By Janine Vanderburg, President/CEO, Joining Vision and Action

What are the best social enterprise books to read before you start your social business?

As social enterprise becomes more popular, dozens of books are being published every year on the topic ranging from academic to inspirational. And while my library contains them all, here are the three best social enterprise books that I recommend to our clients who are thinking about starting an earned income venture within their nonprofit, or any kind of social purpose business.

Mission, Inc.

Written by longtime social enterprise practitioners, Kevin Lynch and Julius Walls, this book is filled with the knowledge that you can only gain from having run social enterprises, such as the constant tension of having to make decisions that balance advancing the mission and making a profit so that you can sustain and grow the enterprise. Want to avoid the pitfalls of starting a social enterprise? Read this book before you even start planning your social purpose business.

Want to work with others who are also starting a social enterprise? Join us for the weeklong social enterprise course based on it, which will definitely help you make the right decisions from the start.

Lean Startup

Most business startups fail. And as Mission, Inc. indicates, it’s even harder to start a social purpose business for good. So how do we increase the odds that the social enterprise we will start will succeed? Eric Ries’ lean startup approach is the answer. You start with experiments and prototypes, get customer feedback along the way, pivot and adjust. So while it is not technically a social enterprise book, it’s very popular among social entrepreneurs and we highly, highly recommend.

Venture Forth

Sometimes, you just need a how-to handbook that guides you every step along the way. This longtime favorite is it and has not been surpassed by anything else published since. Written by Rolfe Larson, a senior social enterprise consultant at JVA and someone who has launched and grown numerous social enterprises and earned income ventures within nonprofits large and small, this book is the ultimate how-to guide. It’s filled with a step-by-step approach to finding the right venture for your organization and goals, doing market research, studying financial feasibility and launching your successful business.

We’d recommend reading Mission, Inc. and Lean Startup before you even get started, and having Venture Forth at your side as you are planning your business.