Secrets of success from the 2021 SE100 champions

What does it take to run a top-performing social business? The seven winners of the 2021 NatWest SE100 awards spill the beans in a series of video postcards filmed especially for Pioneers Post readers.

It's not easy to run a successful social enterprise. So who better to offer some wisdom than our NatWest SE100 Social Business Award winners?

Five organisations and two social enterprise leaders were selected by our judges this year for outstanding performance in leadership, resilience, growth, social investment, impact management and climate action. They're a diverse bunch – they're brewing, baking and biking; they're care-givers and campaigners, friendly furnishers and ethical employers. Whatever their day-to-day work involves, each of these social businesses showed our panel of judges that they're at the top of their game, even with a pandemic to navigate.

We asked each of our stars of 2021 to share with Pioneers Post readers: what’s your secret to success? What are you particularly proud of? And what would you advise other social enterprise leaders right now? 

Watch their video 'postcards' below to hear from these seven high-achievers. 

  • Explore more stories and insight from leading social enterprises in our SE100 Collection


Growth Champion: FRC Group

Liverpool-based FRC Group is becoming a bit of a regular on the SE100 awards list – it picked up four between 2008 and 2017, as well as being crowned Social Enterprise of the Year by Social Enterprise UK in 2019. This year, it continues its winning streak by taking home the SE100 Growth Champion award, and is also highly commended in our Impact Management category.

“We have a very clear plan and idea of where we want to take the organisation and the growth that we want to see. For us, growth has to be growth on both of our bottom lines,” says CEO Shaun Doran. Click below to hear more.


Impact Management Champion: Hertfordshire Independent Living Service

Everyone’s talking about impact management; far fewer are actually doing it really thoroughly. Hertfordshire Independent Living Service (HILS) impressed the SE100 judges by involving service users and other stakeholders in the design of its impact processes, and for its varied use and validation of evaluation tools.

HILS boss Sarah Wren puts it simply: “As a social business, if we're not making a difference, we're probably doing the wrong things.” Watch below for more from this year's Impact Management Champion.


Resilience Award: Bikeworks

In April 2020, Bikeworks co-founder Zoe Portlock told us the team had barely “paused for breath” – and it looks like they've been pedalling at speed ever since, picking up our Resilience Award this year for what judges described as “a real track record of grit and determination”.

Below, Portlock and her fellow co-founder Jim Blakemore share some of their proudest achievements and why resilience is above all about problem-solving.


Climate Champion: Toast Ale

Our Climate Champion category was a brand new one for this year's SE100 awards. Toast Ale, which works to reduce waste and carbon emissions while also donating to charities fixing the food system and raising awareness, is a worthy winner. 

Co-founder Louisa Ziane explains why blazing a trail on climate action comes down to being clear about values – and embedding them into the culture of the organisation.


Leader of the Year: June O'Sullivan

June O'Sullivan oversees almost 800 staff across 42 nurseries at London Early Years Foundation. She was awarded an MBE from the Queen in 2013 and has a string of other accolades and influential positions to her name. Her advice to others? “You can’t take yourself too seriously as a leader. You have to recognise and see your own faults and your own strengths but also be able to step back and actually see the world with a kind of quirky look.” 

Watch below for more words of wisdom from our SE100 Leader of the Year.


Leader of the Year – One to Watch: Pranav Chopra

Our judging panel tried hard to choose just one winner in the leadership category, but they failed – because they were so impressed by Pranav Chopra.

The CEO of NEMI Teas, which was created in 2015 to help refugees get work and integrate into society, tells social business leaders: “Keep believing in your work and push those limits harder than ever before, and the results will come. I assure you that. And that will reflect in both your social impact and commercially.”


Social Investment Award Winner: Luminary Bakery

“It’s always been important for us to work with investors who understand our mission,” says Lucy White, commercial director of Luminary Bakery. The right investors, she adds, are those who “help us grow so we can achieve more and more impact as we scale.”

That's exactly what Comic Relief's backing is doing – helping the bakery to launch its online business and deliver its produce across the country. Find out more about one of the year's most innovative social investment deals in a message from White as well as CEO Alice Williams, and Amir Rizwan, social investment advisor at Comic Relief.


Thank you to all the award-winners for filming their video postcards. 

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