Since social entrepreneurship was first coined in 1980, there has been a growing global understanding of its meaning and of the statement it makes: Business can be a mechanism for both generating income AND achieving a social mission. Newly released documentary, THE NEW BREED, documents the rise of the social entrepreneur by following various social entrepreneurs who are making a difference with their business models. We sat down with the writer and director of the documentary, Pete Williams, to learn more about the making of the documentary and what he learned along the way about the rise of the social entrepreneur.
PW: I first came across the concept of ‘The Social Entrepreneur” while filming a TV series called MAKERS in the Sahara desert back in 2013-14. We were shooting three young Tunisian guys who had a wooden eyewear company called VAKAY. They were using proceeds from their business to help rebuild the Tunisian tourism industry, which had been devastated by the recent Arab Spring revolution. They committed 10% of all net revenue from their eyewear sales to help rescue a famous Star Wars film location called MOS ESPA, which had been engulfed in desert sands over the years.
I saw first hand the impact this was having on the local community when tourists started coming back to visit the site. Local businesses started thriving, local people were lifted out of poverty and started living with hope again. It was the first time in my life I started to see that business could be re-engineered to be the solution to some of the world’s social and environmental problems and that’s what started my long journey toward making THE NEW BREED – A feature documentary about the social entrepreneurship movement.
PW: This was my first independent feature film, so I had no idea about how to raise money when I first started. I tried lots of different methods and most of them were a complete waste of time and pretty embarrassing looking back on it. But every rejected grant application and every failed pitch was helping me hone my idea for the film. I took all of that rejection and newfound knowledge and created a pitch deck, which was a 60-page magazine-style booklet that outlined the film’s format, the main characters, the shooting style, the schedule, and the distribution plan and I mailed it out to about 200 people and this really worked.
I also offered my filmmaking skills to local B-Corps in Portland, Oregon in return for film funding and that was really successful too. Ten or so ethical brands supported the film financially and I made them simple promo films in return.
So combining the pitch deck, the B-corp film offer, and also a small crowd-funding campaign with ‘Start Some Good’ and we ended up raising $250,000 to make the film and that’s exactly how much it ended up costing to make.
I’m really thankful to the three social entrepreneurs who give me such amazing access to their business over a two year period. It was great to see all three businesses grow and evolve to have a greater and deeper impact as their business models changed and their businesses grew.
I don’t wanna spoil the ending of the film too much, but KNOWN SUPPLY has now graduated over 250 women from their empowerment program in Uganda and Peru. BONFOLK has donated over 300,000 pairs of socks to people in need, and BUREO has collected over 600,000 Kilograms of discarded fishing nets in Chile.
PW: I’m always evolving and growing my own consciousness. I mean, I was still using straws and eating meat up till last year. I think it’s important to remember that everyone is on their own path to ‘wokeness’. None of us are perfect, we can only work with the knowledge and insight we’ve gained from life.
But making this film really helped progress me down that path of consciousness, and I feel very positive about the growing consciousness around the world for both people and the planet. I think the ever-expanding Social Enterprise and Conscious Company movement is proof of that.
PW: I’m in lockdown with my mum in rural South Australia right now, which is amazing. I’ve been living outside of my home country for 15 years, hustling around London, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, trying to make this filmmaking thing work. So I’m really appreciating being with family and friends who know me and love me and living a slower pace of life, without ego and with lots of time for hikes, plants, and reading.
I’ve made this piece of art, it’s exactly what I dreamed it would be, but now I have to get people to see it and care about it. When a big studio releases a film they spend millions on Prints and Advertising to cut through the noise and reach audiences. We have a total marketing budget of $0 and a marketing team of one.
Trying to get attention in this increasingly noisy world is so daunting, but I think people are hungry for new ideas right now and a lot of us have more spare time than normal to stream movies, so I guess now is the perfect time to get THE NEW BREED out there!
What is giving you hope for the future?
THE NEW BREED is all about this coming generation; Millennials and Gen Z. In fact, no one featured in the film was born prior to 1980 (The unofficial start date of the Millennial generation). These young folks give me hope for the future. They seem unafraid to challenge the status quo, unafraid to leave school to go protest and unafraid to challenge authority and ‘business as usual’. I’m excited by this THE NEW BREED of humans who are already shaping this world into a more ethical, thoughtful, peaceful, and democratic place.
Top 3 lessons for social entrepreneurs (or others in similar industries/models)?
- Everything takes longer than you think.
- Don’t be afraid to pivot and change on a regular basis
- Sometimes living on the edge, with no money in the bank and no idea how to pay rent next month can be the best four years of your life. ;).
Make sure you check out THE NEW BREED at newbreed.tv! Watch the Trailer below: