what to measure
For businesses, success is measured in profit. For social businesses, success is measured in impact. Profits are easy to measure – there are lots of amazing accounting tools and bookkeepers that can help entrepreneurs to measure profit. Impact can be much more difficult to capture. When measuring impact the basic approach is to look at what was happening before you came along vs what is happening after you’ve been there for a while – the difference before vs after is your impact. But rather than just measuring outputs (number of wells built or school books donated, for example), it’s critical to measure outcomes, like decrease in infant mortality or increase in graduation rates. Why? If nobody’s using the wells, or the school books aren’t being read, you’re not really having impact. Don’t assume that outputs yield outcomes.
talking, start doing
It’s easy to come up with a new business idea, but the only way to see if an idea will be successful is to give it a go. It should be possible to test a prototype for most business ideas with $500 and a week or two of work.
Who Gives A Crap’s first prototype involved buying $300 of toilet paper from the supermarket, spending four hours setting up an online toilet paper store (the same store that we use today!) and bidding on some Google ads to drive traffic to our online store.
This quick and cheap prototype showed us that customers were willing to buy socially conscious toilet paper online. So we decided to invest more of our time and money to take Who Gives A Crap to the next level. n Simon is the CEO of Who Gives A Crap, an environmentally friendly toilet paper company that uses 50% of its profits to build toilets in the developing world. He is also the founder of Shebeen, Australia’s first non-profit bar, located in Melbourne’s CBD.