The Apprentice: Profits and selling out
Ex-Apprentice star and social entrepreneur Melody Hossaini reflects on week six of the series and considers the ethics behind social enterprise
We’re now halfway through the series and interestingly we are yet to see a project manager get fired.
This week, the teams were set the brief of creating a high end take-away to be sold on the streets of Edinburgh.
Jenna Whittingham’s team followed the brief and created a costly gourmet product, while Adam Corbally’s team kept their spending down by making ‘cheap as chips’ food which cost them 43p to make and selling at £5.99. At one point, following Katie Wright’s suggestion, they were even considering charging £7.99 for pasta with meatballs!
In business, the realisation of profit determines survival. However, as a social entrepreneur, I was starting to feel slightly uncomfortable with their 1293% mark-up.
A defining characteristic of social enterprises is that they are ethical and serve a cause. Yet they’re still businesses who need to make a profit. At points, being a social entrepreneur can cause an internal conflict as you balance out the two different but essential elements.
Every social entrepreneur will face this conflict at some point. Speaking from a personal perspective, I’ve always been cautious about who InspirEngage works and associates itself with and what types of work we take on. We have turned a couple of lucrative offers down because they simply didn’t match our ethos and ethics.
What I’ve learned is that although ‘selling yourself out’ can secure a quick win, is not a sustainable approach – particularly for social enterprises. You could argue that once you do that, you’re no longer a social enterprise.
Perhaps I’m taking a too hard a line, as I also appreciate that we’re in difficult times and sometimes you may have to ‘sleep with the enemy’ to make it possible to do the great work social enterprises do. I still maintain however, that this can only be a short term benefit – and the credibility you may lose because of it, could be a lot more damaging.
At the end of the episode, in the boardroom, we found out that Jenna’s team won by a mere £21. I tweeted: “Well deserved win for Jenna’s team. They followed the brief – was risky but they sold well. Honest product wins!”
Melody Hossaini is founder and chief executive of InspirEngage International, a social enterprise delivering Skills Bootcamps to support young people into employment and enterprise. In 2011 she became the first ever social entrepreneur to compete on BBC’s The Apprentice making it to week 10 out of 12. She tweets @Melody_Hossaini
Source: Guardian Professional 26/04/12go back to the news page