The changing values of different generations comes up a lot. One of the hot topics for businesses of late has been the growing concern for social and environmental responsibility. Even large companies are trying to ensure that corporate social responsibility (CSR) features in their business plans, but we are seeing a growing number of businesses that view social responsibility as more than just a feature. A social enterprise is a company that reinvests profit to support their community and tackle social problems.

September’s speaker Glen Duckett from EAT Pennines believes that social enterprises are the way forward: if you’re capable of setting up a profitable business, then why not add social value too?

Glen’s Background

Glen demonstrated an entrepreneurial mindset at a young age, taking up a paper round at 11-years old and at 13-years old he was washing cars for his neighbours. Within 2-3 weeks he had enough clients to rope in his friend, his first ever ‘employee’, in a sense. At fourteen Glen began working for Northcote Manor, where his interest in catering and hospitality began.

The importance of hard-work and high standards was instilled at an early age and Glen took pride in his work. He continued working in hospitality and catering when working towards his degree in Environmental Sciences at the University of Norwich. After graduation, Glen moved around the UK, often working with underprivileged communities within his catering work and within the public sector as well. With various socio-economic problems such as the recession in 2008, Glen knew something had to be done to help these communities which could be sustained over time.

Eagle & Child

Moving back to the North West, Glen bought a closing-down pub in Ramsbottom with an ambitious goal: to create a social enterprise that could sustain itself whilst providing training and employment to underprivileged young people. Opening the Eagle & Child Pub in 2011, Glen hired young people in catering & hospitality and horticulture – two sectors that have a need for new talent.

Training young people in these areas, Glen found that teenagers often dismissed as ‘trouble students’ were engaging with jobs that offered them a chance to learn practical skills, not only fostering an interest in work, but gaining confidence and self-esteem. Through the EAT Pennines scheme, over 70% of the young people who received training went on to receive a qualification, with 60% progressing into further training or employment. It just goes to show that these young people who were often dismissed as unruly or even dim were just not engaged. Once offered the opportunity to learn within the right vocational area for them, they were able to excel.

Glen has expanded beyond the Eagle & Child Pub, refurbishing the café’s in Manchester’s Heaton Park and applying the same social model. Further work also includes a partnership with a town in France, engaging in two-way cultural and occupational knowledge transfers.

The Triple Bottom-line

According to Glen, the crux of social enterprise can be drawn in a triangle. Unlike for-profit organisations that focus on the financial bottom-line, social enterprises must focus on the triple bottom-line of financial, social and environmental standing. If all three elements of the triple bottom-line are well managed, then a social enterprise can be sustainable.

Although any company can include all three elements in their business plan, Glen believes that for a social enterprise to be successful, looking for financial profit alone cannot be enough. If you’re thinking about profit, chances are social enterprise is not for you. Profit is important for sustainability but is more of a necessity in order to achieve the other two goals of social and environmental impact.

How to Start a Social Enterprise

Despite the goals of a social enterprise focusing heavily on the social and environmental aspects of the business, it would be foolhardy to ignore the finances. When setting up a social enterprise, many of the starting costs will be paid for by the owner. Although there is funding available from organisations such as UNLimited, it is unlikely that you can sustain a business from grants alone. As such, it’s important to have a sound business model in order to repay any investments gained through other means.

When asked about funding the research and development phase of setting up a social enterprise, Glen strongly recommended taking on other work whilst finalising the idea. Glen himself gained the skills and knowledge he needed whilst working with local councils. Becoming aware of the sector you are working in, understanding policy and procedures, and building a network are all important areas to work on so that once you are ready to start your business you can hit the ground running. If you don’t hit the ground running, you’re in danger of hitting too many pitfalls to make the business financially sustainable within the first 1-2 years.

Aside from business success, what about on a personal level? Once you’re ready to set-up and quit the day job, you may find it a struggle financially. Don’t forget that you still need to live! For Glen, opening a pub meant that he was able to live where he worked, cutting the costs down significantly; but, for many, it is wise to have a pot of savings to use until you can pay yourself a salary.

Who Can Set Up a Social Enterprise?

Theoretically, anyone who can set up a business can start a social enterprise; the business savvy needed is much the same. Despite this, social enterprise may not suit everyone’s temperament. It may sound like common sense, but when working towards community improvement, it’s important to be a part of the community. If the community you are working with think that you are out for self-gain, then you are going to lose credibility. Remember what you’re trying to do and who you are doing it for, and things should be fine.

What about you?

So, what do you think? Do you have it in you to set up a social enterprise? Some of Propeller’s clients have already done so, and we are happy to support students and staff on their journey. Our workshops and events are a great way to get to grips with some of the skills and knowledge needed to create a successful start-up. We also offer funding to get ideas off the ground. If Glen’s planted the seed of social enterprise in your mind, why not talk to our mentors about how Propeller can help you?

Coming up…

Our next networking event Online Security Essentials for Business is on Tuesday 9th of October, where Louisa Murphy from the Lancashire Constabulary will discuss how to keep your business safe online.

We also have an additional networking event on Thursday 11th October, where the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) talk about Intellectual Property Essentials. Covering patents, copyright and trademarks, this event is great for anyone looking to protect their ideas.