International Women's Day
Read the stories of some of the inspirational female leaders in the social enterprise movement, and use the #socentwomen hashtag to celebrate their achievements on Twitter.
Who are the female champions of the social enterprise world? The movement's bursting at the seams with inspirational women - social enterprises are much more likely to be run by women than traditional businesses, with 86% of social enterprise leadership teams boasting at least one female director.
To mark International Women’s Day, we've pulled together the stories of women leading some of the UK's top social enterprises - the innovators, the go-getters, the problem-solvers, who are changing the face of business and using it to make the world a better place.
On this page:
Meet the leaders - women at the heart of the social enterprise sector
Ones to watch - the women who in recent years have made waves in the sector
Social Enterprise TV - interviews with Karen Lynch, Belu; and Sophi Tranchell, Divine
As well as the stories below, here are some other female social enterprise leaders to keep a close eye on. Why not tweet them and their social enterprise - make sure you include the #womensday & #socentwomen hashtags so that other people celebrating International Women's Day see it.
When Karen became CEO of Belu - the UK's most ethical water brand - in 2011, it was a massive challenge at first to make its unique business model work as it should. But with her many years of corporate commercial skills, she's taken it from strength to strength.
Under Karen’s leadership, Belu has been transformed into a thriving business which was able to donate £199,100 to WaterAid in 2011 alone. This sought-after ethical product is now stocked in Sainbury’s, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Fifteen, Nobu, Sketch and Smiths ofSmithfield to name a few.
For her achievements, Karen was named Business Person of theYear 2012 by the People and Environment Achievement Awards, and most recently, Belu was awarded CoolBrand status on the CoolBrands list.
Sophi Tranchell MBE, Divine Chocolate
Sophi heads up Divine Chocolate, the innovative Fairtrade company 45% owned by cocoa farmers in Ghana. As well as growing a popular chocolate brand, for 13 years she has campaigned energetically for the terms of trade for smallscale producers to change, and promoted more socially responsible business models.
As Chair of the Fairtrade London steering committee, Sophi successfully led the campaign to ‘Make London a Fairtrade City’. In the New Year’s Honours List 2008/09 Sophi was made an MBE for services to the food industry, and is on the London Food Board led by Rosie Boycott.
Claire Dove MBE, Blackburne House
Some social entrepreneurs are compelled to address issues facing their community. Claire Dove is one of those people. As a result of racism and finding that she could not get on the books of employment agencies in her home city of Liverpool back in the early seventies, Claire co-founded an ethical employment agency.
Years later, she was aware that many women in Merseyside were struggling to develop fulfilling careers because of a lack of training. And so in 1983 she and some other women created the Women's Technology & Education Centre. This became Blackburne House, which runs a range of social enterprises for women and families, including a nursery, business support service, café-bar and health space. It has an annual turnover £3million and employees 70 staff.
Karen Lowthrop MBE, Hill Holt Wood
Karen Lowthrop, CEO of Hill Holt Wood, an environmental social enterprise, educates and trains at-risk youth who have been excluded from school, giving them the lasting benefits of education, vocational training and practical skills. The young people become involved in projects that benefit the local community and in return they benefit from improved behavioral practices, greater understanding of their place within the community and improved employment prospects.
The wood was purchased in 1995 and has gone from being a damaged piece of land to a sustainable and successful business with a turnover of over £1,000,000. Any surplus is re-invested in the business and the community.
Karen Mattison MBE, Timewise Jobs
Karen Mattison, MBE, is the founder of Timewise Jobs the UK’s first jobsite for professional part time jobs. Timewise Jobs is part of the Timewise Foundation, which also contains Women Like Us, the multi award-winning social business that gives advice and support to mums on the return to work.
After frustrations searching for part-time work herself, Karen realised there was a huge ‘gap’ in the recruitment market for professional part time jobs. It is Karen’s driving mission to tackle perceptions of what a ‘part time job’ is and can be, to raise awareness of the incredible talent within the ‘want part time’ market and to make the UK a world leader in terms of innovation and excellence when it comes to finding and retaining talent.
Karen has won an array of awards, including being listed in Observer and NESTA’s list of 50 New Radicals who are making Britain ‘great’ again through innovation and finding solutions to the big problems facing society.
We catch up with Sophi Tranchell to talk about the importance of fairtrade and why more social enterprises should buy from one another.
Karen Lynch, Belu water, gives insider tips on what it takes to run a successful consumer-facing social enterprise.