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Beginner's Guide to Starting a Social Enterprise

In recent years, we hear a lot more about social injustice and caring for the neglected of society. Models of meeting the needs of others have evolved over time and with a new generation entering the workforce; meant more new perspectives and space for innovation. With 76% of young people purchased/considering to purchase goods with social causes that they resonate with, it's more than evident than ever how social justice ties in closely with their lives. As of last year, 336 social enterprises are registered with Raise. Given time to come, more social enterprise will arrive in the local scene.

Are you one who is interested in the local social enterprise scene? Here are some helpful pointers to guiding you to successfully starting your own Social Enterprise (SE).

1. What is a social enterprise?

Social enterprises are small, medium enterprises (SMEs) that offer quality products and services in the market while contributing to sustainability goals and serving a specific community. They contribute to the society either by serving the community directly as their main business goal, divert some of their revenue towards sustainability efforts or engage the community as part of their business operations.

2. Who do you intend to serve?

It is easy to express your interest in impacting society. However, we all got to start from somewhere. Is there a certain people group or demographic that has caught your eye? There are many needy communities in Singapore, ranging from young children from low-income families to ex-convicts hoping to reintegrate into society to elderly living alone in their one-room apartments. Having to pick one group to start with helps to narrow down your products/services and the relevant strategies towards catering to the needs of your target audience. Having decided on a particular group helps determine the viability of your selling idea for your social enterprise.

3. Why do you serve them?

After identifying the group you want to serve, ask yourself what keeps you going to serve them? What makes you passionate in serving this community in need? Is there a backstory to your heart for this particular group? Having to know your why helps in retaining your vision and focus on the things that matter especially during turbulent times. There will be times of sweet success and times of hard ploughing. It is during the ploughing where things can get exceptionally difficult. Knowing your vision and reason become your main motivation to persevere.

4. How do you intend to serve them - What is your business?

Like all business, you need to have a unique selling point. Will your business be product-centric or service-centric or a hybrid of both? Even so, there is a wide variety of choices under each category.

A little lost with what business you should do? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Look at your own marketable skills, talents and resources.

  2. Take time to sit down and evaluate what skills you have that are useful to start a business.

  3. Always do your due diligence to research on the potential in the different industries.

  4. Are they oversaturated with people having similar ideas as you? Being different gives you an upper hand when attracting potential customers.

  5. Think about how your business can be run sustainably to benefit the under-served community.

Is it easier to serve them directly through the products/services from the business or will an indirect method be more practical in the long run?

These are only some of the many considerations. We encourage you to spend time with friends, colleagues and those who have more experience in Social entrepreneurship for more insights.

5. Where do you want to serve the community-in-need?

Depending on your business model of choice, your platform to serve the community-in-need will vary. If your community-in-need are your main customers, your platform will be designed more towards meeting their needs. On the other hand, if they are not your main customers, you may be afforded some flexibility in the way you serve their needs. Some platforms can include physical locations (e.g. training or rehabilitation centres, physical stalls) or digital platforms (e.g. e-commerce websites, social media, event hosting websites).

Interested to find out more about social enterprises? Sign up for our workshop Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship to learn more!


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