In this series we will be shining a spotlight on some of the most inspiring women who are breaking down barriers, leading by example, and paving the way for the future of women in the social enterprise industry, and the world, with the amazing work they’re doing. There are so many incredible women that are changing the business world, and we wish we could shout about them all - but this list rounds up just a few of our top picks of women in social enterprise.

The social enterprise model continues to attract women in ever-greater numbers with 38% of social ventures now led by women, while there are more than twice as many men than women in other types of business.

So, why are more women founding and running social enterprises than any other industry?

Although there are a great number of women in social enterprise, it highlights the fact that there is still a huge gender disparity among female founders. 

It’s time to challenge the stereotyping and bias that still pervade women whether it be within the industry, or in everyday life. Showcasing more women in business will help inspire the next generation and help attract and retain more diverse talent to help maximise innovation, creativity and competitiveness, close the gap between men and women, and pave the way for a brighter future - which is the exact reason why we’ve compiled this list. 

This list of women in social enterprise are true changemakers, breaking boundaries and paving the way for the future of females in the industry - hoping to inspire more females to follow their career dreams, and make inspiring changes! 

Amelia Clapham - CEO & Music Therapist at Ace Music Therapy

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Established in 2017 by Amelia Clapham, Ace Music Therapy CIC provides music therapy services across Essex, London and Hertfordshire. They work with education and healthcare settings as well as charities and individual clients to provide high-quality, affordable music therapy provisions. They also run community music groups and continued professional development and training sessions for professionals.

Amelia grew up with a passion for music and graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in Music and German in 2012, before going on to complete her Master’s in Music Therapy at Anglia Ruskin University in 2015. Amelia has worked in a variety of settings including schools, colleges, individual homes and hospices. 

Amelia has a particular interest in early intervention and enjoys working with children under 5 in helping them to develop key skills. Her clinical work is mostly focused in palliative care, working in children and adult hospices, but she also enjoys running community groups.

Dr Asha Patel - Clinical Psychologist & CE0 of Innovating Minds

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Innovating Minds is a multi-award-winning social enterprise that is breaking barriers to offer a world where children and young people with emotional and mental health needs are supported at the earliest point possible.

In 2016, Dr Asha Patel took a ‘leap of faith’ and handed in her resignation to start Innovating Minds. She is a registered Clinical Psychologist with a postgraduate diploma and over 15 years of clinical experience in various settings which include community, inpatient psychiatric rehabilitation, secure forensic mental health hospitals and within the education sector. Her clients’ experiences of not being able to access specialist psychological support sooner rather than later shocked her and it became her mission to make a change. 

Innovating Minds provides hybrid trauma-informed training to front-line practitioners that are not clinically trained. By providing the training, resources and the wrap-around support they are enabling children and families access to early trauma-informed help by people they already trust, in a space they feel safe.

Bayo Adelaja - Founder of Do it Now Now

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Bayo Adelaja is the founder and CEO of Do it Now Now, launched in 2016 in response to the gaps in the support that was available to Black innovators building tech companies and social enterprises in the UK and across Africa. 

The initiative she’s created has led her to receive awards by both Harvard University and Oxford University Business Schools for her work to create and foster opportunities for under-served communities through technology. Three of the initiatives that she has designed to help support underrepresented people in tech, were named “Top in Europe” by the FT-backed digital news platform, Sifted.

Prior to setting up Do it Now Now, Bayo was a Social Policy Researcher at the London School of Economics, where her work gained press coverage, including being quoted by former prime minister David Cameron. 

She is now working with organisations like the British Council, ASOS, Google for Startups, Purpose and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support under-served communities.

Celia Hodson - Founder at Hey Girls

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In 2018, Celia Hodson launched Hey Girls alongside her daughters Becky and Kate. Hey Girls is a multi-award-winning business that has the end goal of eradicating period poverty. Hey Girls aims to enrich the lives of girls and women in the UK by demonstrating clear ethical and social responsibility in all aspects of the business. 

The idea came to Celia from her experience as a single mum on benefits as she found that stage of her life very difficult. She was faced with making extremely tough decisions such as prioritising where her limited money would be spent, choosing between menstrual products for herself or buying food for herself and her children. 

Celia and her daughters wanted to create a sustainable business that could help to make a positive impact on women’s lives. For each product sold, the buyer also purchases a product for someone else. In 2019, Hey Girls was appointed as the main delivery partner for free period products across Scotland and was named the 2019 national Great British Entrepreneur of the Year. 

Charlene Hunter MBE - CEO and Co-founder of Coding Black Females

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Charlene Hunter is the CEO and co-founder of Coding Black Females, the largest community of Black women in tech in the UK. Growing, educating and inspiring the community of Black women in tech.

She has an incredibly strong academic background with a BSc in Mathematical Sciences and an MSc in Computer Science from the University of Birmingham. 

Charlene has a passion to increase and showcase the skills and talents of Black women in tech and she is on a mission to help diversify and transform the technology sector. 

After working as a software developer, Charlene found that Black women were heavily underrepresented in tech, and she set up Coding Black Females, the not-for-profit organisation, which aims to make a difference. She wanted to help make this change and make sure that Black women are able to discover role models and recognise familiar faces within their industry.

Emma Kay - Founder of WalkSafe+ 

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Emma Kay is the brainchild behind WalkSafe+, she is the daughter of a police officer who had many rules in place to make sure that she was safe. Over her lifetime, Emma has experienced catcalling, following, groping and flashing, events that occur too often in today’s society. 

As an adult, the working world expanded Emma’s perspective to experiences beyond her own. Volunteering at a community centre for people in crisis, she saw first-hand the experiences women had, specifically their fear of the streets at night, confirming her fear that personal safety really is an issue that affects everyone.

Emma’s career in childcare highlighted the importance of educating young girls and boys about issues like consent, gender bias and the importance of preventative actions - which led Emma to build WalkSafe+ the leading personal safety app on the market - as she truly believes technology, combined with vision can genuinely save lives.

The app uses the most up-to-date crime data provided by the police to feed into an interactive, unique map that allows users to have the most relevant information at their fingertips to help them choose the safest route to their destination. 

Karis Gill - Co-founder of Social Stories Club

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Social Stories Club was founded by Karis Gill and Aayush Goyal, friends and entrepreneurs, who, whilst opposite in many ways, both have the same ambition of making the world a better place with the promotion of social enterprises.  

Social Stories Club is a sustainable gifting company on a mission to introduce you to the world of social enterprise. Social Stories Club is a UK-based social enterprise that curates high-quality gift boxes and hampers where each product inside contributes to positive social or environmental change.

To do this each product inside their gift boxes has been made by a social venture business and supports a different social cause – from chocolate bars investing in reforestation to biscuits baked using renewable energy. They believe the best way to educate people on social change is through the art of storytelling, so they also include a storybook in all gift boxes sharing the stories behind each product inside. Additionally, all of their gifts are packed by individuals with barriers to employment, and they work to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

As well as selling their gift boxes to individuals online, another facet of their business is their corporate gifting element. Social Stories Club can act as an extension of your brand to make corporate gifting a simple and unforgettable experience. Their hampers make it easy to support social causes whilst offering you a thoughtful way to express gratitude, connect with your clients and celebrate your employees.

Keren Pybus - Co-founder of Ethical Apparel Africa

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Keren Pybus is the CEO and co-founder of Ethical Apparel Africa, a manufacturing & sourcing company that enables brands to diversify their supply chains through ethical production in West Africa.

Their vision is to deliver cost-competitive, quality products while ensuring workers are respected, empowered, and paid living wages.  

Keren is on a mission to create 10,000 worthwhile manufacturing jobs in West Africa by 2030 while shaping the emerging industry to prioritize people and protect the planet. With their operating model rooted in a deep commitment to improving workers’ lives.

Keren has worked all over the world including living in Bangladesh for 3 years, setting up and running the George sourcing office. She has worked with both large retailers such as Walmart UK/South Africa and with small-scale artisan suppliers. She is now based in London where she works towards EEA’s mission, and is often speaking frequently at conferences and developing the EAA strategy and international networks.

Laura Walker & Kate Smith - Co-founders of Memory Matters

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Laura Walker & Katie Smith set up Memory Matters in 2010 whilst working as nurses. an organisation to help change the face of dementia support in our community. Memory Matters started because both women were frustrated with the lack of support provided for people living with dementia, as well as their carers.

Katie and Laura provide meaningful services that respond to the needs expressed by people living with dementia. They believe that having access to compassionate support, therapies and peer-led activities enable people to live well with their dementia. 

Their vision is to change what they saw as a desperate lack of real support for people living with dementia and their families in the face of increasing demand. Almost three years ago, they opened a cafe in Plymouth, supporting a dementia hub upstairs, with all profits going towards the hub’s network. 

Their work has seen them win the title ‘Social Business Leaders of the Year’ in the prestigious NatWest Women in Social Enterprise 100 awards, beating over 300 nominations across the UK and a shortlist of 100.

Lorraine Copes - Founder of Be Inclusive Hospitality

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Be Inclusive Hospitality is a social enterprise and not-for-profit organisation. Founded by Lorraine and incorporated in July 2020, the goal is to advance racial equity in Hospitality, Food & Drink.

Be Inclusive Hospitality was founded due to the consistent lack of representation of people of colour in positions of influence, and the supply chain. BI Hospitality now holds the prime position of igniting much-needed conversations and delivering initiatives to advance change within the hospitality, food, and drink sectors.

BI Hospitality is a community of individuals and companies who are keen to collaborate to accelerate race equity throughout the sector.

Lorraine is an experienced procurement consultant, social entrepreneur and life coach and is using her areas of expertise including hospitality, food, drink, equity and inclusion to make the hospitality industry inclusive and diverse. 

Lorraine has opened up about always having a yearning to directly support people who face adversity and she is doing just that!

Since the business’s founding Lorraine has started the 2022 Be Inclusive Hospitality Spotlight Awards that will celebrate and recognise exceptional talent and achievement from Black, Asian, and ethnic minorities working within hospitality, food, and drink. 

Maeve Monaghan - CEO of NOW Group

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Maeve Monaghan is the CEO of NOW Group which aims to support people with learning difficulties and autism to go into jobs with a future. The social enterprise was born in Belfast and is expanding across Ireland. They’re a not-for-profit organisation providing a range of services that support people with learning difficulties and autism to realise their full potential. Including services that focus on supporting people in employment, training, transition and volunteering. They also offer a family service to support new and expectant parents with learning difficulties or autism.

Maeve has a strong passion for social justice and believes that in society money should touch the sides. As a social entrepreneur, she works extremely hard to grow and support ethical and sustainable businesses that are striving to create opportunities for those who are most vulnerable in society.

Naomie Butters - Co-Founder & Director of ICENA

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ICENA is a non-profit social enterprise offering training and consultancy covering sexual discrimination and violence. Profits from these services fund vital support systems for UK survivors of sexual violence.

Since 2019, they’ve donated £11,535 to Rape Crisis Centres in the East of England. 

Since ICENA’s inception 2.5 years ago, Naomi has been pivotal to every aspect of the organisation’s success. From securing initial funding to assuming the role of Director, pivoting the business online during the pandemic, to guaranteeing sustainability for the projects ICENA supports. 

More than four-fifths of young women in the UK have been subjected to sexual harassment. And ICENA is on a mission to change attitudes, beliefs and practices, and promote equal access to resources and opportunities to end sexual discrimination and violence.

They do this by improving conditions for people of all genders, we work particularly with women-led and women and girls-focused organisations. They deliver non-judgemental, practical and interactive training or consultancy tailored to the specific needs of your team or organisation. 

Victoria Ijeh-Allen - CEO and Founder of Iconic Steps

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Iconic Steps is a social enterprise that gives hard-to-reach young people unique and exciting opportunities to develop essential skills through media training in order to prepare them for employment. They believe that through creative work young people can find their confidence, resilience and value.

Through training, masterclasses and employment opportunities Iconic Steps helps young people with both their professional and personal development to get into work, specifically in the media industry. Using their unique business model: they run a film academy and provide a video production service, which employs graduates of the film academy.

Iconic Steps has award-winning industry professionals helping elevate your content - and they involve young people from their Academy to bring a fresh perspective on your brands. Alongside delivering high-quality digital marketing, advertising and communications services to our clients, they train and upskill young people (16-25) from diverse backgrounds to increase their opportunities in entering the media industry.

They also deliver a range of free, media-centred courses, led by experts in their field and support our young people into employment with work opportunities from Media Partners - Disney, ITV, Warner Bros, and See-Saw Films to name but a few.

Victoria Williams - Founder and CEO of terptree

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Victoria Williams is the founder and CEO of terptree, a business that specialises in education and has been providing support to deaf students at University for over 10 years. Victoria started learning British Sign Language when she was 13 after her cousin was diagnosed as profoundly deaf. Victoria then became involved in the Deaf Community and she noticed the affinity within the community and had a real sense of belonging.

She started working as a receptionist for the British Deaf Association and then later moved on to working within a mental health service for deaf people. All of the experience that she gained helped to give her an understanding of the gaps within the community and it made her think about how she can change this. On this mission, terptree was born, with the aim to help change the world for deaf people.

They hope to have positively impacted 1 million deaf people’s lives by 2025 and are doing this by revamping the everyday deaf employee and deaf customer experience provided by the biggest UK and global brands.

As a multi award-winning business, terptree is full of deeply passionate people who care about creating social change, and truly educating and empowering deaf and hearing people. 

Zakiya Bishton - Founder of Mindwalk Yoga

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Mindwalk Yoga is an online Yoga studio devoted to increasing well-being accessibility for Black women and Black gender nonconforming (GNC) people and creating more representation for Black people in the Yoga industry. They are a social enterprise organised as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) With their online studio is open to everyone - all identities and ethnicities are welcome.

They offer daily community Livestream classes and an extensive VOD library of practices from 5-60 minutes, and we host specific classes and retreats for Black women and Black GNC people. 

Founder Zakiya has been teaching yoga for more than ten years, and shifted her focus to using yoga therapy for mental wellness. Yoga is proven to support mental health, yet, in the west, yoga is often exclusive, expensive and lacks safe, accessible spaces led by Black people. “I’ve created Mindwalk Yoga as an antidote to this reality.”

At Mindwalk Yoga, they’re focused on holding space for our members so they can find their version of safety and go on their unique healing journey. Community connection is their beating heart, and they actively try to involve their members in their development as a social enterprise. Alongside the online studio, they also run employee wellness programs for all types of purposeful businesses, partnering with mental health organisations. 

As well as MindWalk. Zakiya also works as a Well-being Facilitator with BLAM Charity, leading a module on their racial wellness course, she is also a Committee Member for Baobab Foundation, a revolutionary organisation led by the Black-led organisations and communities it supports.

The Great British Businesswoman Awards are taking place on the 26th of January 2023, and it’s one you won’t want to miss. The awards will bring together the 2022 cohort of finalists, judges, partners and special guests to recognise, celebrate and support women in business, champion their peers and advocates, and help foster the next generation of female business leaders - it’s one you won’t want to miss: Book your tickets to the event here.