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The Social Enterprise Scene

Social Enterprise is a trending buzzword across the globe, with its own cluster growing right here in Windsor! With all of this social enterprise chatter, you may be asking yourself, ‘What is social enterprise?’ or ‘How does social enterprise affect my business?’ or even ‘Why should I investigate whether I am a social enterprise or not?’. EPICentre, through our partnership with Pillar Nonprofit and Social Enterprise Southwest www.sesw.ca, has become a community hub for social enterprise information. We can answer the above questions for you (here) and provide you with expertise, resources, and contacts that can support you through the development of your business.

Exciting opportunity! If you are a social entrepreneur that offers products or services relevant to event planning, the Ministry of Economic Development and Growth, along with the Centre for Social Enterprise Development, are creating an online event planning directory for Ontario. If you wish to register for this list, please click here.

What Does It All Mean; Social Enterprise Language

One of the largest barriers to providing social enterprise support is being able to communicate what a social enterprise is and the benefits of structuring and identifying your business as such.

What is a Social Enterprise?

Doing well by doing good! Social enterprises use conventional business strategies to achieve a social and/or environmental impact. They are a nonprofit, cooperative, or for-profit organization with two equal goals: to maximize revenue AND maximize social impact. As with a conventional business, revenue, along with social impact, needs to be quantified.

Social enterprises are unique in that business and community are not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to choose between doing good and being financially viable! A single person and a single idea can truly change a community for years to come—this is the future of sustainable impact. Dream big, do good. That’s social enterprise.

There are two main structures for social enterprise: added-on or baked-in. An added-on model is typically a business that donates a percentage of profits or services to a community cause. A Baked-in model inherently does good through the operation of the business, perhaps through hiring and training of people with barriers to employment, providing accessible wellness services, creating ecofriendly products through sustainable manufacturing, etc. A description, with examples of the social enterprise spectrum, can be found here.

Why a Social Enterprise?

There are several benefits for structuring your business as a social enterprise in addition to the positive social impact you are making.

  1. Social enterprise is a financially sustainable mode for doing good in the community. For non-profit and charitable organizations, it can eliminate or drastically reduce dependence on government grants and donations, respectively, while producing the same positive impact.
  2. Members of the community will support businesses that support them. Identifying your business as a social enterprise will set you apart from your competitors who offer similar services but who lack a social mission. This could make your business more attractive to the consumer and create positive media coverage.
  3. Millennials prefer to have a positive impact in their community through action rather than donating to charity. These individuals, therefore, prefer to work for companies that share their social values that enable them to create such impact. The millennial age bracket will very soon comprise much of the workforce and standing out as a company that aligns with their values will help your business attract and retain high-quality employees.
  4. Unique funding opportunities are available to social enterprises. There are a wide variety of grants, loans, programs, and competitions that are geared toward social enterprise startups and scale-ups. There is also a provincial initiative to foster and support social enterprise in Ontario: https://www.ontario.ca/page/ministry-economic-development-and-growth

 How do I begin?

If you are interested in either starting your own social enterprise or restructuring your current model to include social impact and would like mentoring, please contact Michelle Nevett at nevettm@uwindsor.ca and she will be able to provide you with the contacts and resources that can help you.