Phase Two of an Idea: Tips from a Social Entrepreneur Who's Been There


Erin Zaikis, founder of Sundara, offers some tips to would-be social entrepreneurs about getting their ideas off the ground and out into the real world. This post first appeared in the November edition of The Slice.

Sundara is currently raising funds to expand their work to Pune, India. To donate, please visit the crowdfunding page.

1. Surround yourself with a positive community. Before we launched Sundara, I had to conduct a bit of a “friend cleanse” and get rid of people in my life who were negative and dragging me down. Taking a leap is scary, and you’re going to be full of your own internal doubts, so be sure to cultivate a group of friends and relatives who believe in this idea and who’ll support you when you’re down.

2. Run your idea by a lot of people. Make a two-page plan of what you’re going to do and why you’re doing it. Have your elevator pitch ready and recruit people you admire and respect to poke holes in it—to tell you all the ways this might not work. Absorb their critiques. If you’re going to be successful, you have to be open-minded to negative feedback. Some points are going to be valid, and some you won’t want to address. It’s important to be flexible as a social entrepreneur and to be able to pivot. This process will get you used to hearing ideas that are different from your own, and help you become more open to changing them.

3. Burnout is a real thing. I woke up a few weeks ago hating everything that I did and feeling depressed and overwhelmed. I suddenly realized that I had taken vacations, but I had worked every day on those ‘vacations’. What kind of vacation is that? I had never gotten to take some time just for me and to turn off my phone or my computer. It’s important to set some rules for yourself, where you say, “You know what? I’m not answering emails over the weekend.” Or, “I’m going to carve out three hours every week to write in my journal.” Self-care is really important, because in non-profits there can be pressure to be a martyr and work long hours for no money because you want to do something for the greater good. But sometimes, you need to put yourself first so you can be your best self. You can’t take care of others until you take care of yourself first.

4. See what’s out there in the Jewish community for support. I participated in Present Tense, a Jewish incubator. I’m involved with the Schusterman Foundation through the ROI Community, and we launched a crowd-funding matching program for Sundara—I hope you will check it out and contribute. One of my top funders is the Good People Fund, a fantastic Jewish foundation based in New Jersey. I work with The Gabriel Project, a Jewish non-profit that’s improving education and nutrition in slums across Mumbai. Use your Jewish network and see what’s going on out there, whether it’s to find supporters or co-collaborators. It’s always great to see Jews supporting other Jews in their work.

I love to sit down with people and talk about their ideas and see who I can connect them with. We’ve got to all pay it forward in some way. So, get in touch with me!

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or program participants.