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Diary of a Social Venture Start-up

Meet our new business columnist, a self-taught entrepreneur who will be chronicling what it takes to launch a social venture. He'll be...

Meet our new business columnist, a self-taught entrepreneur who will be chronicling what it takes to launch a social venture. He'll be here every two weeks to share his successes, failures, and to answer your questions.

If you're a regular on this site, chances are that you're already ahead of the game where change is concerned. You can rattle off the names of major players pushing environmental and political initiatives forward; you know greenwashing when you see it; you've got strong opinions about the problems the world is facing and ideas about how to help solve them.

Now what if you want to take things a step further? What if you want to do something more than simply volunteering or writing a check? How do you get started? These were some of my questions a year ago. I wanted to help change things. I didn't have money. I didn't have connections. What I had was an idea.

A year later, I'm in the process of launching a company dedicated to creating change. I've put a team together, crafted a business plan, and begun trying to raise start-up capital. It's still early, but we're gaining traction. So while this might not make me an expert at entrepreneurship, it does make me someone who might be able to help show you what it takes to launch a social venture. I'm not some 65-year-old CEO telling you what it was like "back when I got started." I'm not trying to sell you a how-to book. I'm just a guy who's in the middle of living it.

In short: Hi. I'm Joe. I'll be your friendly tour guide. I'll be here every two weeks to update you on our progress. You'll hear about issues facing social-venture start-ups, hear from people in the business, and acquire random useful tidbits I've learned along the way.

People will tell you that starting a business is all about taking that first step-that it's all about sitting down and hashing out the Big Idea. You know what? That's a load of crap. Sure, the first step is important, but it's the next 16,000 steps that actually make things happen. The idea is the easy part; turning the idea into a business takes work. Before I sat down to write this, I made myself a sandwich. Even that took five steps. A sustainable business should probably be a little harder to make than lunch. So, the next time someone gives you the "first step" routine, here's what you should do: Stop listening.

I'm not going to talk about step one. I'm going to focus instead on what comes next, from building a network and establishing a team to writing a business plan and seeking funding. I will also talk about my own successes and failures. In trying to launch my own venture, I'm going to screw up. It's going to happen. And when I do, you'll hear about it. Everyone makes mistakes, and I know I'll learn from mine; I'm hoping you can, too.

Basically, I'm going to try to write the column I wish I'd had one year ago. If I read something interesting, I'm going to link to it. If there's someone I think you should know, I'm going to interview them. Pretty much anything I think will be helpful. And if there's something you'd like to see more of, some topic you think needs tackling, email me at feedback (at) josephippolito (dot) com or post it in the comments section.

This column may not provide you with a fail-proof business blueprint (I've got no guarantees my own business will even fly), but I can promise that you'll learn something. Each column will end with a takeaway section-key things that you need to know. So, if you're in a hurry or you just feel like bypassing my yammering, skip to the bottom, get the info, then go fix yourself a sandwich. If you do it right, it'll only take you about five steps.

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