What is Social Entrepreneurship? Who are some of the most successful Social Entrepreneurs?
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What is Social Entrepreneurship? Who are some of the most successful Social Entrepreneurs?

March 23, 2017 by McKenna Dustman

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Although we’re in the business of making tasty, wholesome nut butters, Yumbutter’s true mission is to be boldly compassionate in every area of our business, from the BuyOne|FeedOne Mission, to the way we select and source healthy, sustainable ingredients, to the way we interact with customers and employees. And while we’re pretty proud of what we’re doing, we’re part of a major movement around the world that is changing the way companies look at business models and measure success – social entrepreneurship. But what is social entrepreneurship, really?

What is Social Entrepreneurship?

While there’s no true definition of social entrepreneurship, it typically refers to using business to solve a social problem. Many think of social enterprises in a for-profit setting, but in reality, they can also be non-profit or cooperative models. No matter the classification, social entrepreneurs are taking an innovative approach to a social issue and blending the traditional for-profit business model with a mission that serves a cause – whether it be the environment, economically disadvantaged groups, a health crisis, global poverty, human rights, or another challenge that is not being served by the traditional model. As defined by Forbes, “many of today’s leading social entrepreneurs have created organizations that are neither businesses nor charities, but rather hybrid entities that generate revenue in pursuit of social goals.” While these companies utilize more traditional startup techniques and business models, they instead choose to tackle issues that are typically associated with the non-profit sector.

Some social entrepreneurs create a for-profit venture simply to have a sustainable source of income for their charitable organization without being fully reliant on subsidies, grants, and donations. In this model, rather than investing profits back into the business or distributing them to shareholders, a business puts most of their profit directly toward one or more charitable organizations (think Newman’s Own) or operates under a Buy One, Give One model (think Toms shoes or Warby Parker glasses).


 

However, many social entrepreneurs blur the lines between for-profit and non-profit by selling an essential item or service to an at-risk group. For example, rather than simply handing out eyeglasses in communities with limited access to vision care, VisionSpring uses a retail approach that helps locals to sell eyeglasses to under-served populations. In this way, they solve a social problem related to vision care while economically empowering local communities and sustaining their overall business without relying fully on donations.

Other social enterprises simply have social good in the fabric of their business. These companies might only use sustainable ingredients, help support fair wages throughout their supply chain, sell only fair trade items, make products that enhance learning or literacy, or support any number of social missions.

Who are some of the most successful social entrepreneurs?

  • Blake Mycoskie who founded the now-iconic buy one, give one shoe company TOMS
  • Jeffrey Hollender, founder of environment-friendly cleaning products line Seventh Generation
  • Mark Koska whose invention of a reusable syringe made for major advances in under-funded health clinics
  • Muhammad Yunus who created the Grameen Bank, a revolutionary microfinance organization
  • Scott Harrison of charity:water, which has provided over a million people with access to clean drinking water
  • Xavier Helgesen, Chris Fuchs, and Jeff Kurtzman, founders of the B-Corp Better World Books which recycles and reuses books to promote literacy.

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