The pandemic has made the world smaller for many of us, life revolves around work, home, and family in a way that it has never done before. This intense focus has caused some of us to re- evaluate our jobs and this had led to some less than welcome insights. With little else to distract us some of us are realising how little we enjoy our jobs and how unfulfilling we find them.
You may have become inspired by many of the community initiatives that have emerged during the pandemic and wish you could so something similar on a permanent basis. But with all the looming uncertainty in the job market, is it possible to pursue a new career or business that helps people and pays the bills? Could you be a social entrepreneur?
The answer is, Yes.
While retraining into a career in education or health & social care will be an option for many, there is another way, you could consider becoming a social entrepreneur. A social entrepreneur is a person who establishes a business with the aim of benefitting and improving problems in society.
Social enterprises are independent businesses that generate their own income through a trade . Most of it’s profits are reinvested back into a social mission. Social enterprises are not charities and are free to grow and pursue profits.
And while the term may not be one that you are familiar with, it is more than likely that you know of and interact with many social enterprises and don’t even know it.Famous names include Café Direct, The Big Issue and the Eden Project .
Social enterprises exist in every sector including healthcare, education, business services, retail, leisure and financial services. In recent years many start-up social enterprises have found success using technology to create solutions to problems in society. There is no limit to the types of products or services a social enterprise can offer.
How big is the social enterprise sector in in the UK?
The UK is now home to around 100,00 social enterprises and they are responsible for employing 2 million people in the UK. A 2018 report from Social Enterprise UK shows that social enterprises contribute £60 billion to the UK economy—that’s 3% of GDP. This is three times larger than the agriculture sector.
What are the challenges of starting a social enterprise?
Social enterprises face the same difficulties as all start-ups. You must develop a compelling product or service and identify and successfully engage with your target consumers.
Uniquely you will face competition from both traditional commercial businesses and charities for visibility, financial support, and market share.
You also must ensure that you are always transparent so that the public can have confidence that you are fulfilling your social mission.
What are the advantages of starting a social enterprise?
Many Social enterprises are eligible for special grants and resources. The industry body for social enterprises, Social Enterprise UK also provides a wealth of support and information for aspiring social entrepreneurs who want to learn about the sector. There are also specialist social enterprise investors and business support organisations that can help you launch your social enterprise.
Social enterprises can also benefit from greater media attention and community support compared to traditional businesses. As we have seen since the onset of the pandemic the public are keen to rally around initiatives which support positive social change.