Getting Started on Your Social Enterprise
Lucy Findlay, founding managing director of Social Enterprise Mark CIC and supporter of the Social Entrepreneur Index, offers her advice to help you get your social enterprise off the ground and flourishing.
I was delighted to be involved in judging applications for the inaugural Social Entrepreneur Index earlier this year – it’s always great to see more people join the social enterprise community, committed to running their businesses for the good of people and planet.
I know it can be a daunting prospect for those just starting their journey into social enterprise, so as a ‘seasoned campaigner’, I wanted to offer some advice to start you off on the right track.
Clarify your business proposition – regardless of how virtuous your social mission is, if you don’t have a viable business proposition behind it then it will be hard to create social value that is sustainable in the long-term.
Do your research on the market you are entering and be clear from the outset on what it is that your business will deliver, and to who. Defining who your customers are is very important – you can then involve them in the development of your product/service offering to be sure it meets their needs.
Be clear about what it is you are trying to change – you will need to be able to clearly articulate what issue(s) you are addressing and what changes you aim to make. This will make it easier for you to communicate your mission to your stakeholders (customers, employees, partners, local communities etc), and will help you to measure the impact you are having. We routinely ask our Mark holders to demonstrate how they are working to meet their social objectives and realise this isn’t an easy task for most. We have developed a set of social impact questions, which are designed to help social enterprises think about the social impact they create, and to communicate this clearly and succinctly.
Get advice and support – build relationships with those who support your mission and share your vision – create a network of allies who can offer advice and point you in the right direction.
Take advantage of the advice and guidance that is available for new social enterprises just starting up, such as the packages provided by UnLtd. Also, learn from the experiences of others – checking out the Social Entrepreneur Index Ambassadors is a good starting point, as they have a wealth of experience and insights.
In our mission to support social enterprises at all stages to work towards credible sector-agreed standards of good practice, we have recently introduced an entry-level accreditation for aspiring social enterprises. This enables new social enterprises to prove their commitment to social enterprise principles from the outset, and get started on the pathway to social enterprise excellence.
Applicants will receive tailored support throughout their social enterprise journey, initially enabling them to understand how they can meet the good practice criteria defined by the Social Enterprise Mark, which will hopefully provide useful considerations for future
development. For example, we offer tailored support to enable you to get started on measuring and articulating your social impact.
To find out more please get in touch – you can call our helpline on 0345 504 6536 or can register your interest here.