Social Enterprise Contests and Awards…and Coffee

Warning – this post contains strong language and nudity. Just joking – it’s only strong language. But you were a bit more interested for a second, weren’t you?

I’m a bit of a coffee nut. I weigh my beans, grind them in a burr grinder, and make my coffee using either a double walled french press or a manual espresso pump – my dependable Presso. I’ve blind-tested Lavazza against Illi, and firmly rejected Lavazza. I then moved on to local coffee roasters, settling for a while on Square Mile Coffee Roasters but in the last few weeks I’ve changed allegiances to Monmouth Coffee.

You might think my interest is over the top, or OCD, or simply going to far, but anyone who has started a business knows the never-ending effort involved. Often a labor of love, sometimes a thankless toil, but it is not an occupation for the weak of spirit or part timers. On top of the regular challenges, I added one more challenge when I launched myself off a hundred foot cliff while skiing in France just as business was taking off, leaving me first in the hospital (where I hired my first employee) and then in a wheelchair for three months. Regardless, it demands everything of you, and if you are going to make it through, you will find it a lot easier with a Cup of Joe in your hand.

Which brings me to one of my pet peeves – the myriad of fluff-filled, yawn-worthy awards given in the social enterprise space. I don’t mean to denigrate the applicants or winners – god knows they deserve every ounce of help they can get. It’s just that the assistance given by these awards is so often nothing more than a mastabatory marketing effort by the organisation giving it

For example, one of these awards lists among its benefits “Access to networking and training opportunities throughout the year provided by [organisation] and our partners” which sounds like marketing speak for “We will put you on our email newsletter and invite you to things you could have gone to anyway.”

When I have the cash to give away, I’m going to start an award called the “Survive the First Year” award (or something similar). I’m still debating with myself exactly what it’s going to recognize, but I know what the award is going to include:

  • A year’s supply of high quality coffee, along with a Presso espresso machine (or a year’s worth of tea, depending on your caffeine delivery method of choice)
  • A graphic designer to design (or re-design) your logo and business cards, and letterhead
  • 200 of Moo’s beautiful Luxe business card
  • Your website redesigned (if you think you need it) onto a beautiful WordPress theme, or FourSquare site
  • Assistance setting up a Google Apps account for company email if you don’t have an email system you already like
  • Assistance with your LinkedIn profile, as well as Facebook and/or Twitter, depending on your needs
  • A year’s worth of accountancy services
  • A year’s worth of service from Best Reception
  • 4 Hours of legal advice, for you to use when you need it

I’d recommend to the person additional things that I think can be found elsewhere better than I could hope to provide. For instance,

  • A mentor through Business in the Community. The guy they hooked me up with has helped me to no end, saving me days, if not weeks of time, and accelerating my business months ahead of where it would be if I didn’t have a mentor. BITC gets 10 out of 10 for how they’ve helped me.
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