Top Five Social Enterprises

Lizzy Jewell is Digital Communications Intern at CDF.

For the uninitiated, a social enterprise is a business that works for the benefit of the community, or re-invests its profits into doing something good for people or the planet – a pretty great way to run a business if you ask us.

As your community project develops, taking on a social enterprise model can be a great way to get some more funding. It can add another string to your bow to supplement your existing funding streams, or even develop into a fully-fledged business model of its own.

For a little bit of inspiration for those who are thinking of starting up their own social enterprise – and for everyone else who just thinks they’re great and wants to learn about them (like us) – we’ve listed five of our favourites.

1. Who Made Your Pants

Who Made Your Pants make lingerie using ethically sourced materials and all of their profits go to training, support and advice for their staff.

Their staff is made up of women who’ve “had a hard time”, and they buy all their fabric from mass-market retailers who would otherwise discard their fabric at the end of their lines.

Hiring ladies who need it and stopping the fashion giants from wasting perfectly good resources? We approve.


2. Social Bite

Social Bite are a social enterprise in cafe-form in Edinburgh. The menu was prepared by a Michelin starred chef, and all of their profits go to good causes.

Additionally, one in four of their staff have been homeless in the past, so it’s not just their profits that are helping out those in need.

And if that wasn’t enough, you can also drop in and donate a ‘suspended’ portion of food or drink – you purchase in their cafe, and then a homeless person can drop by later on and pick it up. Inspiring good deeds all round.


3. Urban Bees

It’s no secret that bees are an essential part of our eco-system, and in recent years they’ve become increasingly scarce. Urban Bees is a social enterprise that helps budding beekeepers set up their own hives in urban environments to keep the bee population from fading away.

Their mission is to promote sustainable and responsible urban beekeeping to a new generation of beekeepers through education and training.

And they’ll even help match up aspiring beekeepers with supporters of the cause who’ve got no time but plenty of space to spare. Clever.


4. HumAnima CIC

HumAnima are a Community Interest Company (CIC) and social enterprise run by Kathryn and her dog Flossie to provide ‘animal assisted therapy’ (AAT).

This means that they work with animals to provide counseling sessions for people in need using ‘therapy dogs’. They support mental health and wellbeing using AAT methods to provide the recipient with some added comfort and support.

Flossie is an adorable English Cocker Spaniel out to save the world. Now, that might just be the perfect business model.


5. The Hackney Pirates

Our final example in our list of outlandish, inspiring social enterprises is the Hackney Pirates.

They are an enterprising charity based in east London that aims to improve the education of local children while having fun at the same time.

They work to develop the literacy, confidence and perseverance of young people. And their centre, the Ship of Adventures, is a weird and wonderful out-of-school learning environment complete with secret passageways, an underwater cave and a ship’s cat.

In tandem with their education work, they publish and sell books, CD’s and products in the Shop of Adventures. These materials are written by the young pirates themselves, and gives their learning focus and a target to reach for.

Inspired? If you’re thinking of expanding your community group into a social enterprise, then head to Step 10 and start planning for the future.

And we’ve also got a whole category of resources for social enterprises in our Knowledge Bank.


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