We live in unprecedented times –  and for most people, that will be an understatement. As the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to hold a grip on countries across the world, paying attention to our emotional and physical health has never been more important. With this in mind, ProfileTree CEO caught up with Garreth Falls, co-founder of The Wild Sage to talk about healing herbs, traditional remedies and how the crisis has transformed perspectives on health.

Whilst the present-day Garreth Falls is a self-proclaimed “serial start-upper”, the entrepreneur led a radically different life before embarking on a life of business. His extremely diverse background saw him work in television presenting before making a move towards working in faith-based ministry.

This opened the door to working with marginalised young people, including those affected by self-harm and suicide. This inspired him to get involved in social entrepeneurialship, embarking on a course with Ulster University.

Social Enterprise

Brazilian Inspiration

For Garreth, part of the inspiration behind his social enterprise was found in Brazil, where he and his wife were inspired by street sellers selling jewellery and other gifts on street corners. Garreth returned to Northern Ireland and established his first social enterprise business: a soap company called Scent. The couple built the business for over a decade, with Garreth’s wife forming the front face of the business, while Gareth himself ensured that the social enterprise element of the business kept ticking over.

However, in the past few years, Garreth increasingly started to think about ways he could take a step forward in the world of business. “I looked into the likes of eldership in the community, how to do social business. It was fascinated by herbs and oils and the wisdom that modern society has lost with traditional medicine over the years. “I’m currently studying medical herbalism, and we’ve tried to incorporate some of these oils and herbs into medicines”, he explains. This move led a rebranding and redirection for his company, and The Wild Sage was born. 

Growing Social Enterprise with Garreth Falls

Garreth sees The Wild Stage as a sophisticated continuation of his existing soaps & cosmetics social enterprise. “Part of our business model has been educational, and that’s how we got that social enterprise slant. In history, sage has been referred to as the ‘all-save’, hence its name ‘salvus’. It relates to the concept of an elder within the community, sharing wisdom and advice around medicine and healing.

However, it also fits into that spiritual element, which is of particular interest to me given my background in theology”, he says, explaining some of the branding decisions behind his business. “The Wild Sage also fits in with our own personal ethos –  we don’t fit the mould and tend to think outside of the box.”

For the founder of The Wild Sage, exciting times lie ahead. Once Garreth qualifies in medical herbalism, he intends to practice and prescribe traditional medicines. “It would be a lot more personal, rather than simply selling the products under a counter. Rather than going to their GP, they will come to me as their GP. They will get a diagnostic examination and prescription that is actually tailored for them.”

Reconnecting with Traditional Healing

According to Gareth, modern medicine has brought society to the point where responsibility for their health & wellbeing is shifted towards medical professionals, as opposed to being the responsibility of the issue. “We have an amazing NHS, which is fantastic. However, there is a culture of attributing all of your wellbeing to visits to the GP and their various prescriptions. At The Wild Sage, we’d like to see a gradual moving away from that,” he says. 

The medical herbalist highlights that the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic will encourage this societal shift to happen at a faster pace: “At the minute, hospital attendances are way, way down. There’s a lot of reasons for that, but the main reason at the minute is that patients are currently avoiding hospitals out of a fear of becoming infected with the virus. People are now looking at how they can increase their immune systems so they are more resilient and likely to recover. Fear is playing its role, but I like to think that we are becoming more resourceful in ourselves.”

The benefits of herbal medicine are often misunderstood – and Garreth attributes part of this to the current patenting system in modern healthcare. “There’s no real financial interest in conducting a study into the medicinal properties of a herb. We aren’t adequately researching what herbs can do, and that’s definitely missing qualitative research from thousands of years in practice. We look at diseases and medicines that are killing people, and herbs are just so much safer in comparison”. Indeed, it is the mission of The Wild Sage to transform public perceptions and usher in a forgotten culture of healing and medicine.

*The Wild Sage is based in Kircubbin, Newtownards and can be contacted at thewildirishsage@gmail.com. The company offers a range of herbal teas, skincare & aromatherapy products, as well as herbs, subscription sets, oil, vinegars and syrups. Check out the official website to see the full inventory!*

ProfileTree TV’s interview with Garreth Falls joins our award-winning Business Leader series, which features a huge library of discussions and industry-leading insights from some of Ireland’s most exciting businesses and organisations. To pitch your brand to the series or to discover how video marketing can transform your online business, get in touch today!

Understanding the Social Enterprise Model: Principles, Values, and Balancing Act

Social enterprises occupy a unique space between traditional businesses and charitable organizations. They operate with a distinct set of principles and values, navigating a delicate balance between financial sustainability and social impact. Let’s delve deeper into these defining characteristics:

Core Principles and Values:

  • Mission-driven: Social enterprises prioritize a specific social or environmental cause as their primary objective. This mission guides all their decisions and operations.
  • Double bottom line: Unlike traditional businesses focused solely on profit, social enterprises strive for a “double bottom line,” aiming for both financial sustainability and positive social impact.
  • Transparency and accountability: They operate with transparency, making their finances, social impact metrics, and governance structure readily accessible to stakeholders.
  • Community engagement: Social enterprises often involve their beneficiaries in some way, either as employees, customers, or partners, valuing their voice and participation.
  • Innovation and adaptability: They are often early adopters of innovative solutions and flexible in adapting their practices to maximize social impact while remaining financially viable.

Balancing Financial Sustainability and Social Impact:

Achieving a healthy balance between these two objectives is a constant challenge for social enterprises. Several approaches help navigate this dynamic:

  • Earned income models: Generating revenue through sales of products or services allows them to operate independently and reinvest in their mission.
  • Hybrid models: Blending earned income with grants, donations, or impact investment diversifies funding sources and reduces reliance on any single stream.
  • Social pricing: Setting prices that cover costs while remaining accessible to their target audience ensures financial sustainability while fulfilling their social mission.
  • Impact measurement: Regularly tracking and measuring the social impact of their activities allows them to demonstrate progress, attract funding, and refine their approach.
  • Strategic partnerships: Collaborating with other organizations can leverage complementary expertise, expand reach, and share resources.

Identifying a Social Problem to Address: Laying the Foundation for Impact

The success of any social enterprise hinges on tackling a pressing social issue. Choosing the right problem sets the course for your impact, attracting the right audience, and securing support. Let’s dive into the importance of identifying the right issue and how to effectively do so:

Why It Matters:

  • Clarity and focus: A well-defined social problem guides your mission, attracts passionate customers and funders, and ensures your efforts are targeted and impactful.
  • Sustainability and relevance: Addressing a genuine need increases your relevance, fosters community engagement, and ensures your solutions remain valuable over time.
  • Differentiation and innovation: Identifying an underserved need or offering a unique solution sets you apart in the social enterprise landscape.

Steps to Identifying a Social Problem:

1. Start with your passion: What issues are you personally invested in? Your passion fuels your drive and commitment, making it a crucial starting point.

2. Conduct market research:

  • Desk research: Utilize reports, data, and industry publications to understand broader trends and existing solutions.
  • Primary research:
    • Surveys and interviews: Talk to potential customers, community leaders, and experts to gather firsthand insights and pain points.
    • Focus groups: Bring together individuals affected by the issue to hear their perspectives and co-create solutions.
    • Community events: Participate in relevant events to connect with potential stakeholders and observe needs firsthand.

3. Focus on local context:

  • Needs differ geographically and demographically. Tailor your research and solutions to the specific community you aim to serve.
  • Engage local organizations: Collaborate with NGOs, community groups, or research institutions to leverage their expertise and access networks.

4. Look for gaps:

  • Analyze existing solutions and identify areas where current offerings fall short. Consider accessibility, affordability, ethical sourcing, or environmental impact.
  • Validate your findings: Share your initial conclusions with potential customers, experts, or community members to gather feedback and refine your understanding.

5. Choose a pressing issue:

  • Prioritize problems with significant impact, urgency, and limited existing solutions.
  • Consider feasibility: Ensure your chosen issue is addressable within your resources, skills, and target audience.

Developing a Sustainable Business Plan for Your Social Enterprise

As a social entrepreneur, crafting a robust business plan is crucial for securing funding, attracting partners, and ensuring the long-term viability of your mission-driven venture. Here’s a breakdown of key elements and considerations for this vital document:

Core Components:

  • Executive Summary: A concise overview of your enterprise, its social mission, target audience, unique value proposition, and financial projections.
  • Mission and Vision: Clearly articulate your social mission and long-term vision, highlighting how your business activities contribute to positive change.
  • Target Market: Define your ideal customer or beneficiary, detailing their demographics, needs, and pain points.
  • Products and Services: Describe your offerings, emphasizing how they address the identified social problem and provide unique value compared to existing solutions.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy: Outline your plan for reaching your target audience, building brand awareness, and generating sales or securing funding.
  • Operational Plan: Describe your production or service delivery process, highlighting your team’s expertise and operational efficiency.
  • Management Team: Introduce your key team members, showcasing their relevant skills and experience to build trust and credibility.
  • Financial Projections: Create realistic financial forecasts, including revenue streams, expenses, profitability, and potential funding needs.
  • Social Impact Measurement: Explain how you will measure and track your social impact, establishing metrics aligned with your mission.

Financial Sustainability:

Remember, even with a strong social mission, financial sustainability is key for long-term impact. Pay close attention to these aspects:

  • Revenue Streams: Diversify your income sources, considering sales of products or services, grants, donations, impact investments, or partnerships.
  • Financial Projections: Create well-researched projections for revenue, expenses, and profitability, demonstrating financial viability to potential investors and partners.
  • Cost Management: Implement strategies to minimize expenses without compromising quality or social impact. Negotiate with suppliers, explore cost-effective operations, and seek efficiency gains.
  • Financial Transparency: Be transparent about your finances, reporting financial results regularly and adhering to ethical accounting practices.

Building a Strong Team and Organizational Culture: Fueling Social Impact

For a social enterprise, a passionate and committed team is the engine driving mission fulfillment and impact. Cultivating a strong team and organizational culture isn’t just about efficiency; it’s about fostering a shared purpose, collective action, and long-term sustainability. Let’s explore the key elements for building such a powerhouse:

Passionate People, Purposeful Mission:

  • Attract talent aligned with your mission: Clearly communicate your social mission and values throughout the recruitment process. Seek individuals who resonate with your cause and are driven by making a positive difference.
  • Empower employee ownership: Encourage team members to contribute their ideas, perspectives, and talents to shape the organization’s growth and impact strategies.
  • Celebrate purpose alongside performance: Recognize and reward not just individual achievements but also contributions that advance the social mission. Foster a culture where purpose fuels motivation and engagement.

Cultivating a Collaborative Culture:

  • Open communication and transparency: Encourage open communication across all levels, foster honest feedback, and ensure information transparency to build trust and collaboration.
  • Teamwork and support: Build a culture of collaboration and teamwork, where individuals support each other, share knowledge, and celebrate collective successes.
  • Diversity and inclusion: Embrace diversity of thought, backgrounds, and experiences to enrich problem-solving, innovation, and connection with your target community.

Investing in Growth and Development:

  • Learning and development: Provide opportunities for professional development and skills training to enhance individual growth and equip your team to meet evolving challenges.
  • Mentorship and coaching: Establish mentorship programs or coaching initiatives to support growth, provide guidance, and foster a culture of continuous learning.
  • Meaningful work and impact: Assign tasks and projects that connect directly to the social mission, allowing individuals to see the tangible impact of their work.

Strategies for Attracting and Retaining Talent:

  • Competitive compensation and benefits: Offer fair compensation and benefits packages that acknowledge the unique values and challenges of the social enterprise sector.
  • Mission-driven perks and incentives: Consider offering additional benefits aligned with your mission, such as volunteer days, pro bono work opportunities, or discounts on your products or services.
  • Flexible work arrangements: Explore flexible work arrangements like remote work options or flexible hours to attract and retain top talent seeking work-life balance.
  • Strong employer branding: Actively showcase your positive work culture, employee stories, and social impact on social media and career platforms to attract candidates resonating with your values.

By prioritizing these elements, you can build a team that is not just skilled and competent but also deeply invested in your social mission. This engaged and motivated team becomes the driving force behind your enterprise’s growth and sustainable impact, fueling positive change that extends far beyond your organization’s walls.

Marketing and Branding for Social Impact: Amplifying Your Voice and Mission

In the competitive social enterprise landscape, effective marketing and branding are essential tools for raising awareness, attracting supporters, and ultimately driving positive change. By harnessing the power of storytelling, strategic social media engagement, and impactful community partnerships, you can amplify your message and connect with individuals passionate about your social impact goals.

Why effective marketing matters:

  • Awareness and visibility: A well-defined brand and strategic marketing efforts increase awareness of your social enterprise, attracting potential customers, funders, and partners.
  • Engaging storytelling: Compelling narratives about your mission, beneficiaries, and impact connect with audiences on an emotional level, fostering deeper engagement and support.
  • Mobilizing action: Effective marketing drives desired actions, whether it’s purchasing your products, donating to your cause, or volunteering their time and skills.

Key Strategies for Social Impact Marketing:

  • Brand with purpose: Craft a brand identity that authentically reflects your social mission, values, and target audience.
  • Storytelling for impact: Share powerful stories of beneficiaries, volunteers, and team members, showcasing the human impact of your work.
  • Social media engagement: Utilize relevant social media platforms to connect with your community, share updates, build relationships, and encourage interaction.
  • Content marketing: Create informative and engaging content (blogs, articles, videos) that educates audiences about your social issue and your approach.
  • Influencer partnerships: Collaborate with individuals aligned with your mission who can reach and engage new audiences.
  • Community partnerships: Build impactful partnerships with other organizations, businesses, or nonprofits to amplify your reach and resources.
  • Cause-driven marketing: Explore campaigns that incentivize purchase or action while benefiting your social mission (e.g., donating a portion of profits).
  • Track and measure success: Monitor key metrics (website traffic, social media engagement, donations) to assess the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and adapt your strategies.

Measuring and Communicating the Impact: Telling Your Story with Data

For any social enterprise, demonstrating quantifiable impact is crucial for attracting supporters, securing funding, and ultimately demonstrating the value you bring to the world. By setting clear goals, tracking progress with the right tools, and effectively communicating your results, you can tell a compelling story that goes beyond words and resonates with stakeholders.

Why Measurement Matters:

  • Focus and accountability: Setting measurable goals clarifies your intended impact, keeping you focused and accountable for progress.
  • Credibility and transparency: Tracking and reporting data builds trust with stakeholders, showcasing your commitment to responsible action and positive change.
  • Attracting support: Evidence of impact strengthens grant applications, attracts investors, and motivates potential donors to contribute to your mission.
  • Continuous improvement: Measuring progress allows you to identify areas for improvement, refine your strategies, and maximize your social impact.

Getting Started with Impact Measurement:

  1. Define your impact areas: Clearly identify the social or environmental issues you aim to address.
  2. Set SMART goals: Establish Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals for each impact area.
  3. Choose relevant metrics: Select indicators that accurately capture progress towards your goals, considering both quantitative (e.g., number of beneficiaries served) and qualitative (e.g., improved quality of life) data.
  4. Select the right tools: Explore frameworks like Theory of Change, Social Return on Investment (SROI), or B Corporation Impact Assessment for guidance and standardized methods.
  5. Gather data consistently: Develop a system for collecting reliable data throughout your activities, using surveys, interviews, program records, or external data sources.

Communicating Your Impact:

  • Focus on stories: Showcase real-life examples of how your work has helped individuals or communities, making your impact relatable and memorable.
  • Visualize your data: Use infographics, charts, and graphs to present complex data in an easily digestible and engaging way.
  • Tailor your message: Adapt your communication style and metrics to different audiences, emphasizing what resonates most with each group.
  • Be transparent: Acknowledge challenges and areas for improvement alongside your successes, demonstrating authenticity and a commitment to continuous learning.

Social Enterprise FAQ

Q: What are the biggest challenges social enterprises face when scaling their model?

A: Some of the biggest challenges include:

  • Maintaining quality and impact: Ensuring the replicated model delivers the same positive social impact as the original can be difficult, especially in different contexts.
  • Balancing growth with mission: Rapid expansion can sometimes lead to compromises on the core social mission, so careful decision-making is crucial.
  • Loss of control: As you scale, you may lose some direct control over daily operations, requiring robust management systems and clear communication.
  • Financial sustainability: Scaling can be expensive, so planning and securing funding for sustainable growth is essential.

Q: What are some success stories of social enterprises that have scaled their impact?

A: Many inspiring examples exist! Here are a few:

  • BRAC: A Bangladeshi NGO that empowers communities through microfinance and various development programs, reaching millions worldwide.
  • Pratham: An Indian education NGO that uses innovative teaching methods to improve learning outcomes for underprivileged children, scaling its model across the country.
  • The Body Shop: A global cosmetics company committed to ethical sourcing and social responsibility, using its scale to advocate for fair trade and environmental sustainability.

Q: How can I learn more about scaling social enterprises?

A: Several resources can help you on your journey:

  • Organizations: Ashoka Changemakers, Social Franchising Network, B Lab
  • Websites: Social Edge, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Yunus Centre
  • Books: “Scaling Up Excellence” by Robert Waterman, “The Growth Dilemma” by Richard Tedlow, “Mission-Driven Growth” by Peter Drucker

Social Enterprise Conclusion

Building a successful social enterprise takes dedication and hard work, but the potential for positive impact is immense. By carefully considering the various scaling strategies, addressing potential challenges, and seeking support from experienced partners, you can amplify your reach and create significant social change on a broader scale.

Remember, scaling is not just about numbers; it’s about multiplying the positive impact you create, leaving a lasting legacy for a better world. So, embrace the growth journey, adapt and learn, and empower your social enterprise to touch more lives and make a truly transformative difference.

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