Living through the pandemic as a social entrepreneur definitely makes for some interesting times. Not only do we need to balance the financial viability of our social enterprises, we also need to think about our impact on the environment and the people we aim to serve.

Although I’ve had my moments of despair, exhaustion, and spontaneous crying, I’m grateful for the lessons the pandemic has taught me. We learn far more during times of hardship than we do during times of prosperity, so you can bet the pandemic was full of teachable moments.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned during the pandemic, and how they’ve made me a better social entrepreneur as a result.

Know Your Why And Stick To It. My business Cambio & Co. sells fashion accessories. At the start of the pandemic, my first thought was, “Nobody needs jewelry or bags right now.” But eventually I remembered that we don’t just sell jewelry or bags. Our mission is obviously much deeper than that. We provide meaningful ways for Filipinos and people of color to reconnect with their heritage, and we create livelihood for artisans in the Philippines. It doesn’t matter what we sell.

Put Your People First. No matter your industry, advocacy, or business model, people must always come first. This isn’t just a social enterprise/”do the right thing” sort of thing. If you want your business to survive (and thrive!) during difficult times, you need to treat your people well.

Plan For The Worst. As a team, we mapped out the different possibilities and how we’d pivot in response to each. I created contingency plans, crisis strategies and new content marketing initiatives. At the peak of the crisis, we had daily check-ins and kept a close eye on changes in the environment. We also accepted as a team that if things got really bad, our business might not survive. That sounds bleak, but it actually rallied us as a team.

But Be Ready For The Best. We cut back on a lot of expenses early on in the pandemic, but we continued to invest into our long-term future. We kept rolling out new projects, storytelling campaigns, an expanded blog, and even launched a new website and a new company!

Make Your Work Intersectional. It’s painfully obvious how our current systems of capitalism, colonialism and racism work together to create overlapping layers of privilege and oppression. And these layers happen at the intersections of class, gender, race, and geography.

Community Is Everything. But no matter where you call your community, find one you want to be surrounded with, in good times and in pandemic times.

Read the full article about six lessons for social entrepreneurs by Gelaine Santiago at Causeartist.