Director, Product Marketing Management at AT&T
If you want to start and operate your own business, regardless of who it's serving, you'll need to have a well-rounded business education. You'll need to understand how to create a business plan, find financing for your company, market and sell your products or services, as well as how to operate your business (e.g. finance, accounting, HR, business law, operations, etc). If your school has programs or classes in entrepreneurship, that's a good place to start.
Given your particular focus on building a business that gives back to the community, I'd encourage you to do a web search on "social entrepreneurship". You'll find a lot of information about people, programs and articles associated with this idea of wanting to build a business that solves a societal problem. Models for social enterpreneurship range from non-profit to for-profit organizations, with hybrid models in between.
Spending some time researching social entrepreneurship and learning about how other people have approached creating companies that solve needs in the communities around them, would be a good place to start. In addition to a lot of the articles that have been written on the topic, you'll find there are organizations & programs designed to support social entrepreneurship, like the Schwab Foundation (schwabfound.org). Some colleges and universities have created social entrepreneurship programs, like Standford's Program on Social Entrepreneurship (http://cddrl.fsi.stanford.edu/docs/program-social-entrepreneurship#2), and there are online courses like Coursera's Social Enterpreneurship Specialization (https://www.coursera.org/specializations/social-entrepreneurship-cbs). I'd also encourage you to search for and learn about organizations in your community already serving people who are looking for jobs and trying to get back on their feet. Volunteering with these organizations would be a great way to find out what's already being done, and more importantly, to identify what potential unmet needs or opportunities exist for which you can create a solution -- which is at the heart of any entrepreneurial endeavor.
With this idea of social entrepreneurship in mind, in addition to business and entrepreneurship classes, consider taking classes from other disciplines as well, like non-profit management, public administration, or social work to provide exposure to the unique challenges and opportunities associated with the non-profit or hybrid side of social businesses; as well as with the tools, techniques and challenges associated with helping people get back on their feet.
This professional recommends the following next steps:
- Explore classes in other related disciplines like non-profit management, public administration, and social work
- Explore what entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship programs and/or classes are available at your school, nearby schools, or online
- Research social entrepreneurship - learn about it, people who've done it, and the resources and programs designed to support social entrepreneurs