Social entrepreneurs often grapple with the decision of whether to establish their organizations as nonprofit or for-profit in order to reach their goals. But what if you don't know which model to use, or which would best suit your mission? I've stood at this crossroads myself, and share my own experience here in the hopes that it will help inform other social entrepreneurs facing the same decision.
When I was a graduate student at Stanford University in 2007, a team of students and I first conceptualized the Embrace Infant Warmer — a low cost way to regulate the temperature of vulnerable newborns, without the need for constant electricity, and at a fraction of the cost of existing solutions. We were eager to take this product to the disadvantaged communities who desperately needed it. We needed to build an organization by which we could carry out this vision, and inevitably, the question arose: Should we be a for-profit or a nonprofit entity?