As some of you may have noticed, I did not attend this year's SNAG conference. But I did have one of my friends pick up some information from the Professional Development Seminar for me. I was curious to know how the information was similar or different from what I had presented the previous year.
One of the handouts was basically an advertisement for services the speaker's company provided. One of the those services was a kind of social media set-up - basically the company would build you a Facebook or MySpace page and then spend 2-3 hours teaching you "best practices." The cost for this service - $750!
My first reaction was, "I've got to get in on that. I could make bank!" And in fact, I've toyed with the idea of doing web and social media consulting before, particularly after I presented at the PDS in Savannah. But, at this point in my life, I can't decide if its something that I would want to do.
You see, I've become increasingly concerned about what I do providing value to the world around me. Its taken me a while to get there, but I think I've come to appreciate that the things I make and design do add value to people's lives. (At least I hope they do.) And I certainly believe that all my bike advocacy and education activities help improve the community around me. (If I didn't, I wouldn't be doing them.) But setting up someone's Facebook page? I just don't see the value in that. As a friend recently pointed out to me, apparently this makes me "an entrepreneur, but not a capitalist."
I couldn't agree more that I'm an entrepreneur. I come up with a new business idea practically every week. (And I swear I'm going to do a better job of writing them down.) But most of them have a greater purpose than just to make as much money as humanly possible. I just don't believe that is the be all, end all in life.
On Thursday, I went to Ignite Baltimore and one of the speakers was Jim Kucher, who heads the Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Baltimore. Jim spoke about businesses that fall under the rough banner of Social Entrepreneurship. For-profit companies that are using their profits to generate real change. These businesses are the future of activism in America. In fact, Jim went so far as to say that "charity cannot fund systemic change". I was truly inspired by his talk.
So, where am I going with all of this? Well, while riding my bike today, I was thinking about the best ways to help encourage more people to bike. In the past, I've always thought about starting a non-profit of my own. But today I wondered, why does it have to be a non-profit? Why can't I create programs or services that help fund other programs and services? What if I became a bicycle consultant? (For lack of a better term - and I seriously need to come up with a better term.) Perhaps I couldn't charge $750. But for certain things (say, services to other businesses) maybe I could. The point is that I'd be doing something I believe in. I'm not quite sure what any of this would look like yet, but I think its an idea worth pursuing further. Any suggestions?
Oh, and if you're still reading at this point in the post, the little journal (which I'm planning on using to write down more of my business ideas) is from Compendium Incorporated. They were giving them away at the National Stationary Show. Which, in my mind, is a pretty good way to create a fan for life.