How to grow a social enterprise while staying true to your principles
By Shalini Khemka, CEO of the London Entrepreneurial Exchange
The growth of social enterprise has outstripped that of most other entrepreneurial sectors in the UK over the past decade. The country’s economic sluggishness has done little to dampen the increasing appeal of businesses that want to have a positive social impact, and social enterprises now contribute £24bn a year to the UK economy and employ 800,000 people.
A problem, though — and this is a topic that is often raised at our member forums — is how to grow a social enterprise without compromising, or losing sight of the business’ original social...
...commitments and ethos? Below I outline some of the key factors to consider.
Profit is good
The idea that social enterprise must equal “not-for-profit” is incorrect, and insidious. Yes, social enterprises have primarily social, rather than monetary, objectives, and they are not about maximizing shareholder value. But you should be aiming to make a profit — which can then either be reinvested in the company, expanding its scope and capacity, or distributed in some way that maximises and extends your social goals.
All too often a social enterprise will remain stuck at the start-up stage because the people running it don’t appreciate that to have the biggest impact you want to ensure you’re making money — not just ticking over — to reinvest and grow.
It’s a social enterprise
Always be looking to innovate — just because you’re an entrepreneur with top-level considerations that focus on community issues, disadvantaged segments of society, environmental concerns or other key values, your goals should also be to find new ways to shake up and reinvent your industry. Say you’re making power generators for developing countries — don’t simply be content to keep rolling out the same one product, but rather constantly ask yourself how you can... continued on page two >