A Conversation on Social Entrepreneurship with Ben Hoyer, President and COO of Rally: The Social Enterprise Accelerator, and Co-Owner of Downtown CREDO

This article appears in the August 2020 edition of the Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship newsletter. 

Ben Hoyer, President and COO of Rally: The Social Enterprise Accelerator, and Co-Owner of Downtown CREDO, shares his thoughts on social entrepreneurship and how entrepreneurs can spark change during this tumultuous time.

For those who may not be knowledgeable about social entrepreneurship, can you briefly describe what it is and why it matters?       

Ben HoyerBen Hoyer: Social entrepreneurs are addressing real social, economic or environmental problems with market-facing solutions. They build businesses, non-profits, benefit corporations and/or hybrids of all three in order to positively impact problems they believe need to be addressed. They hold as equally, the importance of making progress toward a desired future state where the problem they’re addressing is reduced and building business strategies that yield profit. Social entrepreneurship is important because problems are worth solving. Entrepreneurial thinking and competitive market facing strategy demand approaches that yield solutions. As we empower new entrepreneurs to value issues of justice, environment and society as equally important with profit, we’ll have better companies and stronger solutions to our most pressing problems.

As we know, there is much civil unrest around racial unity in the country today. How do you see this impacting the entrepreneurial community as a whole? What special role can social entrepreneurs play in this tumultuous time?

Often the best outcome from civil unrest is collective introspection that leads to action. Dr. King and the movement leaders of the 1960’s utilized television to awaken America to unjust treatment that was commonplace across the South and it resulted in historic protests and finally, new civil rights legislation. As today’s movements utilize social media to awaken America to the ongoing injustices perpetrated in neighborhoods and cities across the country, it will require new action in many spheres. The entrepreneurial community is not exempt. When people of color are excluded, either passively or actively, we all miss out on creative ideas and powerful businesses. We’re beginning to see venture funds create specific opportunities for people of color, this is encouraging. So many of the pathways to success are paved by relationships. It will take focused effort to aim those pathways into networks that have too often been excluded. 

As a midsize city, Orlando is considered ethnically diverse. How do you think we are doing in terms if inclusivity and opportunity in the social entrepreneurial ecosystem? What else could we be doing as a community?

Ben Hoyer: Orlando is not exempt from racist attitudes, systems, or legacies. The geography of our city and the social networks of our lives bear the legacy of generations of policies and choices made with racist underpinnings. It will not change overnight. But it needs to change nonetheless. Any meaningful change takes place first in the hearts and minds of individuals who recognize the mono-culture where they live, or work, or create is shallow. Multicultural living is more rich, multicultural work is more productive, and multicultural creation is more beautiful. It will take piles and piles of individual choices to make lasting change in our community. These choices can be modeled by our leaders and organizations. They mean diverse leadership boards, advertising campaigns and beneficiaries.

Rally’s social enterprise accelerator accepts applications from entrepreneurs worldwide. Since its inception, the cohorts have been diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity. Has this just happened organically or does Rally have a strategy to ensure diversity?

Ben Hoyer: Rally’s Fellows have been pretty diverse from the start. Social enterprise entrepreneurs tend to be more diverse than traditional entrepreneurs. We believe this is because social entrepreneurs are motivated by problems they’re passionate about solving. Minorities are often more acquainted with problems because they often live in cultures and systems of which they’re not beneficiaries. We have made intentional efforts to recruit entrepreneurs of color in the past and plan to continue because we’re interested in working with the most compelling world-class social entrepreneurs we can find.

If you are interested in connecting with Ben Hoyer, click here for his LinkedIn.

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