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How to start a social enterprise?

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A social enterprise is a business that seeks to improve the environment or society. According to the Social Enterprise Survey, the sector is boosting more and more enterprises recorded Europe-wise. Social enterprises operate in many different sectors and are making headway in bringing about social change through a sustainable business.

Before you start your social enterprise business you should be able to answer these questions:

  • Does my idea solve a problem?
  • Who will this business benefit?
  • How do you combine profit with purpose to create a thriving social enterprise?

It can take a long time to get your social enterprise off the ground but, once you do, the success of your business can make a real positive change in your life and other people’s lives. As a social entrepreneur, you still need to be committed to business principles but you will also need to deliver a ‘social dividend’, and these will determine your success.

  1. Form a social enterprise

Before starting your business, do market research and draw up a business plan with your social mission at the heart of it. Network with entrepreneurs who have started a social enterprise and look into organisations, who all support social enterprises. In order to get started, you must choose a legally recognised business structure according to your country’ law structure. A community interest company (CIC) was introduced for social enterprises as it safeguards the social mission, meaning that the bulk of profits will always be channelled into the cause and the businesses assets are protected from being sold privately. Although many social enterprises are registered as CICs, you could also set up as a sole trader business, form a limited company, a charity/charitable incorporated organisation (CIO), or a mutual organisation owned by its customers and run for their benefit.

  1. Source social enterprise funding

If your business is a CIC, you could find it slightly easier to find grants that are usually reserved for charities. There is a wealth of grants available to start-ups and you could start by looking local and European funds, also some banks have social entrepreneurship program. Alternatively, you can apply for bank loans, private investment and other alternative investment. The key to getting funding is being able to demonstrate a passion and dedication for your social cause and that your business is sustainable. Whenever you are seeking funding you need to be able to show where the investors’ money is going and you need to do your research so you can show them how your business can benefit them. Keep this in mind when you are pitching for finance.

  1. Spread the word: Social enterprise marketing

Before you promote your business, you should come up with a marketing plan to ensure that your businesses principles are central to your brand identity. As with any other business, you need to define your target audience and build a relationship with them. Your social mission will be your rallying cry and can help you appeal to your target audience’s values. This will make them feel invested in both your product and your mission.

You are more likely to get media coverage for your business if it has a good story behind it, and if you can make your social mission in line with the values of your customers, this can create a solid base that will help spread the word via social media. You could also consider blogging as a way to communicate your progress with your customers.


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