Digital Media · Social Entrepreneurship

Who are the best prospects for social enterprise funding and publicity?

Tyrone Thomas Jr.

March 11th, 2016

It seems difficult to get peoples attention on social enterprises startups because there is a strong sense that they should be going the non-profit route. I notice that many social enterprises with very good business models and great ideas to improve society, but without non-profit status are denied access to capital, assistance, strategic partnerships or publicity from the media. 

Ajax Greene Providing expertise to emerging social entreprenuers

March 11th, 2016

Agree with Sedef tax status is a separate issue from business model and the ability to attract interest through your communications efforts. If anything I find if social enterprises (regardless of tax status) can be highly effective with telling story. In addition to sales this can also be effective at helping to recruit top talent.

Sedef Onder Managing Partner + Strategist, Clear Inc.

March 11th, 2016

Any company, whether private sector, non profit, or social enterprise, is fully capable of securing the attention and coverage of media outlets. 

Media seek interesting, newsworthy stories worth telling to their respective audiences. This dynamic, supported by internal development of positioning strategies and brand stories that communicate the values and unique benefits of companies, their products and services.. is what drives publicity.

This is entirely separate from funding, access to capital, and their business model. However, having a distinctive business model, landing an impressive round of financing or high-profile strategic partner may be considered newsworthy and may actually lead to media coverage.

Tyrone Thomas Jr.

March 15th, 2016


Thank you so much for your constructive criticism. Please forgive any formatting errors as I seem to be having a few technical problems with my computer.

1. I agree with you about sharpening my message, that is something it looks like I need help with.

2,3 &5.   I understand the point you made about perhaps targeting a state, that's exactly what we are going to do as a pilot project. I thought that was in the campaign story/description.

4. I launched the gofundme campaign only a week ago not three years ago. somehow I guess it got listed when I was on the site three years ago just checking out how it worked...probably my mistake...will look into how to correct that...thanks for the notice.

6&8.I understand your confusion about the way this part of the program works but you are forgetting one simple thing...the fact that I Have not disclosed the proprietary payout plan. That is the secret ingredient and seems like what you are trying to figure out. It would be irresponsible for me to release this information without a NDA or before I get my IP protection. I did not intend to have this discussion based on the question i presented.

However I will offer the following:

I understand your confusion about the way this part of the program works but you are forgetting one simple thing...the fact that I Have not disclosed the proprietary payout plan or exactly how we will acquire a huge number of food stamp recipients and other members for our program. That is the secret ingredient and seems like what you are trying to figure out. It would be irresponsible for me to release this information without a NDA or before I get my IP protection.

However I will offer and rest assured that this is not a ponzi scheme

Imagine if state governments decided to do a public/private partnership because of the benefits our program to taxpayers, state government and the food stamp recipients.

We expect in the first year to do a pilot project with Food Stamp recipients in the state of Florida, which amounts to 1,948,578 households.  This will produce annual revenue of $116.9 million at an operational cost of $500,000.

 (1,948,578 members X $5 per member, per month = $9,742,890 per month x 12 months = $116,914,680 annual revenue)

 In Year 2 we project to have expanded to at least 25 States acquiring a 50% market share of people receiving Food Stamp benefits, amounting to a total of 11.5 million members which produces annual revenues of $690 million at a cost of 10 million.


(11.5 million members X $5 per member, per month = $57,500,000 per month x 12 months = $690,000,000 annual revenue)

 In Year 3 we project to have expanded to at least 50 States acquiring a 100% market share of people receiving Food Stamp benefits, amounting to a total of over 23 million members which produces annual revenues of $1.38 billion at a cost of 19 million.


(23 million members X $5 per member, per month = $115,000,000 per month x 12 months = $1,380,000,000 billion annual revenue)


In Year 4 we project to have expanded the program to be open to the general U.S. population for which we anticipate to acquire in excess of 50 million additional for a total of 73 million members,  which produces annual revenues 4.4 billion at a cost of 35 million. 

(73 million members X $5 per member, per month = $365,000,000 per month x 12 months = $4,380,000,000 billion annual revenue)

 Conclusion: United Shared Saving Network is prone to become a highly profitable business and necessary vehicle to stabilize the economy and better the common wealth and health of America and societies across the Globe. 

I hope you are aware that states all across the country are seeking a way to reduce the cost of social net programs.

Tyrone Thomas Jr.

March 12th, 2016

I want to thank all of you for your insights and comments who have and will participate in this discussion. Based on your feedback it became apparent to me that another issue exists that I must overcome. 

Sedef Onder Managing Partner + Strategist, Clear Inc.

March 11th, 2016

hi Tyrone,

I have a couple suggestions for you; sent you an email also. As you'll note from our site -- -- we work with social enterprises, and I've personally provided PR counsel for social entrepreneurs recognized by Ashoka and Skoll Foundation. Happy to chat with you informally, should you find it useful.

Tyrone Thomas Jr.

March 11th, 2016

My opinion comes from personal experience in approaching a few media professionals who did not fully under stand the concept or thought it too big to become a reality without government participation or non-profit status.

I also ran into several foundations who have the same policy of not engaging with social impact initiatives unless they have non-profit 501 (c) 3 status. Most said they liked the idea, but were bound by policy. I think the underlying case with investors and strategic partners is much of what you said as well as the fact that we are doing something totally new for a demographic that has not traditionally been focused on as a foundational profit center. google united shared savings network an take a look at our gofundme and indiegogo campaigns for more clarity on our business model. you are welcome to contact me back at:  tyrone . thomas at unitedsharedsavingsnetwork dot com

Andrew Chapman Publishing Entrepreneur and Author

March 11th, 2016

Tyrone - I'm not sure I can agree with you on this, though I'm certainly open to more information. My observation has been the opposite, that social entrepreneurs are getting much more publicity than ever before. The mainstream media is paying more attention, and there are many micro-media outlets that are covering social enterprises and entrepreneurs. That said, are there stories going unknown? Sure. But that's true of all of life... great stories that somehow never hit any media radar. 

On the financial side of your comment, there's probably more to that. I don't think a lot of investors are familiar with social enterprises, and I do see what seems to be a lack of understanding about it (e.g., B Corp as a certification vs. benefit corporation as a legal status). I think social entrepreneurship is perhaps still in a relative infancy when it comes to investors and financing. Fortunately for my venture (a benefit corporation), I'm not seeking investors.

Lastly, when it comes to strategic partnerships, I also disagree. I *do* think that you have to engage in more education with strategic partners when it comes to what social enterprise is, but there are many who do get it and there are many who are eager to partner with the right social enterprise.

Andrew Chapman Publishing Entrepreneur and Author

March 13th, 2016

Hello again, Tyrone --

Thanks for providing the additional info, (a) to learn about what you're doing and (b) so I can offer a better answer to your original post. I certainly don't consider myself a PR expert, but I have worked in communications my whole career. Here are my eight points of concern and suggestions:

1. Sharpen your message. The original blog post that I found from 2013, thus still available for anyone to see, should either be edited down to about 25% of what it is or completely deleted. It's too long, messy, and confusing. Even though this was improved in the later uses on IndieGoGo and GoFundMe, it still needs work. A good copyeditor would go a long way toward helping that. See #7 below for another hugely relevant point about your message.

2. Consider narrowing the scope of your venture. Personally, I love thinking big, but I've come to learn it can be a liability. One, it makes it hard for people to get their minds around your venture, and two, it raises natural skepticism: "Fixing poverty throughout the whole U.S.? Yeah, right." There will always be skeptics, especially the greater the change you're trying to make, but there is a sweet spot at the intersection of big-enough thinking and few-enough skeptics. So, while in your mind you may have national plans, perhaps you should make this a smaller-scale program to start. (Think globally; act locally.) The natural level, it would seem to me, is something statewide. Make your model succeed in Mississippi, for example, the poorest state in the U.S., and you'll have a solid argument and credentials for making it succeed elsewhere or nationally.

3. By narrowing to a state level, you have a greater chance at the publicity you're having trouble getting. My suspicion is that media people are seeing your vision as too big for your credentials. Jeff Bezos launched Amazon not as an online seller of everything... just books. Despite that, he faced skeptics. But at least he could demonstrate how his company could succeed before even uttering a public word about his bigger plan. So, again, think about narrowing your scope. Right now, your venture is too small and too undeveloped for national media, but its scope is too big for local and state media (except maybe those where you live, presenting you as a local social-entrepreneurship story). I think a smaller-scale venture as proof of concept would go a long way toward bridging this gap. Heck, even making your concept succeed in a large city would be a big accomplishment.

4. Get rid of the GoFundMe pitch. It's three years old, and someone has only put up $5. Sorry to be blunt, but that looks terrible and could be killing your media opportunities all by itself. It's a knife in the back of your and your venture's credibility.

5. All of what I'm saying is also killing your chances with investors and strategic partners. I'm a big fan of Shark Tank, and RARELY will those investors get behind anyone with big national plans who hasn't demonstrated solid success so far. So again, scaling down to something local or statewide to start would likely go a long way toward getting more attention... not necessarily more easily, but better results.

6. It's really hard to grasp how an investor can make money. Using assumed numbers here, if your program generates 5% cash back (like a lot of cash-back plans do), then what can the "profit" for the program itself possibly be... 1%, 2%? For easy math, let's say 1%, which on $1mm in gross purchases equals $10,000. In this scenario, if I owned 20% of your company, I could -- at best -- get $2,000 out of this. (That's assuming, wrongly of course, that $10,000 is a net amount.) You might get an investor to care about $2,000 if that's a per-month amount... but that means your program is processing $1mm per month! That's huge. That's 1,000 people/families who average $1,000 per month of discretionary spending (and which must qualify within your program). Even if you could hit that instantly, your investor could only earn $72,000 in three years, which means the most she/he would be willing to invest for that return is roughly $50,000. But again, you have to get up to $1mm per month for this scenario, which could easily take a year. So, now the $50k needs to come down much more. Continuing with that math, you basically end up with any likely investment being such a small amount of money as to be useless. The apparent result is that you shouldn't even think about investors until you have this thing much farther along. And it may never be investor friendly; the model may just not support that.

7. Tell prospective stories. Find five people or families who would benefit from your program. Crunch the numbers as to what it would do for them in terms of real dollars. Then, tell these stories on your website. (Be clear that they're theoretical, however.) Stories connect with people much better than straight factual information. Read Paul Smith's book Lead with a Story for the best education on this concept.

8. Give us a better answer to the "USSN is an MLM" concern. Great that you address this in your FAQ, but you don't actually dispel the perception in my opinion. You say it's not an MLM, but then you talk about an earnings matrix, getting others into the program, and earning $2,500 per month (i.e., more than just a cash-back percentage). All of that smells like an MLM, or worse, a Ponzi Scheme. There's no way, in my mind, that someone who lives on $2,000 a month could earn $2,500 off their purchases unless this is an MLM or Ponzi Scheme. If I'm wrong about that, you need to answer this much more clearly. Except for negative publicity, media outlets will not even think about covering an MLM.

So, as you can see, I completely agree with your last comment that you have another issue you need to overcome. This isn't a matter of bias against social enterprises (apart from the level to which that does exist). I love your big thinking on this, and I hope this has helped. If it's been too harsh, just know that it comes from wanting you to succeed. You have a noble mission, and I believe anything is possible -- as long as we see things as they are and continually question our own assumptions.