What I am loving at the moment is the start-of-the-affair feeling you get with a new venture. It animates everything. You can think of little else. Your stomach flicks when you think about it. My mind drifts back to it while I am watching the TV or driving the car. In short, I am hooked and I will need to be because while starting a business is fun it is bloody-hell too.
This is the forgotten truth of entrepreneurship, be it social or for pure-profit. The personal cost is total. You hand your normality in at the door and emerge five years later blinking at the light. While I won't disappear, I know my world will have to shrink down to making this baby work.
I also have a secret for you too. I am going private. Yes, this won't be a social enterprise, well certainly not in the way set out by the CIC rules and I doubt I will get the Social Enterprise Mark. No, it will be owned by me and my partners. There will be social aspects - it will be a balanced business that will be socially accountable. A proportion of its profits will be given away, probably through a foundation. But it will, repeat, be private.
Am I turning my back on social enterprise? Most certainly not for the reasons above. Yet, I am turning my back on some aspects of being a social entrepreneur that I do not like. Such as putting my ass and my money on the line but being rewarded with peanuts. Such as not having control over the organisation I founded. Such as not being able to benefit much if it is ever sold for a lot of money.
I have concluded that those bits of social entrepreneurship seem to me a bit unfair. 30 grand and six months of my life are going into this. If it doesn't work I am worth less in the market than I just got myself a nice job. This new venture could cost me financially and reputationally. Yes, you'd shit yourself too, particlarly if there was a pauper's reward at the end, as social enterprise orthodoxy currently insists.
SO, if I do another purely social enterprise, you can be sure it it will not involve this level of risk and return. It is likely to be a side-project to which my social commitment exceeds my need to make money and survive. The simple fact is that as a 40 year old man with kids and a daft mortgage, I cannot afford, long-term to be a social entrepreneur.
I say this with no shame. Indeed I hope I would not be judged by those in the sector are paid either by the state (directly or indirectly), are `retired' with high net worth or with few enough responsibilities to manage on a small income.
Yes, there are some superheroes who risk and toil for low-return who also carry responsibilities, and while I take my hat off, I do not want to join them. It's not fair to those around me who will have to suffer my absences, cash-crises and stress these next few years. To make the choice of entrepreneurship now, at this stage, I need to be able to tell the family that it will be worth it. For all these reasons, I am now, in the eyes of many, just another unsocial-entrepreneur.
In my own eyes, I remain somewhere on the sliding-scale between pure-white and red-claw, but so far we can't accommodate this in our language - I'm either social or not. End-of. So great is our fear of assimilation that we have drawn the bridge high, meaning all those not like us are viewed as the same. So I guess, for some of you at least, I am, from now, not the Naked but the Unsocial Entrepreneur.