New start-up guide for budding social entrepreneurs
A new guide has been published for those interested in starting a social enterprise, like Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant chain, the Big Issue and Cornwall’s Eden Project.
The UK is home to 68,000 social enterprises – businesses that, akin to charities, exist to make a positive difference. But unlike their cousins in the charitable sector, social enterprises earn their income by selling goods and services, competing in the open market with private sector businesses.
The latest figures* on Britain’s social enterprise sector show that it’s flourishing and experiencing an explosion: 1 in 7 of all social enterprises is a start-up, more than three times the proportion of start-ups in the mainstream SME business sector. London is home to an even greater number, where 1 in 5 social enterprises is a start-up.
According to Social Enterprise UK, an upsurge in social enterprise start-ups is often seen when economic circumstances are difficult.
Social Enterprise UK’s Chief Executive, Peter Holbrook, a former social entrepreneur, said:
“Social entrepreneurs see a problem and want to fix it. And at the moment, with youth unemployment, fuel poverty, reduced services in social care and other problems coming to the fore because of the economic crisis, we’re seeing an upsurge in people wanting to remedy these issues in their communities. Social entrepreneurs are people who are not willing to watch their communities and the people living in them suffer. They use business acumen to tackle the issues head-on.
“Setting up and running a social enterprise is not for the faint hearted, not only do you have to satisfy your customers, you’ve got to make the business sustainable and achieve your social or environmental mission, but the rewards are incredible."
The recent launch of Big Society Capital, the world’s first social investment bank, is expected to help finance and grow the UK’s social enterprise sector. The Government-backed bank has an initial £600million, and will lend to social enterprises.
‘Start your social enterprise’ takes you through the essentials to help you plan your social venture, and covers everything from writing your business plan, finding investment and funding, deciding on the most suitable legal structure and governance.
Social enterprise facts and figures
- Over a third (39%) of all social enterprises are based and working in the most deprived communities in the UK, compared to 13% of all SMEs, creating jobs and making a positive difference where needed most.
- Social enterprises are outstripping mainstream businesses for confidence and twice as likely to have reported growth in the last year - 58% of social enterprises grew their business last year compared to 28% of SMEs.
- Social enterprises are more likely to be led by women and young people - 86% of leadership teams boast at least one female director - in comparison, just 13% of the Institute of Directors’ membership is female.
Trailblazing social enterprises
Beyond Food Foundation
Simon Boyle, a chef, is founder of the Beyond Food Foundation, which runs programmes to support people living in hostels and at risk of homelessness. Simon returned from Sri Lanka in 2004 where he had been working to create a relief camp after the Tsunami. He wanted to share his passion for food with people who he thought would benefit from his energy and enthusiasm for cooking.
One of the programmes run by the Beyond Food Foundation supports people through a six-month apprenticeship in the recently opened Brigade Bar & Bistro in London, which has already received a visit from the Prime Minister. The apprentices receive part-time training at the nearby Southwark College and volunteer mentors help with confidence building, money management and CV writing.
Who Made Your Pants?
Founder Becky John got Who made your pants? off the ground in 2009, after a life changing experience led her into counselling and a personal epiphany to do more in the world in which she lived. And so knowing that there was a huge refugee population in Southampton, and suspecting that many of the women within it were isolated and not feeling able to go and have fun, Becky started wondering if these women might like a job, making lovely pants.
In a factory in Southampton women who have had a hard time come together to work. Who made your pants? provides jobs, training, support and advice.
Founder Jim Blakemore, was running his own bike hire company in Cambridge before he started Bikeworks in East London in 2007:
“I put £2,000 of my own money in and had a small grant to buy bikes from the London Cycling Campaign. Bikeworks was set up to train children, adults and disabled people how to ride bikes. I didn’t have premises and had twenty bikes stored in my spare room”.
He was soon joined by business partner Dave Miller, a former development manager for a charity. Together they are growing Bikeworks, which supports disadvantaged people into training and employment. They deliver public sector contracts and have multiple retail outlets across London where they sell and repair bikes.
‘Start your social enterprise’ is supported by RBS.
* Figures from Fightback Britain: State of Social Enterprise Survey (August 2011).