Publish date: 05/09/2018

The idea of social enterprise has been around for decades, but over the last few years more and more people are really buying into the idea.

As the new (and best) generation leaves school, it’s no longer enough to just set up a business to make money – many people want to set up their business with a foundational goal of helping their community, the environment or making the world a better place.

It’s a noble goal, but how do you achieve it? As a business you still need to make money in order to operate and as a business owner you want to have a comfortable lifestyle.

Or maybe it’s better to set up a not-for-profit organisation. That way you can look at fundraising to supplement the income you generate, as well as being sure that the goals of your enterprise do not belong to just one person and will keep going even if you move on.

Social Enterprise sits in a weird legal space between commercial and non-commercial organisations. No formal legal definition exists yet. That can make it hard to decide how to set up your social enterprise. We recommend talking with the experts. There are a range of passionate experts in North Canterbury and in Christchurch who can help. ENC is one of course, but there is also the Akina Foundation, The Ministry of Awesome, The Grow Good Guy, Smart & Wise and many others.

The Akina Foundation define social enterprise as meeting three key objectives:

  • That the social, cultural and/or environmental mission provides a public or community benefit and that is the primary purpose of organisation;
  • That the majority of income is from trading a good or a service;
  • That the majority of either expenditure or profit is spent in the fulfilment of the purpose of the organisation.

To do well in a social enterprise, I believe you need to jettison your humility and promote what your core goals are loudly and honestly.

As more and more consumers become aware of the social or environmental impact of their purchases, they are becoming more willing to spend a little more on products or services that make the world better and to put pressure on business practices that are unsustainable. It’s because of this that we will soon see the end of caged eggs, of plastic straws and of single-use plastic bags. That means if consumers are more aware of your social objectives they are more willing to buy your product or service.

Shout it from the rooftops. As Kiwis, we are shy when it comes to self-promotion, particularly when we feel we are doing good. But we need to get over ourselves. When you are looking at your brand and at your marketing strategy, put the good you do firmly in the centre of it. Let people know your social objective as well as what you are selling.

There are many social enterprises in North Canterbury, both commercial and not for profit. The number of entrants for the new ‘Community Enterprise’ category at the North Canterbury Business Awards was only beaten by the ‘Emerging Business’ category. That reflects the strength in North Canterbury of businesses and organisations that want to do good.

Miles Dalton
Business Support Manager, Enterprise North Canterbury

As published in The Northern Outlook on August 31, 2018