There are currently over 80,000 social enterprises in the UK and this is growing rapidly.
Social enterprise contributes approximately £18.6 billion to the UK economy. The sector employs close to 1 million people. 59% of social enterprises employ at least one person who is disadvantaged in the labour market.
Not only is social enterprise diverse in its workforce, they are led by a wide range of people. 40% of social enterprises are led by women. 31% have Black/Asian/Ethnic directors. 40% have a director with a disability. Even celebrities are setting up social enterprises i.e. Hugh Jackman, Pharrell Williams, Rosario Dawson, Jamie Oliver and Jessica Alba, to name a few.
There is no definitive number, but the number is constantly increasing. There are social enterprises all over the world, in every continent. In a 2016 study carried out by UnLtd, Thomson Reuters Foundation and Deutsche Dank, it was discovered that the UK is the 3rd best place in the world to set up a social enterprise, behind the US and Canada (http://poll2016.trust.org/).
It depends what you class as a big company. In the UK, the likes of Waitrose and Marks & Spencer are social enterprises, believe it or not. The former even stocks social enterprise products in its stores, from the likes of Toast Ale and Divine Chocolate.
Yes, they operate like any other business, although they can be set up under different legal structures: unincorporated association, partnership, limited company (by share or guarantee), co-operative or charity. As with any business, you still have to consider: tax implications, legal liability, requirements of regulatory bodies, and accounting records.
There are many different funding options out there for social enterprises such as grants and start-up loans. If you’re a student or graduate looking to set up a social enterprise, it may be worth seeing what your university has to offer in terms of support. They may be able to provide start-up funding through a grant. There is plenty of support out there, not just financial, it’s just a matter of seeing what’s right for you. We have put together a small support guide to give you a head start.