Ten things to know when starting a social enterprise

Social entrepreneurs usually want to change the world, or at least part of it! However, every journey, no matter how ambitious, needs to start with some first steps.

I hear regularly from our social enterprise customers that they find running their business hugely worthwhile and fulfilling, but for those looking to start a social enterprise it all looks a bit daunting.

The questions are almost as numerous as the potential options available. For example what legal structure should you choose and what’s the difference between them? How might you start writing a budget or a business plan? How do you protect the social mission and how do you measure the good you’re doing?

We get asked these questions regularly, which is why NatWest has teamed up with Social Enterprise UK to write an easy to read guide called Start your Social Enterprise. We hope it will  help budding entrepreneurs to get to grips with the basics in an easily digestible way.

We’ve also included some inspiring case studies of those who have successfully navigated the process to show that it might not be as difficult as you think.  

In the guide, you’ll find some helpful hints, top tips and guidance to help you embark on this exciting journey. Even more helpfully, we’ve pulled together a summary of all the points you need to know:

1. Get clear on your mission – it will help you plan and communicate what you want to achieve.

2. Check the market – is there a problem or need for what you are proposing? Who is going to pay for it?

3. Keep an eye on the money – most businesses that fail do so because they lose sight of the money: don’t avoid this, and get a handle on it from the start.

4. Measure your social impact – but keep it simple at the start, and make sure it’s useful to you to grow and improve.

5. Find the right people – the best social entrepreneurs build great teams of supporters and staff, rather than doing it by themselves.

6. Good governance is important – think about who you want involved and what you want them to bring.

7. Sales and marketing aren’t dirty words – they are just ways to reach people so that you can win business and create more change. Know what your USP is.

8. Pick the legal structure after you have thought about your mission, activities, money, impact and governance – all are important factors in picking the right one for your enterprise.

9. Write a plan – but keep it simple and short. More important is starting to try out things in reality, and see if people will use your product or service...and pay for it.

10. Get networked in the social enterprise movement, locally and nationally.


To read more on all ten tips, download the guide from the Social Enterprise UK website. 

Photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters/Unsplash