2 Perks, 2 Challenges, and 1 Good Reason to Become an MBA Social Entrepreneur

Presentense Director of Training, Naomi Korb Weiss

Committing to becoming a volunteer in the last year of business school for many would not seem like valuable time spent. While my classmates were anxiously recruiting – scoring banking and consulting offers – I volunteered at a non-profit organization called PresenTense because I was passionate about its mission. I was roaming daily between two different schools, as I was pursuing a dual MBA/MPA degree but found an outside volunteer outlet to be incredibly fulfilling.

When I volunteered to coach a social entrepreneur through PresenTense in December 2010, it didn’t occur to me this experience would land me my post-graduate job. Yet I was quickly impressed with the organization, and after several conversations and negotiations I was offered the opportunity to join the team as Director of Training for this inspiring social enterprise.

PresenTense engages and inspires the most creative minds of our generation, investing in their ideas and energy to revitalize the Jewish community. PresenTense sparks global conversations around innovation and envisioning a better future for the Jewish community.

Over the past five years, PresenTense has trained 160 leading social entrepreneurs through its Community Entrepreneur Partnerships (CEPs) around the globe, enabling them to launch low-cost, high-impact social ventures.

PresenTense is always looking to engage new people, particularly MBAs – as Fellows looking to build new ventures, as volunteers to coach our fellows or network in the community, or as Trainers to teach our Fellows the venture development curriculum.

MBAs are a unique breed. We are energetic, innovative, and passionate about making a sizable impact. We gain analytical, technical, and strategic skills ,spend endless hours collaborating in group projects, and take on leadership roles in clubs and campus initiatives And we are more entrepreneurial and attuned to social issues than ever before.

Yet few of us dedicate ourselves to a professional career in social entrepreneurship, though its rewards are tremendous. Consider the perks and the challenges:

A life driven by purpose. What are the two ingredients in entrepreneurship? Driving social impact and implementing innovative solutions. Let’s face it, your job becomes your life. So choose an area of impact that is meaningful to you and seek or create an innovative environment in which you can make that impact.

An opportunity to apply an MBA skillset. Everyday at PresenTense, I call upon the material I learned in b-school. I prepare marketing materials, create financial models, review budgets, ensure logistical and operational effectiveness of our training programs, and teach budding entrepreneurs critical skills.

How do I evaluate the ventures? Calling on the insights from my Entrepreneurship and Managing Growing Companies classes. How do I contribute to internal conversations on sustainable strategy for the organization? I turn to concepts and frameworks I learned in my strategy concentration. How do I evaluate social impact programs? By applying a logic model (a non-profit adaptation of a value chain analysis), a key tool I learned in my MPA program.

The examples are endless.

Company Profile
Company Name: PresenTense

Company Website: www.presentense.org

Business School Affiliation: NYU Stern/Wagner

Please describe your product/service: The PresenTense Group engages and inspires the most creative minds of our generation, investing in their ideas and energy to revitalize the Jewish community globally.

Competitors: Joshua Venture, Bikkurim, Ashoka Fellowship

Launch Date: Founded in 2005

Amount of funding to date, and funding type: 60% earned income from our global programs and 40% contributed income from philanthropists and foundations. 

Salary consideration.You do need a plan to account for the debt you will accrue; either a scholarship or fellowship, a loan forgiveness program or a comparable salary to the private sector – and they do exist. Don’t miss the chance to take Negotiations while in B-school, easily one of the most valuable classes out there. I used the skills in my salary negotiations and I use them nearly daily in pitching sales and building partnerships.

Burnout. Entrepreneurs easily burn out and nonprofit managers frequently feel squeezed at both ends. Further, working day to day for a cause you feel passionately about can emotionally drain you. As with any field, find the culture that is the healthiest and most appropriate for your style.

Join early…. the social movement is cruising the country. Flexible-Purpose corporations, a new term coined by lawmakers, are becoming more and more popular nationally. These companies are part social benefit, and part low profit entity. This new type of company whose intention is to put social goals ahead of making profits is taking deep roots around the country, as more states adopt laws to “bridge the divide between nonprofits and businesses.”

Indeed, as a NYTimes article quotes, “More and more companies are incorporating social beneficial activities into their core business strategies without abandoning their primary goal of making profits.” Consider it.

*     *     *

 You might also like from MBAsocial:

About Naomi Korb Weiss

Naomi is the Director of Training for PresenTense, where she manages the venture development curriculum and recruits and trains SocialStart Trainers and Fellows in seven cities in North America. Her passions lie in meaningful Jewish engagement and organizational sustainability. Last year, Naomi co-founded a small business with a friend called 'We've Got You Covered,' marketing attractive, affordable headcoverings for married women.