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What it takes to be a youth social entrepreneur


Philip is currently enrolled in the TheNext36, a rigorous eight month program that spits out Canada’s next entrepreneurial leaders.  Through TheNext36 Philip co-founded Seamless Mobile Health, an app aimed at reducing the medical costs of patient readmission to hospital emergency rooms. At 22, Philip already has an impressive resume as a youth social entrepreneur and has a lot to offer his peers.

“People should always be tackling a problem they are passionate about,” says Philip. “[Social entrepreneurs] have to get in as early as possible to determine if the solution is working and whether they should pin it or not. Talk to users, to people, make sure it makes sense.” He echoes John’s view of investing early in the solution to make sure it has wings of steel rather than paper.

Philip also emphasizes the importance of having a mentor figure around. “Having someone as a soundboard to give perspective is very important. […] there are high and lows in creating a company.  [Find] someone you respect, someone who understands the industry and is be able to say, ‘maybe you should go in this direction,’ or ‘you’re doing great.’” Al also repeats the sentiment, “find one or two people you trust and respect, know that the person will tell you the truth, encourage you, but also give honest feedback.” Building a social enterprise from the bottom-up can be a rewarding task, but it can also be extremely demanding and lonesome. Having the right people around you can help you break through the toughest of times.

Start now.

A generational gap doesn’t seem to have changed much for the prospective Social Entrepreneur. It was tough when PLAN and JUMP Math first took root over a decade ago, and it’s still tough now. What you need to be successful hasn’t changed either. Passion still has to be your fuel, your ideas must survive the saw mill before being put out, cool-headed creativity is what will let you slip past barriers, and having good people to support you through the journey is still important.

But what has changed, as Al points out, is that “there is something called ‘social enterprise’ now.” The concept of social enterprises is now taught in schools and universities, and as more people start social ventures, there is an increasing awareness about them.  There are organizations out there dedicated to helping social entrepreneurs and enterprises take off, like Social Spark and Social Finance.

With the abundance of resources and social media tools available to the tech-savvy youth, now is a better time than any to become a Social Entrepreneur.  So if you’re young, enthusiastic and full of good ideas backed by strong ideals…start now.

“There are many problems out there worth tackling,” says Philip Chen.

Pick one.

Muneer Huda writes out of Waterloo, Ontario. He enjoys all kinds of writing, but has a special love for speculative fiction. He aspires to support himself solely through his writing one day. http://muneerhuda.wordpress.com/

Image courtesy of flickr, by preppedandpolished

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