Meet social enterprise's female leaders


We celebrate International Women's Day by sharing stories of some of the inspirational women in the social enterprise movement.

Social enterprise is fast becoming a natural home for female entrepreneurs. Last year, Social Enterprise UK's The People's Business report revealed social enterprises are more likely to be run by women than traditional businesses, with 91% of social enterprise leadership teams boasting at least one female director.

Read some of our member's stories below - these women are 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.





Becky Neale and Rosa Escoda, goodbeans

Becky and Rosa decided to start goodbeans in 2013 and are gearing up for the London Coffee Festival, held on 3rd – 6th April 2014. The business combines something they loved (and struggled to find!) with a great opportunity to offer something new to consumers. 
It’s early days, but bringing a delicious tasting new iced coffee to the market and creating a socially responsible brand has already caused a stir amongst coffee lovers.

Becky, 27, has four years experience working at a social enterprise and currently splits her time between training to be a psychotherapist and working in policy and communications at a national mental health charity.  Her passion is to work and support community-based projects and she’s a big believer in businesses having a social focus. 

Rosa, 27, has ten years of experience in the food and service industry during which she has also been recruiting across Europe for a world leader in technology development. Crucial to her is work that provides social impact as well as opportunities.For both, it’s a shared love of coffee alongside a 14 year friendship that’s cemented the success of their partnership. | @lovecoldbrew





Karen Lynch, Belu Water   

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. | @KarenjaneLynch




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.  

Hear from Sophi on her journey with Divine here on the GREAT Britain site. | @divinechocolate




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. | @blackburnehouse



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. | @klowthrop





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. | @KarenMattison

Improving gender equality in the workplace