What’s in a name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)


I understand the need for definitions in this field because they aid in elucidating what certain organizations do, don’t do, and aim to do. In that regard, they provide guidance for businessmen. For example, funders are able to recognize what kind of business they might potentially fund, and job seekers are able to gain a clearer understanding of the aims of businesses they are exploring. But, these are just a few examples.

For us as students, comprehending the definitions we went over in class and in the Prezi benefits us significantly because we can better decide the kind of organizations we would like to someday operate. We can decide what business elements we like. We can decide what business elements we don’t like. And, we can decide what business elements would fit best with the specific problem we are trying to fix. From there, we can classify our business as a social venture, a non-profit organization, a social enterprise business, or whatever it may be.

But are there any drawbacks to these technical definitions?

Going back to the Juliet quote, all these businesses, these organizations, seek to accomplish something. Some are geared toward profits. Others are geared toward lifting society. Some are in it for both. Is it enough that they all seek to accomplish something in the business world? Should we seek to finely distinguish them one from another? And will they get even more complex as more businesses develop?

I suppose what I am arguing is all these definitions seem to overlap in a big, tangled mess of words and slight variations in the principles guiding them. Sure, I understand some differentiations are necessary such as setting apart a non-profit from a for-profit. But that’s simple. It’s getting into the impact investing, venture philanthropy, and social business that’s confusing.

For me, social entrepreneurship is just another way of saying business in general. Granted, I’m not a business major, so people may disagree. But the way I see it, all business is meant to benefit someone, so it’s social. And according to Princeton University’s website, an entrepreneur is “someone who organizes a business venture and assumes the risk for it.”

There are millions of businesses in the world, and I feel they can all fall under the category of social entrepreneurship. For that reason, I don’t feel breaking it down into more technical terms is necessary.

After all, isn’t what they do a better representation of who they are instead of their title?