Special report: Social entrepreneurship - it's boom time for businesses with heart

They are diverse, dynamic – and doing well in the market. And now social enterprises are to get their own 'champion'

Women are almost twice as likely to reach the top ranks in social enterprises as they are in mainstream businesses, according to a new report which predicts that the already booming sector is likely to "swell in size".

More than 90 per cent of companies that focus on tackling social problems have at least one woman on their leadership team, as opposed to almost half of small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have all-male directors.

There are 70,000 social enterprises in the UK employing around one million people. The sector's contribution to the economy has been valued at around £18.5bn. Almost one-third of social enterprise leadership teams have Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (Bame) directors, according to the State of Social Enterprise Survey 2013, compared to just 11 per cent of traditional businesses. More than half employ people disadvantaged in the labour market, including the long-term unemployed, ex-offenders and disabled people.

Claire Dove is chair of Social Enterprise UK and chief executive of Blackburne House – an organisation that aims to get women from some of the poorest communities in Merseyside, Liverpool back into education. Six businesses, including a nursery, café bar, and design, health and well-being unit, pump their profits back into the organisation, which runs courses attended by 1,000 women a year.

"I am a very ambitious businesswoman, but I'm also very ambitious about the woman we serve," Ms Dove said. "I have worked in the private sector, but for me, this was about finding a job that had some sort of social impact. You can see tangible results when you spend a pound within our organisation."

Those mentioned in this year's Independent on Sunday Happy List, recognising people who enrich the lives of others, included a man who has served breakfast to the homeless for the past 10 years, and a nun who provides shelter for sex workers in central London.

To celebrate businesses that are regenerating communities and changing lives, The IoS is also sponsoring the UK Social Enterprise Awards 2013. You can vote for your social enterprise "champion" and help us recognise one outstanding individual who works, supports, or volunteers for a business that trades for the common good (see below). We know people and profit can go together; 38 per cent of social enterprises had an increase in turnover last year, compared with 29 per cent of SMEs.

Lucy Macnab, co-director of Ministry of Stories, a creative writing and mentoring centre for young people in east London, said: "It's about seeing a need among those around you and finding a creative way to help change the situation."

The centre, which was co-founded by the author Nick Hornby almost three years ago, generates 15 per cent of its running costs through its unusual shop – Hoxton Street Monster Supplies – which sells everything an "urban monster" might need, including fang floss and tins of terror.

But Becky John, founder of the women-run lingerie company Who Made Your Pants?, thinks there is a lack of awareness about what social enterprises do. Her Southampton-based firm trains women in sewing, English, leadership and finance to create pants from fabric left over by underwear companies. It employs four refugees from Somalia, Sudan and Afghanistan, but has a waiting list of 70 aspiring workers. It has sold 5,000 pairs of pants since 2009.

"There's clearly an appetite in the market for social enterprise products; people look at what we do and their faces light up," she said. "But when we say it's a social enterprise, they don't really understand it. We talk [instead] about balancing business and social needs. They are both equally important."

Help choose a worthy winner

The Independent on Sunday is sponsoring the UK Social Enterprise Awards 2013 and has our very own award to give away: The Social Enterprise Champion Award. If you know an exceedingly talented individual working to improve society – either in a social enterprise or in a public or corporate organisation – then please send a nomination to socialenterprise@independent.co.uk or fill in a form at www.socialenterprise.org.uk/social-enterprise-awards-2013 before Friday 6 September. Your nominee could have created positive change in communities by demonstrating socially entrepreneurial skills or they may have simply shone a light on the sector and the work that it does. The award will be presented on Wednesday 27 November.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable