing our presence in retailers. We can only hope that our strategy proves correct!
WHY WAS THIS POST INSPIRED BY THE ADDIS CANDLE?
Each and every blog post is inspired by a candle from our collection. This post is inspired by our Addis Ababa candle (part of the Diaspora Collection). Ethiopia, the birthplace of human civilization, has one of the richest histories on the planet (more on that in March!) and in many ways is emblematic of both resilience and social capital. In fact, when I think of social capital, I immediately think of family members, neighbors, and villages throughout the Horn of Africa helping each other through drought, flood, food scarcity, and conflict. That's why this post was inspired by Addis!
Candle inspiration: Addis Candle