So, what do you need to start a social enterprise? And who can start one?
The starting point for any individual or group wishing to start a new social enterprise is remarkably similar to that of any business person: a strong business idea that is economically viable, has long-term potential, and can generate income. And in the case of social enterprises, the business idea must also meet a community need or solve a particular community problem.
Most importantly — and this is especially true in the current climate — your social enterprise idea must be something that there will be paying customers for. Sadly, it’s no use saying ‘we have a great idea, we’ve spotted a real community need — and now we just need a grant’.
While there are a lot of grant-making trusts out there, few will commit themselves to funding new enterprises that have no real prospects of being self-sustaining. And local authorities no longer fund new social enterprises or voluntary groups in the way they did ten or fifteen years ago.
So your business idea really must have the potential to eventually generate profit (or ‘surplus’) so that this can be reinvested in the enterprise to help it grow and become more sustainable, or used to help it meet its social objectives.