I love going to charity shops. My house is full of random trinkets; art and ceramics and books all gleaned from my ‘no agenda’ shopping. By ‘no agenda’ I mean that I have no fixed idea what I’m looking for but I do know that when I’m buying yet another teapot I don’t need (14 and counting – yes I love my tea and yes I should start a cafe!), it feels good. It feels good because I know that I’m putting my money back into an organisation that’s trying to make a positive difference to someone or something somewhere –‘it’s not shopping, it’s giving to charity’ is my excuse!
Although not a charity, social enterprises are very similar in some respects – making a profit that is ploughed back into local communities; tackling social problems; improving the environment and for some, giving people a chance of ‘life’ back. For me, that’s worth supporting; it’s exactly the type of payback I like. This week we will be explaining what social enterprises are; how you could start one up by attending some free workshops and seminars (see below) and we talk to Emma Carter, Commissioning Manager for Enterprises at Adult Social Care to see what it means for her.
What is a social enterprise?
You may not know it but if you’ve ever bought The Big Issue, you’ve not only bagged yourself a great read but you’ve also invested in a social enterprise and why? Maybe because it feels good to part with your money when you know you’re making a difference. But isn’t that the same as a charity? Not exactly…
According to the Social Enterprise Organisation, here’s a little clarity on charity (that rhymes!) and social enterprises:
What’s the same?
• Charities and social enterprises both exist to fulfil a social mission – doing good in communities or for individuals.
• Charities and social enterprises both reinvest the majority of their profits in doing ‘social good’.
What’s different then?
• Charities traditionally aim to fund their social mission through grants and donations (they could have some of my teapots!).
• Social enterprises aim to fund their social mission through trading activities – selling products and services to customers.
So they aren’t quite the same but the goodwill sentiments clearly are.
And so, if I had a great business idea that could generate some cash to help support a good cause, what would I need to consider to ensure I was following the rules of a social enterprise? A small questionnaire first and if the answer was ‘yes’ to them all, I’d be part way there.
- Do I have a clear social and/or environmental mission set out in governing documents?
- Can I generate the majority of income through trade?
- Can I reinvest the majority of the profits made?
- Can I be accountable and transparent?
I’m part way there, so what’s next?
Apart from the obvious (time; family), what would stop someone who’s motivated, committed and has an inspiring social conscience from taking a potentially great idea further? Could it be the ‘where do I begin?’ question? That’s reasonable enough. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t study accountancy because maths has never been my strong point (I think maths is made of 50 percent formulas, 50 percent proofs, and 50 percent of different numbers..!). The very thought of entering into the world of business sends a fearful chill through me because I’m ignorant of what this really means/what any of it means. I simply don’t have that all important ‘know how’ but if I did want to arm myself with the facts, where would I go? Good news on two fronts- 1) help is at hand and 2) it’s free!
The Enterprise Event series is being run with the Yorkshire Philanthropy Programme and the Ideas that Change Lives scheme. Starting on the 6 May, there will be a series of workshops and seminars which will cover the length and breadth of starting, growing and running a social enterprise.
Here’s a list with links to each of the sessions where you can book your place for FREE but be quick as places are limited. If they are fully booked, don’t worry, you can still register your interest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and add your name to the waiting list.
6th May – Social Enterprise – what is it all about
21st May – Legal Structures workshop
3rd June – Business planning and finance
17th June – Marketing workshop
15th July – Business ideas and opportunities
13th May – Access to finance
8th July – Measuring Social Impact
Times for each of the sessions: 9.30-12.30 and they will be held at the Leeds Community Foundation offices – directions all on the above links.
Hopefully a little food for thought over the Easter break with more to follow including one of THE most inspirational social enterprises I’ve ever encountered. I literally ate humble pie…