Technology and Entrepreneurship in Social Work

After helplessly watching her sister try to navigate the international adoption process, Felicia Curcuru launched Binti in an effort to reinvent foster care and adoption. Since the launch of the company in 2017, Binti has expanded its network to over 190 agencies across 26 states in the U.S. The software Binti creates helps social workers and others who work in foster care to effectively approve 80% more families and decrease their administrative burden by up to 40%.

Jimmy Chen, a Stanford graduate and the son of struggling immigrants from China, created Propel in 2014 after noticing that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients needed to call a 16-digit phone number to check their balance. In order to check their balances, some of the recipients would resort to strategies such as buying cheap items such as bananas. Currently, the Propel app helps 5 million households who are eligible for SNAP benefits to manage their finances!

Besides using technology and entrepreneurship to transform human service systems, what do these companies have in common? They were not started by social workers.

Technology and Entrepreneurship in Social Work

Technology and entrepreneurship have and will continue to transform our profession. But social workers have stayed on the sidelines of this creative process for too long. If we are to be successful in effectively disseminating our incredible values and pushing forth the mission of social work, social workers must play a more direct role in embracing the movements of technology and entrepreneurship.

This is not a new concept. Research articles on technology and entrepreneurship in social work have been published for years, and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has published reports on technology in social work. Furthermore, universities such as Columbia University in New York have embraced the movement, and have created a minor for social workers called “Emerging Technology, Media, and Society,” which trains social workers to understand the latest developments in the world of technology. Finally, thousands of social workers operate their own private practices and embrace the benefits of entrepreneurial practices.

This slow, yet continuous shift towards technology and entrepreneurship is important, but it must be accelerated. The question still remains: how do we enable social workers to embrace the power behind technology and entrepreneurship? Here are some ideas:

Enabling Social Workers to Embrace Technology and Entrepreneurship

First and foremost, social work curricula must embrace technology and entrepreneurship. The curricula must incorporate mandatory courses on technology and entrepreneurship, and these courses should be taught by experts in these fields.

Social work departments must enable field placements for social workers in technology or startup environments. By being a part of successful organizations in these spaces, social work students can be exposed to this type of thinking and be inspired by the possibilities!

Social workers themselves must take time to explore and learn about these fields. Although it is difficult enough to maintain our mental health while managing our caseloads, we can utilize the time we spend on webinars or Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to take classes in technology and entrepreneurship.

Social workers can become intrapreneurs, or employees that create new projects from within organizations and businesses. For example, during my time at a community mental health organization, I helped launch a social media channel for the organization’s therapists, which allowed us to feel more connected, share resources, and learn from one another.

Moving Forward

As social workers, we uphold an ethical code that enables us to represent the most marginalized members of our society. But we can only do this effectively by embracing the intersection between technology, entrepreneurship, and social work. Although there is no silver-bullet answer, we can help social workers gain entrepreneurial and technological skills by broadening the education available to social work students and ourselves so that we can all better understand the possibilities that are out there.

Top Apps and Tools Recommended for Every Entrepreneur

Running a small business takes a lot of work. Today there’s technology that will help you with this. This technology won’t only help you stay on top of what you’re doing but it will also help you free up time so you’re not always chained to your office.

Accounting and Expenses

One of the most important parts of your business has to do with accounting and expenses. When you don’t properly manage this area of your business you probably won’t be in business for long. Although you can clearly see how this could take up a lot of your time, PC Mag says it doesn’t have to be this way. Some apps that will help you stay in control in less time include:

NetSuite OneWorld is a completely scalable enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that helps you manage expense reports, purchase orders, business dashboards, and security records. Many business owners have made this their one-stop shop for managing their business when they’re away from their computer.

Acumatica is a general ledger accounting software. This is a browser-based tool that lets you access your accounting data from any device that has an internet connection – including a downloadable iOS or Android app. You can enter time cards, run expense reports, and enter purchase orders from the app.

Expensify is an expense report software for use on your mobile device. With its app, you can upload receipts through OCR SmartScan. It does a great job at accurately processing scanned data, which will save you and your employees time when it comes to inputting and processing expenses.

Tsheets is a mobile app that lets you clock in or out and track time even if you don’t have cell coverage. As a manager, you can clock team members individually or all at the same time. You can also see who’s at work and where they’re working from. Additionally, you can create, edit, and publish scheduled jobs or shifts, automate timesheet alerts, and track paid time off, sick days, and holidays.

QuickBooks is still a solid accounting tool that will help you track and manage your finances. While the app isn’t a fully featured, mobile version of the desktop application it still lets you track sales, send out invoices, and review recent payments while away from the office.

Collaboration and Communication

There are some other great communication and collaboration tools you should also check out. These include:

SurveyMonkey lets you see what’s going on with your customers and employees – something that’s crucial for a business of any size today. Simply create a survey that people can create and participate in from their mobile device. You can then analyze the data from your mobile device once the poll ends.

MailChimp is very helpful when it comes to email marketing, which is a 24/7 job. They’re on suite tools make it easy for you to launch a campaign from your mobile device. All it takes is a few taps and you can recreate the same campaign that you would have created from your desktop. From there you can also monitor the campaign’s progress, edit subscriber profiles, and run multivariate reports.

HubSpot is a marketing automation tool that provides you with a robust iOS and Android app. From there you can manage contacts between your marketing, sales, and service teams while on the go. You can also monitor leads as they move through your sales funnel, communicate with partners who are members of other teams and evaluate campaign metrics to decide if you need to make any wholesale changes.

Evernote Scannable is a great mobile scanning app that quickly and automatically scans business cards, documents, meeting notes, and other files for you. It also connects to LinkedIn and offers you a great text-parsing tool so that you can clean up any docs that turn out jumbled.

UberConference for online meetings. Another important area of your business lies in communicating with your customers and collaborating with your employees. It’s a solid video conferencing app that allows you to meet remotely with employees and clients. The platform is flexible, allowing you to connect with users on any device. This is a great way to virtually drop into a staff meeting while you’re away from the office.

Business Management

Although collaboration, communication, and accounting lie at the heart of your business, there are other important work-related tasks you can probably think of as well. There are some business management tools that are helpful here, including:

Salesforce Sales Cloud Professional is a CRM software tool that gives you access to customer and sales data. You can then use this data to improve your business’ operations. This comprehensive and flexible platform helps you stay in step with your competition. Business News Daily also points out that there’s a free extension that you can add on to this app. It encompasses your service’s Chatter, CRM, apps, and processes within your Android smartphone. This allows you to customize these apps so that they’re more functional and you can stay up-to-date with any notifications and alerts.

Zoho CRM is just as functional as Salesforce, but it also ties in nicely with the rest of the Zoho software ecosystem – including your Zoho email, document management, and email marketing client.

Sprout Social offers you help in creating and maintaining a solid social media strategy. It also provides the best social media management and analytics tools that you can access directly from your mobile device without sacrificing any functionality. Through these apps, you can identify influencers, ideal moments for customer engagement, and have data that back all these things up.

HootSuite offers a mature, complete set of social media management and analytics tools in a nicely designed hub. This lets you conduct comprehensive monitoring, influencer identification, and publish to social media channels.

As you look through these tools, remember that your company is only as good as the tools it uses. With so many tools available, the selection process can become quite daunting. However, you can’t ignore the fact that you need these tools so your business can run 24/7 while you only work weekdays from 9 – 5.

5 Ways to Turn a Crazy Idea Into an Awesome Reality

Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, John Lennon, Martin Luther King, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, what do they all have in common? Every one of them had crazy ideas they trusted, believed in and took proper actions to turn those into an awesome reality. The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. This famous quote was the genius of Rob Siltanen.

We live in a time where you have more opportunities to turn your crazy ideas into an awesome reality. Just think about it; jet-setting the world, making music or starting a new business were never as attainable as they are now. Nothing is off limits when you have opportunity drivers such as social media, crowdfunding, business incubators nowadays.

Everybody gets great ideas, it’s turning them into a reality that makes all the difference. Think about Google X projects like the driverless car or Google Glass. How about the innovative genius of Apple products when they first came into the market? iPods and iPhones and Apple computers all have revolutionized digital products. Can you even imagine your life without these devices?

These were all crazy ideas once. That was before someone took great efforts into making them come alive. So what did they do? You know you’ve got to do something about that brilliant idea you have before it fizzles out of your mind. Here are five ways to turn them into reality:

1.      Stop Talking and Start Doing

When people have crazy ideas, they get excited and go tell their friends or share it with their family. If you don’t have the proper foundation to defend your idea, then you are ridiculed, shamed or even forced to give it up before you did anything about it. So before you declare your crazy idea to your inner world, consider writing your idea down on paper first. This is to make sure you don’t forget it. Once you’ve written it down, do a SWOT analysis and begin a market research to see if your crazy idea is crazy enough to take off the ground. Do a survey or give out samples to know your potential audience. All this work will help you know if your crazy idea has any potential to turn into a reality.

2. Know How to Sell Your Idea

With the perfect market research, numbers and answers in check, prepare yourself to defend your crazy idea. Your crazy idea is your important product and who’s to say it won’t turn into profitable venture someday? So how can you sell this message across to venture capitalists or people who can back up your crazy idea? If you’ve ever watched the popular TV reality series “Shark Tank” you know pitching your idea has to be done in the simplest way. Easy does it. Can you explain, in under two minutes, how your crazy idea solves a problem? Because if your idea doesn’t improve anybody’s life then you may not have any takers for it. For example, you have this crazy idea for a script or a book, then get assistance on it before you pitch it. If your idea can turn into an app, make a great pitch about it so vendors buy your idea and make the app the way they want later.

3. Break It into Milestones

According to Harvard Business Review, there is a stark difference between planning for new venture and planning for an existing company.  Breaking your crazy idea into milestones will help you see how it will evolve and knowing this helps planning better. Each stage tells you what the drawbacks were and you can then come up with solutions, change plans and deal with the next stage. Milestones help you test previous performance and is key for decision making because it won’t be based on estimates. Estimates are more often away from reality. Performance-based reviews are more likely to help you project future behavior. Every milestone will further work on deadlines which helps build a momentum to turn your crazy idea into a reality!

4. Build Momentum

If you want to achieve what you’ve set out to turn into reality, you need to infuse your plans with great momentum. If you see obstacles in your path, people may ask you to wait until they pass. While sometimes this could be true, other times it could just mean you are procrastinating. The more you wait to get something done, the harder it will be, to get done later. Prioritize to take the most necessary actions first. Take consistent steps to stay on course.

5. Don’t Focus on Results

.. too early. Let’s say you’ve started a blog and you’ve posted articles, but you don’t see those 100,000 daily visitors you planned to see in the first six months. See if you’ve done everything in your power such as SEO, posting articles that improve people’s lives, used social media or guest posted to attract traffic. What else can you do to make it better? If you’ve done everything, there will be results. If these results are not what you expected at first, then chances are you will be discouraged. If you shift your focus, you are guaranteed to not see those results anyway.

So what you need is a meticulous plan, motivation to see it through, stay on your course and remain focused to turn your crazy idea into an awesome reality.

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day: How to Finance Your First Business

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Every woman and girl should have the opportunity to follow their dreams. Because women do 66% of the world’s work – yet earn 10% of the world’s income – helping women entrepreneurs get their businesses up and running is an important step towards making this goal a reality.

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, founded by Wendy Diamond, is global “educational event” aimed at educating businesswomen in the ways they can empower one another financially, thus improving the likelihood of their long-term success.

Today there are an estimated 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, according to The State of Women-Owned Businesses 2016 report from American Express OPEN and Womenable. Generating over $1.6 trillion in revenue, these ventures drive economic activity and improve employment in their communities. 

If you’re hoping to join this ever-growing group of entrepreneurs, one of the first considerations you’ll likely have to make is how you’re going to fund your new business – in good times and in bad. Here are seven helpful tips to get you started.

  1. Take Ownership of Your Credit

Whether you’ve been building your credit for a while or you simply are starting with no credit, it’s a good idea to know where you stand before applying for a loan, your first credit card or seeking any other kind of financing.

“Many women forget about their credit scores, particularly if they are married or sharing a bank account,” Meredith Wood, vice president of content for Fundera, a free site for finding small business loans, said. “Make sure you own your credit so that you can apply for capital.”

  1. Don’t Fear Asking for Help

“Don’t be afraid to ask — for help, for funding, for free stuff,” Alex Niemczewski, CEO of BallotReady, an online voter guide, said. “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.”

Niemczewski said it’s a good idea to start talking with potential investors early, “even if you’re still in the idea stage. The earlier you are, the less you have thought through everything, but that’s okay. Potential investors are incredible sources of advice and connections.”

You don’t just have to be asking for something — it’s good to remember that it’s okay to simply be asking for a fresh perspective from someone you trust. “Sometimes it helps to seek another opinion,” Wood said. “You need to understand how your offers compare before making a decision.”

  1. Use Resources Designed Just for You

There are programs dedicated to women in your exact situation, like those offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), where you can also turn for guidance or answers to your questions.

These WBCs, as we call them, offer women entrepreneurs, especially those who are economically or socially disadvantaged, comprehensive training and counseling on a vast array of topics, such as financing, marketing, federal contracting, international trade and manufacturing,” Andrea Roebker, regional communications director for the SBA, said.

  1. Start Small

“My advice to all women entrepreneurs is to think lean when figuring out your finances,” said Lauren Milligan, a career coach in Chicago. “Can you work from your home office rather than paying rent? Can you outsource to freelancers rather than bringing on an employee? Can you use interns rather than outsourcing business functions to expensive vendors?”

All the business plans in the world cannot predict the challenges that lie ahead – don’t quit your day job right away, and don’t bite off more than you can chew. By trying it first on a small scale, you allow yourself both the room and the time to build credible, trustworthy relationships.

  1. Know What’s Essential

“Resist the temptation to spend your seed money on furniture and stationery,” said Angelique Pivoine, CEO of Good Thinking Agency, a company that helps freelancers and small businesses draw media attention. “I really recommend that you make a list of essential expenses and fees to start a business and keep it afloat for six months before spending money on a new chair or potted plants.”

Milligan also suggested that you “look at every expense you have and see how you can chip away at it, so that you don’t have to take on unnecessary debt.”

  1. Consider Angel Investors

“Women starting a company should be aware that there are more and more female-led, angel investors who are seeking great concepts and experienced leaders,” Stephanie Sprangers, CEO and founder of Glamhive, a fashion app, said. “You’ll want to find early-stage angel investors who are open to investing in pre-revenue and even pre-tech build companies. These angel investors provide capital, advice and connections.” She recommends looking for them by searching for “angel investor” on sites like LinkedIn.

  1. Look at Other Financing Options

“Do your research about grants for women entrepreneurs, small loans, credit cards — a wealth of options exist online if you’re denied by banks,” Wood said.

Pivoine also suggested finding a “trustworthy partner or investor” to help you fund your business. “I recommend, though, that you iron out the details of the partnership beforehand, [including] how much percentage of the business each partner has, how long until the partner who provided the cash recuperates their investment cost, etc.”

On Women’s Entrepreneurship Day and every day, it’s important to recognize the contributions being made to society by women-led businesses as well as the challenges that still lie ahead. Strong, empowered women in business are crucial catalysts for positive change both within their communities and the wider world. As we look forward to this event, remember your own dreams – and then lay a plan to start putting them to action.

Social Workers Discover How Entrepreneurship Increases Their Impact

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Social Workers who add entrepreneurial skills to their helping skills, experience a significant increase in impact.

Anneke Krakers, founder of the Social Worker Entrepreneur Training Programs, researched the business opportunities for Social Workers in depth. She created a proven method that helps Social Workers to transform from employee to entrepreneur.

Ask any Social Worker about her or his dreams and you hear stories about changing the world. They are driven by passion for people in need. But when you ask Social Workers if they find themselves successful in creating this dream, most Social Workers respond negative. They get stuck in huge caseloads and excessive administrative burden. They never experience themselves to be the Leaders of Change they long to be.

Entrepreneurship solves this problem. Building their own business gives them the skills and tools to increase their impact. Anneke Krakers created The Social Worker Entrepreneur Starter Training to teach Social Workers how to build the foundation of their business with a proven method of 7 steps. Important part of this training is about leveraging your services into scalable products which is key to increasing impact.

Anneke Krakers is a Dutch Social Worker, and she started a business ten years ago in The Netherlands to support Social Workers on their entrepreneurial journey. She teaches Social Workers how to be an entrepreneur in a social way using marketing and branding methods that are aligned with their social soul.

Her proven system of 7 steps is acknowledged by the Dutch Social Work Education Institutes. In 2014 her book “Hier Sta Ik Voor!” was released: the first book for Social Workers about marketing and branding. Anneke Krakers is a well known and beloved speaker in The Netherlands.

About two years ago, Krakers started her global leap to engaging Social Workers all over the world who have started or who want start a business. “How cool, we all embark on the same adventure” as one of her students said.

Now for the first time, the Social Worker Entrepreneur Starter Training is available in English, and it supports a growing global community of Social Workers who start their own business. All classes are online.

By the end of The Social Worker Entrepreneur Starter Training, students will have the foundation of their own business which includes:

a laser sharp focus on their market
a suite of the products to sell (with full focus on helping people!)
a unique branding proposition, the look and feel of their unique brand
a personalized marketing strategies including:
how to get prospects
how to build warm relationships
how to get trust and finally the sale

Social Workers will get the basis for long term outcomes like wealth, freedom and peace of mind. This will enable them to actually increase their impact and influence with some of the Dutch students reporting a tenfold growth of their reach!

The Starter Training starts at September 26th. Enrollment ends at September 25th. After signing up, students get immediate access to their Pre-Work “from Employee to Entrepreneur”.  You can request more information at www.annekekrakers.com/startertraining or contact Anneke at a.krakers@welzijnnederland.nl.

Mental Health Professionals Expand Their Income Potential

Entrepreneur decision to choose path to start up business success
Entrepreneur decision to choose path to start up business success

RALEIGH, N.C. –  The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts faster than average growth for therapists through 2024. For clinicians seeking ways to tap into the growing market for their services and gain more autonomy, income potential, and flexibility, breaking away from traditional employment to pursue private practice may be a solution.

NASW-NC recognizes that opening a private practice is more involved than being a competent and well-trained clinician, having comfortable office space, and hanging out a shingle. In this workshop to be held in Raleigh, NC on August 20, 2016 mental health clinicians will have an opportunity to learn key elements that go into developing a successful mental health practice.

This comprehensive 6 hour continuing education workshop will cover:

  • How to stand out from the competition
  • Appropriate business licenses
  • Securing office space
  • What referral sources most appreciate
  • Pros/cons about accepting insurance
  • Strategies for administrative management
  • Bringing on colleagues (or joining an already established practice)Ways to protect yourself from undue risk exposure

The workshop presenter is Laurie Conaty, MSW, LCSW, LCAS, PA. Laurie is a member of Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers and a member of NASW-NC. A Past President of the NC Society for Clinical Social Work, Laurie was named Clinical Social Worker of the Year in 2007. Currently, she consults, trains and provides outpatient services, primarily couples and family intensives and ‘challenging case’ consultation through her practice, located in Sanford, NC.

For more information and to register for this workshop, please visit www.naswnc.org.

NASW is a membership organization that promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the effective functioning and well-being of individuals, families and communities through its work and advocacy.

Social Workers: The Untapped Hub of Entrepreneurs

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In what many might consider the most unlikeliest of places to look for entrepreneurs, social work is actually a hub of entrepreneurial thought leaders.  Residing in this place of ideas for change with little to no funding, social workers are constantly grinding out creative ways to progress human and societal conditions.

Being kind and doing good are now viewed as intelligent and necessary traits to have in the professional world.  However, let’s remember social workers were kind even when it implicitly was taken as ignorant and the reason they were doing good was because of compassion, empathy, resilience, commitment, and determination, so essentially they are trailblazers and natural entrepreneurs.

Social workers have been “doing good” before doing good was cool.

Below is a list of 5 entrepreneurial skills that social workers embody in their everyday work.

Ability to Raise Money

Many social workers work within the nonprofit sector or within the public sector, both of which see little working capital and funding cuts.  Due to this consistent lack of cash flow social workers are constantly figuring out how to come up with funding for their clients, communities and programs.  Due to social workers being committed and determined they are brainstorming different ways to raise capital just like an entrepreneurial venture would do.

Many sectors like to think of social workers as not being financially savvy however in a world where one has to figure out how to best advocate for their clients and communities with the least amount of money, they have learned how to get very creative with fundraising.

Branding/Marketing

Much of what lies behind social work theory is psychology.  Additionally, much of what lies beneath effective and efficient branding and marketing is psychology as well.  Thus, when social workers are attempting to brand or market their program or organization they have a leg up as they can easily analyze what their audience might want by knowing the different psychological theories that already exist. Additionally, social workers are generally speaking, natural empaths.

Yes, some have to work harder at empathy but social workers don’t go into their profession by monetary motivation, they generally go into social work because they are empathetic and compassionate individuals wanting to solve worldly problems.  The ability to empathize with your audience gives you an advantage when branding and marketing because you can easily put yourself into your audience’s shoes to figure out what they need and want.

Self-Care & Resilience

If you research anything about social work, you will most likely stumble upon self-care and compassion fatigue such as Mindfulness, Self-Care, and Wellness in Social Work: Effects of Contemplative Training, Caring for Ourselves: A Therapist’s Guide to Personal and Professional Well-Being.  Once again, social workers were developing and taking trainings and discussing the importance of self-care before all the mindfulness coloring books, meditation helmets and such started appearing in popular culture.  Social workers realize how incredibly important it is to take care of yourself so you can be a more effective professional and person in all areas of life.

Additionally, resilience is something that social workers have to recognize, assess and teach within many of their client populations such as mentally ill, abused and neglected and impoverished. Due to consistently working with the most disadvantaged in our societies and seeing and teaching that resilience, it has become an innate trait for any professional social workers to embrace.

Social workers experience many failures with clients, programs and organizations but it’s that compassion, grit and resilience that keeps them doing their job everyday waiting to change even 1 person or 1 community. The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries addresses many entrepreneurial obstacles and how to overcome them, one of them being failing fast and failing often to get to success.

Building Cohesive Teams

One thing that many social workers have to develop or at least review is called a strengths and needs assessment for individuals and/or communities they are serving.  Many decades ago social workers started realizing that only identifying and treating needs of persons and/or communities wasn’t treating the issue as a whole and in the most viable way. By identifying the strengths of the person, organization or community you can then more effectually address the issues.  Many entrepreneurial articles (Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Inc.) talk about the need for building effective teams as one of the most important steps in a successful venture.

Due to that being a skill set already learned by social workers, as well as some of their background training in psychology and their ability to empathize as spoken about earlier, social workers can build some of the most empowered and potent teams out there.

They realize the importance of different learning styles and how to communicate your message.

Ability to Sell

Last but certainly not least is the ability to sell.  Most everyone would think that sales could not be further from social work.  However, if you have ever read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie you will quickly realize that empathy and sympathy are 2 of the most effective traits to have in order to be successful in dealing with people. Additionally, having that grit, determination and resilience are other characteristics that social workers have that help them pick themselves up and keep forging on after a failed “sale”. Many social workers may not even have thought of themselves in sales before, however they actually have to “sell” themselves to their clients quite a bit.

In social services you have many untrusting people due to things such as life experiences or mental illness.  Social workers usually use the terminology “gaining people’s trust” however it is a matter of semantics because the social worker is essentially “selling” themselves or services to someone.  You have to make them believe that you are trustworthy, dependable and honest in order for clients and/or organizations to open up to you. Gaining people’s trust is one of the traits social workers have that help them “sell” their service and or product just like in entrepreneurial ventures.

So next time you are out looking for a founder, co-founder, partner or for investors looking to invest in social impact products or services; don’t look past the social worker.

Gone are the days of social workers “just” being a bleeding heart or “just” being kind…like kind implies ignorance?

Many entrepreneurial ventures that are solely motivated by money will fizzle out because they don’t have many of the other necessary skills that make a venture succeed.  Social workers naturally have these skills in them by virtue of the profession, so take a look and see what social workers have and are still accomplishing these days that could help your entrepreneurial venture out.

How a Social Worker Can Become an Entrepreneur and Still be Social

Since Evelyn started thinking of becoming an entrepreneur and starting her own business, her head was full of questions. Sure, not knowing all the answers made her anxious. But nevertheless, this energy felt much better than being unemployed and feeling no energy at all.

She knew she needed some firm answers. How can a social worker transform into an entrepreneur? How do they get clients? Who will pay for that?

IMG_2325My name is Anneke, and I am a social worker  just like you and Evelyn. Since 2006, I  have been running my own business. I teach and coach social workers how to become a successful entrepreneur and still be social. This is where I met Evelyn.

Like Evelyn, many other social workers fear deep down that you will loose your social spirit once you become an entrepreneur. It’s always on our mind’s all the time to avoid becoming the pushy salesmen or greedy snatchers. Who wants to be like this? Not Evelyn, nor you or me.

Let me promise you there is a solution to address your fears. It’s my proven system of 7 easy steps called Sweet Social Marketing. More on that in a next episode of Evelyn’s journey. Now let me first tell you how Evelyn made her next step.

Evelyn needed answers. I gave her examples of social workers who became an entrepreneur.

  • Saskia and Evelien are two young dutch social workers and their business is called “Samen Wille”. They organize speeddates for the elderly to find one more time true love in their life.
  • Dagmar grew up with disordered parents. She became a social worker and is now helping other women who grew up in the same situation, to get a balanced life.
  • Marjolein is a social worker who is helping women who experienced a deep loss in their life and who reached the point that nobody else can help them. She helps these women to learn to live with this.
  • Rick started a practice for men with problems in their marriage. He helps them to take three major decisions to get their lives back on track.

I also coach social workers who have a business in helping other social workers, like I do.

  • Hans is a community worker who now is successful in helping social workers with their social media.
  • Wies, an expert in child abuse prevention, is helping social workers to take better care of abused children.

All these social worker entrepreneurs have in common that they followed their passion. They choose to work with specific clients with specific problems that match perfect with their own passion and talents.

Evelyn learned a couple of things:

  • She was not alone: many social workers become an entrepreneur or have plans to do so
  • It is possible to be successful: to have paying clients and get an income
  • You have to be specific: choose specific clients with specific problems
  • It works best if you make these choices with your heart: just follow your passion

If you stay loyal to your passion, you can become a social worker entrepreneur and still feel aligned with your higher purpose to serve people in need. Now, how can you turn your passion into a business?

What Social Workers Can Learn From Mahatma Gandhi

Social workers can learn from Mahatma Gandhi on how to step into the light. How to raise your voice and still be modest and a servant to humanity. This is what all social workers want. Right?

Although Mahatma Gandhi was very modest man and a great leader, he was also someone who wanted to be seen and heard. His mission for peace empowered get over his fears, stand up, and step into the light in order to deliver his message of service to the people.

social workersThe fact that social workers know their place in the shadow of their clients comes from a good and serving heart. I understand that because I have been there too, but how would it be if we stand with our clients and share the light?

When I was walking with my puppy Sas the other day, I was surprised by a blackbird singing his best song ever. I looked around to see him and there he was at the top of the roof of the highest building. To be visible and heard, the blackbird found himself a beautiful spot to sing his lovely song. The blackbird was on a mission is not modest at all!

A friend of mine named Charlotte told me how she once spoke to the local council: “we, social workers, stand in the shadow of our clients”. I reacted with a quip and said, “It can be cold and dark in the shadow. Standing together with your client in the light seems more attractive.”.

However, Charlotte was very serious. She explained: “Social Workers don’t position themselves in the spotlights. We are here to help others to solve their problems. Being in the shadow, we are not always visible but at least we know our place and many can learn from that. If it is cold in the shadow, just put on a warm coat. As long as we keep telling others why we stand there!”

Now, I don’t agree with Charlotte. If your voice is coming out of the shadow and no one sees you, will you be heard? I don’t think so. In my opinion, this is exactly the reason why the modesty of social workers can be fatal.

When you are in the shadow no one will hear you, so step into your light. You don’t have to search like the blackbird for a spot on the highest roof! Just do it in your own modest way. Let your mission guide you, and if you need help, just let me know!

Evenlyn’s Journey: Every Social Worker Needs a Red Carpet Dress

Evelyn is a kind of woman who has never worn a red carpet dress.

Her whole life she has been in service of others. As a child she played with the kids who were bullied. As a teenager she volunteered in the animal shelter. When she became a social worker, she found her mission in helping disabled children. You could find her at the office even after working hours because of an emergency.

red carpet dressEvelyn’s sister made other choices in her life. At school she was a luminary in mathematics, and she got a well-paying job at Apple. Her working agenda was filled with parties, retreats, and conventions. Even on several occasions, Evelyn’s sister wore a red carpet dress.

Evelyn was a bit jealous. Just a bit, but at the same time she was proud of her choice to serve needy people instead of making money. Who needs a red carpet dress anyway?

Since Evelyn became unemployed two years ago, she started longing for a red carpet dress. Her desire to be successful grew every new day of her unemployment.

Sitting on her couch looking for a job on Linkedin, she felt more and more invisible. Her own shiny moment, walking the red carpet with a glamorous dress and killer heels, seemed farther away then ever.

As Evelyn’s frustration got stronger, a new thought came up in her mind which initially made her feel anxious and uneasy. This thought came right out of her heart and was so strong that she couldn’t hide from it.

There was this tiny voice, smooth but crystal clear,  “you are a social worker, show up and share your passion, there are needy people out there waiting for you”!

But I first need a job!’ Evelyn said. Do you? Do you really need a job to help others? Have you ever thought of creating your own job? Have you ever thought of becoming a social worker entrepreneur?

Evelyn had never heard of a social worker entrepreneur. Sure, she knew some social workers with a private practice, but she never ever considered herself as an entrepreneur.

Suddenly, Evelyn started dreaming again, and her heart started bouncing as it did before. In her imagination, she saw happy clients, her own website, a lovely office, and a good income. She also thought from her first paid invoice she would buy a gorgeous red carpet dress!

But, this thought also made her feel anxious and uneasy. ‘How do I get clients? How do I make a living? Who will pay me? How do I get the money to start my business? Can I do this on my own? Will there be support?’.

Evelyn realized that becoming a social worker entrepreneur was something she didn’t learn at school. On the other hand it might be the solution to living her passion again, to be of service again, and contribute to a better world.

One day, Evelyn made a very social worky decision. She decided the only way to find out if this would truly work is to do some research.

From this point, Evelyn’s journey became really exciting! She discovered a whole new world of marketing, branding, selling, and even the red carpet dresses every social worker needs.

More about Evelyn’s journey in my next article.

Sharing Your Dreams and Knowing Your Purpose

It makes me so sad when I meet social workers who have lost their dreams, their passion, their why. Just like Evelyn. Evelyn is now unemployed for two years. Her heart wasn’t bouncing anymore, her passion for helping people in need was just a dream of the past.

They say you have to be a little crazy. They say you can’t change this world. They say you have to settle for baby steps in moving towards your career goals. However, you know it doesn’t matter if this is a little crazy because you can change this world, and you are prepared to take huge steps to make it happen. As social worker, you know this dream is needed in order to do the job, be effective, and make a difference.

Entrepreneurship can also help social workers who dare to be a little crazy find other ways to fulfill your purpose. To become a successful social worker entrepreneur, there is one condition: you have to know your dream, your passion, and your purpose. Who will dare to change this world or to take those huge steps towards building your own dream instead of building someone else’s dream?

Here are 5 great tips to discover your dream and feel your passion burning again.

  1. Please share your dream!Remember why you choose to be a social worker. I guess there has been something in your personal life that makes you wanna help other people in need. It might come from a personal pain and a personal need for help. Remember this every time you can.
  2. Heal yourself. If there is still pain in your life that keeps you away from your dreams then you have to heal this pain first. Perhaps you can do this yourself. If not, ask for help.
  3. Stand still. Only if you stand still you can get in touch with your deep desires and feel your passion again. Meditate, go for a walk in the forest. Do everything you can to connect with your dreams.
  4. Stop finding it normal what you are doing! If you think that it is normal what you’re doing you don’t see the value anymore. And believe me, you’re delivering huge, huge value.
  5. Share your dream. By sharing it, it comes more real. You can inspire others with your story but and that is more important, others can ask you about the steps you’ve taken to make this dream come true. Imagine their faces if you tell them about the huge steps you take!

It is my dream to help social workers to become a successful entrepreneur, and this is my way of sharing my dream with you. Now, I would like you to share your dream with us.

Looking forward to your comments!

Starting Your Journey: I Am A Social Worker

Do you remember when you made the decision to become a social worker? Your decision was a defining moment of  your life, and it was the moment you decided who you wanted to be and what you wanted to do with your life. You defined your goal and set out on your journey to achieve your chosen profession. Filled with compassion and the desire to help others, you were prepared to serve in a thankless job with low pay because the joy of helping someone achieve their goals would be thanks enough.

I am a social workerI want to share a story about a social worker named Evelyn who has strong passion for helping people in need which led to her making the decision to become a social worker. Her heart bounced at every step as she made the decision to become a social worker who would change the world while bringing peace and love for the poor, the abused, the lonely.

In 2002, Evelyn finally finished school ready to take action and help lots of clients. She got her first job at the local school for disabled children, and she felt like a hero starting her journey in search of the holy grail. Of course, there would be dragons and wicked witches to slay, but Evelyn felt strong and capable with I am a Social Worker written in big capitals at her forehead.

I promised you a little story, so lets fast forward to 2014. Picture Evelyn on her couch at home, and her two sons playing Counterstrike on the dining table adding noise in the room. The noise disturbs her thoughts while she is busy giving her opinion in a discussion group on Linkedin.

Evelyn writes: I just wish the social work profession was respected like the rest of the healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, even as many have made this our chosen career, we have not escaped the image of volunteer and our salaries speak to that.

Evelyn made her profile on Linkedin two years ago, which was when she lost her job. It was a simple case of cutting the budgets. Evelyn hoped to find a new job on Linkedin, but she didn’t. Instead of a new job, Evelyn found on Linkedin many social workers in the same situation. They were discussing things like: why are our salaries so low, who will blame the government, how can we advocate for ourselves.

Her heart wasn’t bouncing anymore, and her passion for helping people in need was just a dream of the past. Sitting on her couch, her two boys around her, she felt unhappy and frustrated. As you know, frustration can be the germ of inspired action. As Evelyn’s frustration got stronger, a new thought came up in her mind which initially made her feel anxious and uneasy….

Well, I promised you this little story about Evelyn, but I will be sharing more about her in future articles. Just as Evelyn got frustrated, you might also be frustrated not knowing what her thoughts were that made her feel so anxious. I know, I’m sorry, but since this is my first article for The Social Work Helper, I promise you there is more to come.

Evelyn looks a lot like me a couple of years ago, and I’ve made the same journey Evelyn is about to embark on. A journey that started on my couch in Tiel, the Netherlands while feeling like an unhappy social worker. A journey that finally brought me here today to connect with you and teach you all about entrepreneurship for social workers. Until next time…

For the Love of Money: 5 Observations on Social Workers & Money from the 2014 NASW Conference in Washington, D.C.

The climate of social work is changing. Over the last several years while businesses have moved towards embracing greater social missions, more and more social workers have begun to embrace the field of business and entrepreneurship.

From conversations about money and finance to the increase of social workers starting their own for-profit ventures, social workers are expanding their knowledge on the monetary side of helping.

In fact, in the last two decades we’ve seen a rise in Schools of Social Work like the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis and the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan offering advanced training in entrepreneurship, management, and business, and contributing to new models of business within the corporate environment.

Founder of The Center for Financial Social Work, Reeta Wolfsohn, makes the observation that it’s taken some time for social work to embrace the importance of money and financial education, stating that for years the majority of participants certified by the Center have  not been social workers but other members in corporate America.

However, evidence of this increased interest on the topic of business and entrepreneurship by social workers was most notably apparent at the recent NASW Conference in Washington, D.C..

During the four-day conference, and especially among the conversations at the Financial breakout sessions, I personally observed several nuances that indicated an increased readiness on the part of social workers to talk openly about their not-so-secret desires for more money and increase their prowess in making it.  Specifically, I left the conference with five observations that I hope will help us all feel more comfortable when speaking on the topic of money and business.

Observation #1. Social workers struggle with feelings of unworthiness and shame around money

One might assume because social workers spend so much time talking about self-worth and actualization, we’d have those topics in the bag, and we do on many subjects. We pride ourselves on being able to move our clients from disabling feelings of shame and guilt to more empowering feelings of confidence and pride that enable them to make progress in their development.

However, many social workers struggle with feelings of shame and unworthiness when it comes to the topic of money.

Sometimes it’s because social workers don’t feel like they have enough money and are in debt, other times they may feel ashamed to even desire more money or that it doesn’t align with social work values. And many times social workers just feel incompetent to handle their money or have more of it in their lives.

Social work researcher Brené Brown says that “shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough. Shame erodes our courage and fuels disengagement,” and while we agree with this statement and work with our clients to eradicate it in their experience, many of us allow these same disabling feelings to fester around the topic of money.

I was able to note this in many of my fellow colleagues because I’ve seen it in myself. However, the second thing that I noted gave me hope that our approach to money within the profession was changing.

Observation #2. Social workers want to stop feeling guilty about wanting to be rich

There are hundreds (possibly hundreds of thousands) of social workers who want to talk about money and who want to be rich – and  I mean really rich. And not only are these social workers ready to talk, they’re ready to revolt.

At the Conference, I watched brave social workers stand one-by-one and voice their desires to talk about wanting to be wealthy. They were tired of feeling lonely and ashamed, they said, of having aspirations for wealth but feeling as if they had no safe place within the profession to explore and express these desires.

I personally found it interesting that, despite all of the sparsely attended Financial breakout sessions at the conference throughout the week, the one containing the  “Rich Social Worker” presentation, which was held on the final day of the conference, packed a full-house. This was confirmation for me that, when given a forum to talk about money and wealth, social workers are ready to be included in the discussion.

Observation #3. Social workers (generally) don’t know how to make money, but they know that it can be done

One of the things I love about social workers is that we’re tenacious – we don’t give up – and even when we don’t know a thing (which can be quite often), we know how to persevere until we do.

At the Conference many social work entrepreneurs I met shared stories of how they had used their social work skills to create success in their various ventures. And while their stories differed, what was constant was the drive and determination to figure out how something could be done.

When faced with a problem of competency, social workers know that  if we ask enough questions, conduct enough research,  and experiment with enough theory we’re bound to move closer and closer to our goal. Not only was this the story of conference presenters Merry Korn, founder of Pearl Interactive Network, and James Townsend of the Townsend Group, but it’s the story of countless social workers who have ventured into the business world and found success.

Observation #4. Social workers are very generous and want to use their wealth to create more good in the world.

The fact that social workers are generous is not a new idea, but many are limited in their ability to be as generous as they want to be simply because of their financial resources and limited expertise in the way of massive giving.

I personally spoke to social workers at the conference that admitted their financial challenge in being able to attend. This had nothing to do with their desire to attend or the value they felt they had received, but was entirely connected to their income.

For the social worker the question is not about whether or not to give, but about how much he or she can afford to give.

This should not be. And of all the professions that use money to make the world a better place, social work is a shoe-in for “Most Likely to Succeed.”

Observation #5. No matter how successful they become in business, they fully embrace themselves as social workers

Because many social workers are venturing into entrepreneurship and for-profit businesses it’s easy to imagine that they would get so caught up with the for-profit side of things that they lose their connection with social work. But on the contrary, the social work business professionals that I spoke with strongly revered their social work identity and hailed their social work competency skills as the major component in the success of their businesses.

This theme was emphasised over and over at the conference and stood out as a reassuring beacon of hope for those contemplating entry into entrepreneurship, but fearing disconnection from the profession.

What this all means

In light of the observations made, I strongly believe that social work is experiencing a revolution, and that in the next few years, more and more trained social workers will seek options that not only create better conditions for their clients, but allow them to build business models to support them. They will have open discussions about wealth and entrepreneurship, and demonstrate confidence when quoting their rates. If enough are prepared to do this, not only will we impact the overall pay scale, but we’ll change the course of history forever.

Perhaps – just maybe – we will even be able to afford that trip to Cancun. Radical self-care, anyone?

photo credit: ignatius decky

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