3 Social Enterprise Startup Examples to Get You Inspired for Change

While the traditional model used by non-profit organizations for providing aid and donating items to populations in need helps alleviate short-term social issues caused by poverty, it often fails to address the root cause of the problems.

Since there’s no economic incentive baked into the process, aid and donations don’t provide the opportunity for communities to generate income, reinvest back into the local economy, and create a virtuous cycle of self-sustainability.

A new generation of social entrepreneurs is innovating how we empower underserved populations. Their for-profit social enterprises deliver a “multiple bottom line” solution that creates both profit and progress for everyone involved.

These social businesses were often started when the founders lived among a local community in a developing country and discovered the work of craftsmen and artisans.

Their winning formula integrates the unique craftsmanship with high-quality and well-designed products that appeal to consumers in the developed world while sharing their brand stories to generate awareness and sales.

The craftsmen and artisans are paid a fair wage. Profits from the businesses are reinvested into the local communities, which benefit from the economic activities.

The success of these social enterprise startups is a great example of how we can create social progress and have a thriving business at the same time:

Ethnotek: Inspired in Vietnam, A Whole New Way to Sustainable Fashion

After being inspired by his travels in Vietnam, Jake Orak founded Ethnotek.

The company designs and produces high-quality laptop and travel bags that feature handmade textiles ethically sourced from craftsmen living in Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

The social venture promotes the art of hand printing, weaving, and embroidery while celebrating the local cultures and communities.

The products are designed with the modern travelers’ high-tech lifestyle in mind, marrying ethnology with technology.

The brand’s website has a section that introduces the traditional craftsmanship of each region it supports. By connecting consumers with the origin of the products, Ethnotek helps broaden our perspective and raise awareness about cultural preservation.

The commercial success of this social enterprise allows artisans to continue their traditional crafts – protecting jobs, handcraft practices, and local cultures in villages that are most in need.

Combat Flip Flop: Two Shark Tank Guys do Good

Donald Lee and Matthew Griff, two former Army Rangers who served in Afghanistan, founded Combat Flip Flop after seeing a country filled with hard-working people who wanted jobs, not handouts.

The company is now selling way more than flip-flops. All their products are sourced from communities in developing countries – creating employment opportunities and sustainable economic development along the way.

For example, their flip-flops are made in Bogota, their sarongs are handmade in Afghanistan by local women, and their bangles are sent straight from artisans in Laos (made from landmines dropped during the Vietnam war.)

Besides employing artisans and underserved populations in need, the company achieves a “double bottom line:”

  • For every product sold, it donates funds to put an Afghan girl into secondary school for a day.
  • For each bangle or coin wrap sold, 3 square meters of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) is cleared – saving lives and providing an economic opportunity at the same time.

Tonlé: Addressing Textile Waste from the Get-Go

When Rachel Fuller was studying textiles and fiber arts, she noticed the enormous mass of textile waste that occurred each year from large brand factories, end of season stock purging, and consumer-discarded clothing.

Even though she loves fashion, she was bothered by the many wasteful habits in the mass consumptive fashion industry.

When she was conducting research under a Fulbright Grant in Cambodia, she got to know the local artisans and conceived a fair trade movement related to fashion production.

In addition, she noticed that even though there were non-profit organizations helping local communities produce and sell textile products, there was an underlying issue that prevented their success.

The non-profit business model focuses on getting funding or donation instead of creating products that appeal to a global market. As a result, many of these projects struggle to stay afloat because they can’t generate enough sales.

Rachel eventually founded Tonlé, a fashion brand that uses scrap waste sourced from mass clothing manufacturers to create handmade clothing and accessories signed by their Cambodian makers.

Their zero-waste production process creates ethically made, comfortable, affordable, and practical clothing designed to appeal to an international market.

For-Profit Social Enterprises Achieving “Multiple Bottom Lines”

Today’s social entrepreneurs empower the communities they work with through profitable business models that not only allow the populations to earn a fair wage but also reinvest in the local economies for sustainable growth.

In addition to making their products in an environmentally conscious way, they often use part of the proceeds from their sales to promote other worthy causes by partnering with non-profit organizations.

The three examples we looked at are just the tip of the iceberg – social entrepreneurship offers a wealth of opportunities for us to make a living in a meaningful and impactful manner in this connected world.

Inspired? What’s your big idea?

How to Get Your Impact Startup Off The Ground: Lessons From Combat Flip Flops

change creator combat flip flops

They faced the sharks on the famous show Shark Tank and demonstrated how they could change the world one pair of flip-flops at a time!

Change Creator’s interview with the two founders, Lee and Griff, revealed strategies and insights we can all learn from. Find the full interview is at the end of this article.

Donald Lee and Matthew Griff, founders of Combat Flip Flops, not only built a successful retail business but also help underserved communities all over the world by empowering them economically with employment opportunities.

As social entrepreneurs, Lee and Griff created a business model that drives “multiple bottom lines” – profits, social change, and sustainable economic growth.

How did the company come about, what unique challenges did they face, and what’s their secret to success?

The Multi-Million-Dollar Business Idea

Similar to many social enterprises that help communities in developing countries, the initial concept for Combat Flip Flops was born out of the founders’ personal experiences when they were living among the people they serve.

Lee and Griff were two Army Rangers stationed in Afghanistan where they experienced first-hand the people and culture of the war-torn country.

However, what they saw were not people waiting for a handout. Instead, they saw a community that embodied the virtues of persistence, creativity, and respect.

They saw hardworking people making combat boots and other army supplies to support their families and communities.

Then they realized that these workers would need a job after the war ends. They saw an opportunity to “manufacture peace through trade” and a business idea was born:

Combat Flip Flops would send veterans to countries affected by war, identify facilities that were established to manufacture tools for war and transform them to make commercial products that support peace.

They’d ship the products all over the world and create employment opportunities along the way.

Today, the company has factories in a few developing countries – creating employment opportunities and economic advancements in many underserved communities:

  • Their flip-flops are made in Columbia, where all the materials are sourced locally.
  • They use metal from landmines dropped in Laos during the Vietnam War to create jewelry. The revenue further funds landmine clearance to keep more people safe.
  • Their women-operated factories in Afghanistan make all the sarongs and scarfs sold on the website. Each piece puts an Afghan girl in school – an effort to battle the 15% illiterate rate among Afghan women.
  • They’re funding veteran missions overseas as well as clinical aid work – giving 2% of their bottom line to causes they support.

Unlike giving out aids and donations, Combat Flip Flops’ factories are creating long-term economic changes in the local communities. The business model gets to the root cause of poverty and creates a virtuous cycle of empowerment.

Related: How This Fashion Company Helps People Get Clean Water and Jobs

Learning Curve And Growing Pains

Taking an impact-driven startup off the ground is rarely a walk in the park. There are many moving parts and it can be quite challenging when all you have is a few thousand bucks and a simple website.

However, that didn’t hold Lee and Griff back.

Getting On the Radar With a Compelling Brand Story

Lee and Griff made their first sales at a trade show. They only had a night to prepare – barely enough time to get a website, a merchant account, and a bank account set up.

The event became the turning point for the company.

Making the most of what they’ve got, Lee and Griff attended the trade show and shared their compelling brand story with some bloggers who took photos of the products and posted them online.

They highlighted the story of how simply buying a pair of flip-flops can help people in underserved communities by creating jobs and putting them through school.

The business model was easy to explain and people’s immediate reaction was, “we wanna support that!”

From there, they sold thousands of pairs of flip-flops to consumers all over the world.

Make Products That Sell

As a for-profit social business, you need to generate a profit. Otherwise, you’ll be out of business before long and unable to make the social impact you set out to achieve.

That means you need to sell something that people want. Whether it’s a product or a service, you have to identify a market and create something your customers want to buy.

For Combat Flip Flops, their customers want high-quality and well-designed fashion items that also have a great story to tell. They want to feel good about their purchases by knowing that they’re helping communities in need.

Scaling the Company – the Power of Publicity and Team Work

A compelling brand story won’t generate sales if the world doesn’t know about it.

Lee and Griff designed a brand management campaign and had a clear target on which publications to pitch and how to direct their advertising budget.

They worked with a PR professional to help them promote their brand story and landed an interview with Gizmodo. The interview gave them the stage to share their story and a platform to introduce their products to the market.

A producer from Shark Tank saw the article and offered them a spot to pitch on the show.

The duo prepared well for the show and took that advantage to tell the company’s story.

They succeeded in building brand awareness and driving traffic to the website. However, they also learned the hard way that with a boost in publicity, they also had to make sure they have the infrastructure in place to support the increase in interest and the spike in traffic.

Nonetheless, the “Shark Tank effect” was real and they enjoyed a steady flow of traffic for months afterward.

In addition to the publicity, Combat Flip Flops grew from one distributor to a million-dollar company, thanks to its great team composed of dedicated individuals who know each member’s strengths.

Each member contributes his expertise to the company, such as networking, operations, business plan development, and design.

Lee and Griff roll up their sleeves and get into the trenches. All the partners are knee-deep in the business because everything is interconnected – from product design to logistics and marketing – one thing can affect many others and ultimately, sales.

Finding the Sweet Spot

As a startup, pricing your products and services can be quite a challenge – and Combat Flip Flops wasn’t spared such growing pain.

Having a social cause doesn’t make them immune to market forces. If anything, they need to be more diligent with their demand forecast because of the business’s mission to support the wide net of local communities.

Lee and Griff did the research, analyze market trends, and made adjustments based on their website metrics so everything fell in line with the industry standards.

The advantage of being a small company is their ability to pivot and turn on a dime to respond nimbly to the market.

They were able to optimize conversion rates, maximize revenues, and fine-tune ad spending to increase their ROI.

Combat Flip Flops experienced a 450% increase in their annual revenue recently. But they also invested substantially in inventory and infrastructure to get there so they just broke even.

To make the business profitable, Lee and Griff had to find out which products were making money using existing data and creating forecasts. They cut out products that were losing money and brought in more winners so they can come out ahead.

Now they can accurately forecast their demand and make sure their supply chain is set up to meet the needs of the market while supporting the communities involved in the manufacturing process.

Combat Flip Flops is a great example of how a social venture can generate a profit and deliver profound social impact at the same time.

It follows the “multiple bottom line” concept that works well for many social enterprises.

Lessons For Startup Change Creators On Creating Profit and Progress

Here are a few lessons you can glean from the company’s success and apply it to your own social business startup:

combat flip flips change creator


Travel to learn about the world and your market.

Traveling gives you the opportunity to learn about the world. You can get inspired by your travel experience and turn it into a business idea that can help a community.

Spend time in the communities you want to serve.

Spending time in the community you want to serve allows you to understand their culture, environment, resources, and economic reality – information that will help you structure a sustainable venture that benefits those who are most in need.

Share your mission with everyone.

Share your mission with the world. Tell a compelling brand story that takes your product beyond “commodity” and turns customers into evangelists to further your cause.

Don’t hold back until you are ‘ready’. Move forward now.

Take every opportunity you can and make the most out of it. Don’t hold yourself back just because you don’t have all the bells and whistles in place.

Generate the right kind of publicity for your products.

Generate the right kind of publicity for your products. Keep putting yourself out there and you never know who may see your article or interview!

Be prepared. When an opportunity comes, you’ll want to be ready!

Be prepared. When you come to the opportunity to promote your brand, make sure your infrastructure – such as website and shopping cart – are set up to handle the increased traffic.

Build a strong team.

Build a team of dedicated individuals who share your vision and understand each other’s strengths. If you are looking to fund your idea, investors will look at your team and ask: Can I see this team executing this vision? If not, what areas of your team do you need? Can you hire someone else? Get advisors?

Know the metrics that matter.

Analyze your website metrics to find the sweet spot in pricing, ad spend, and other marketing activities. Don’t waste time tracking metrics that do not matter to your brand, or company right now. Get to know how to read the reports, and how to make smart marketing choices.

Stay on top of market trends.

Stay on top of market trends and forecast demand so you can effectively manage your supply chain, sell products your customers want, and implement the right promotion strategies.

Get involved in the operations of the business so you know how your business works.

Get involved in the operations of the business and understand how all the moving parts affect each other and ultimately, sales. Keep an eye on the revenue as well as the profit – you’ll have to invest in inventory and infrastructure to grow but you also need to make sure they’re paying off.

What’s your million-dollar idea for an impact-driven business? How will you turn it into reality?

If you like this article you might want to check out our full interview with the Combat Flip Flops foundersListen to the Full Interview Here

How To Choose a Social Enterprise Idea That Will Fire Up Your Life

If starting a for-profit social venture seems quite daunting, you’re not alone. That’s why it is our mission to keep giving you inspiration. How to choose a social enterprise idea that will fire up your life? Read here to figure this out and get solving the world’s problems through business!

There are many aspects to consider. Not only your business idea needs to be commercially viable but it also has to deliver a meaningful social impact that’s sustainable.

Most successful social ventures are grounded in the founders’ visions, have a memorable brand story built on their missions, and are structured to deliver impactful social changes in the communities they serve.

Choose a Social Enterprise Idea that Works for You

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to what constitutes a “good” social enterprise idea. It all depends on you and those you want to serve.

Here are some criteria to help vet your ideas and find the winning formula:

Your Passion, Talents, Strengths, And Experiences

When you’re in the startup mode, you’d likely be rolling up your sleeves, putting in the hours, and wearing many hats.

If you’re not passionate about your mission and the community you serve, the business could easily turn into a grind and you’d no longer be motivated to stick with it.

When a business idea taps into your (and your team members’) talents, strengths and experiences, you’d have a better chance and an easier time to take it off the ground.

Consider your natural skills and abilities, as well as your formal training and education, to see how they fit into the big picture.

Your social enterprise business idea should be motivated by your vision and passion while being powered by your talents, strengths, and experiences.

Related: What Are The Unique Challenges of Starting a Social Enterprise?

Your Assets, Network, and Environment

It takes a lot to start a business and you should leverage as much help as you can get. What do you have at your disposal that can make things go smoother?

What resources do you have access to? Who do you know that can put you in touch with the right people?

These connections may not be immediately obvious so it pays to build relationships with a wide variety of people. Don’t be shy about sharing your vision!

In addition, your business idea should allow you to create a work environment that matches your personality type.

According to Holland’s Theory, you’ll have greater success and derive more satisfaction out of your career in a work environment that supports your personality type.

The Market

Unlike non-profit organizations, a for-profit social enterprise needs to generate revenue and make a profit to stay in business.

In short, you need to define who will be paying for your products or services and how to position your offering so it’s appealing to them.

Just like any marketing activity, you need to define the problem or challenge you’re solving and understand what’ll motivate your customers to purchase from you.

In addition, what distinguishes your product or service from others in the market and why would your customer want to buy from you?

Many social entrepreneurs incorporate the social impact of the businesses into their brand stories to set themselves apart while building brand loyalty.

Does your business idea tell an intriguing story that appeals to your ideal customers?

The Cause

Obviously, as a social entrepreneur, you have a cause you want to support.

If you’re starting out with a broad-stroke approach to a cause, you may need to refine it and give it a specific focus – e.g., by giving it a spin so it’s relevant to your market or tailoring it to the community you serve.

You should feel strongly about the cause behind your business. This personal drive will help you stay grounded when you’re pulled in a hundred different directions and keep motivated when things get tough.

Examine your business ideas and identify the one(s) that are most in alignment with your cause.

The Project’s Viability

Great ideas are just ideas until they’re put into action.

When you evaluate business ideas, consider the ease of implementation and the potential profit it can generate.

To build a sustainable for-profit social venture, it’s important to evaluate its potential to turn around a profit – not simply revenue.

What’s the cost of bringing the product to market (e.g., R&D, manufacturing, logistics)? How much do you need to invest in promoting the business? How long will it take for revenue to surpass these expenses – and do you have enough funding to reach that point?

How much is the initial investment and what are your options to secure the funding?

Shortlist a few business ideas and write up a business plan for each. The process will help you get a bird’s eye view of all aspects of the business, including competitive analysis, risk assessment, operations, and financials.

Sustainable Social Impact

Last, but definitely not least, your business idea needs to be relevant to the community you serve.

Successful social enterprises create sustainable impacts. They solve immediate problems for underserved communities while empowering them to thrive so they can become economically independent.

Unlike many non-profit or charitable organizations, which tend to focus on aids and donations, for-profit social ventures emphasize on generating economic activities that not only provide employment but also allow revenues to be reinvested into the local communities and create a virtuous cycle.

Does your business idea solve a pressing problem faced by the community you want to serve? Does it encourage employment and skill training at the local level? Does your business model allow for revenue to be reinvested into the local economy?

Finding the Sweet Spot For Your Impact-Driven Business

Your social business represents a convergence of your values, beliefs, convictions, talents, skills, experiences, your market, and the community you want to serve.

The sweet spot for your social enterprise is where all these factors overlap.

Nailing the winning business idea may take some time and effort but it’ll be worth it when you find the sweet spot that allows you to create a profitable and impactful social venture.

What business ideas get you excited?

To learn more about starting a social business we recommend you check out – The Beginners Guide to Starting a Social Business.

11 Impact Business Models New Entrepreneurs Need to Know About!

change creator social enterprise

If you have a desire to work with underserved communities and promote sustainability along the way, starting a social business will give you the opportunity to get involved with the people you want to serve at a grassroots level.

What are the unique challenges of starting a social enterprise? That’s a good question. Is it like other kinds of businesses? Or more like a non-profit? What makes starting a social good business that much more difficult than a typical for-profit business model?

That’s what we are examining today.

Can you make a living and change the world?

It’s becoming easier to help more people, change the world, and make a living at the same time through social businesses, which are set up such that communities can get the help and resources they need, in a way that works for the local culture and environment.

The business models of many social enterprises ensure that profits are reinvested back into the communities and funding is directed to those who need it most.

However, it takes more than a product or a business model to start a social venture.

At the root of any successful social business is the founder’s vision and desire to serve a community that he/she cares about.

The Unique Challenges of Starting a Social Enterprise

One of the unique challenges many social entrepreneurs face is coming up with a business idea that’s exciting for them, speaks to their passions, and is profitable in the long run.

Meeting these challenges also led to many innovative ideas for social enterprises that are inspiring and game-changing.

For most social entrepreneurs, the birth of a business often comes about as a result of living among the people their businesses aim to serve and allowing their passion to take shape organically.

For example, Maggie Doyne was working with Nepalese refugees in Northeast India when she discovered her passion for working with children, which later evolved into her foundation, BlinkNow.

But she didn’t go from having an idea to creating a foundation overnight. She took baby steps – specific actions that were focused and not overly complicated – and allowed her idea to take shape so she could recruit partners and realize her vision.

Another unique challenges of starting a social enterprise is coming up with a business model that’s sustainable and profitable without compromising their vision.

The key is to combine your passion with sound business concepts. Get inspiration from other social enterprises, see what works, and apply the ideas to your venture. Remember, it’s all about solving a social problem first, the business plan, the growth, everything entrepreneurial will come second.

Related: Download Change Creator Magazine to get in depth strategies and insights from some of the best impact entrepreneurs on the planet 

Social Enterprise Business Model Ideas

Each social enterprise has its unique vision and audience. We’ve grouped these business ideas into larger themes to help you focus on their commonalities and underlying principles rather than the specifics of the individual ventures. Many of them can start off as a small business, then expand as the market demands, so if you’re just starting out, you will still want to think about the type of social enterprise you want to have moving forward.

1. Products With “Dual-Markets”

If you have a product that can solve a problem for people in both developed and developing countries, you can leverage the commercial component of selling the item in the developed world and subsidize the initiatives in the developing countries.

For example, Gavin Armstrong’s Lucky Iron Fish is designed as a convenient and cost-effective way to solve health issues caused by iron-deficiency, which is common in both developed and developing countries.

The website has an eCommerce store that sells its products to consumers in the US, UK, Canada, Europe, and Australia. With the profits from the store, Lucky Iron Fish can continue to work with local partners in developing countries and make sure the product reaches those in need.

The company also has a prominent “Give Lucky Iron Fish” section on the website where customers can donate the iron fish to families in need.

2. Buy One, Give One

The beauty of this model lies in its simplicity. Whenever a consumer purchases a product, a similar item will be given to someone in need.

The model can be easily explained to customers and it can be applied to a wide range of products – from TOMS (shoes) to Warby Parker (glasses), Lucky Iron Fish, and Mealshare (food).

This model, however, isn’t without its critics as it often fails to address the root cause of poverty or undermines local producers.

As a response, social enterprises are “souping up” their BOGO initiatives to deliver a more profound local impact:

  • Source the “give one” items locally to support communities in need by creating employment opportunities.
  • Charge a small fee for the “give one” item, empowering beneficiaries by changing them from a dependent to a responsible consumer.
  • Use the proceeds of the “give one” item to fund local initiatives that alleviate poverty.
  • Partner with local businesses or organizations to deliver the “give one” items.

What kind of sustainable development goal is your impact business trying to solve? Thinking about the big reason WHY you are doing this business in the first place can help you decide on your model? If your business model doesn’t help the local community you are trying to help, and the sustainable development goal, perhaps it is time to rethink your model from the beginning.

3. Marketplace To Facilitate Commerce

You don’t have to produce a product to become a social entrepreneur.

You can create a marketplace to connect consumers with items produced by artisans in communities you want to help.

This model gives access to consumers to ethically produced goods that are unique and of high quality, while allowing craftsman to get a fair reward for their work and educating the public about the culture in other parts of the world.

In addition, you can donate the proceeds from the sales to charities in need. For example, Society B gives to Action Against Hunger and Kids In Need Foundation.

Such marketplace model can also be used to support local producers such as independent farmers who are often at a disadvantage since they don’t have the bargaining power of Big Foods.

FoodConnect in Australia connects consumers with seasonal and ecological produce and food items from local farmers.

Today’s technology allows for easy coordination of logistics and deliveries, making it feasible for fresh local produce to reach more people at a reasonable cost.

4. Fair Trade Products

Consumers are becoming more conscious about the origins of the items they purchase and many are looking for fair-trade, responsibly sourced products made from conflict-free materials.

These socially conscious items are produced in a better working environment than their counterparts (e.g., with increased wages and better safety) while being sold at a reasonable price.

These social businesses are often based in the communities where the craftsman, artisans, or farmers live to make sure most of the proceeds from the sales are reinvested into the local community.

For example, Rachel Faller’s zero-waste fashion line tonlé brings together craftsmanship and the latest in fashion. Its products are reasonably priced and appeal to a global clientele.

5. Access To Natural Resources And Other Basic Needs

Today’s technology makes it very affordable to deliver natural resources such as clean water and solar power to communities in developing countries at low cost.

If you have a knack for tinkering and inventing, you can find opportunities everywhere!

There are many social enterprises hard at work in making sure those in need have access to these resources:

  • org brings safe water and sanitation to communities through access to small, affordable loans. When people have access to safe water, they have time to go to school, earn an income, and take care of their families.
  • Soma sells beautifully designed water filter. For every water filter sold, they donate to charity: water projects.
  • Husk Power is a rural empowerment project that creates a self-sustaining ecosystem in the villages it serves, enabling economic development along with environmental protection, physical wellbeing, and strengthening of the rural communities.
  • Smart Solar Box is a program that teaches users how to build a power-producing device at home for less than $200.
  • Environfit, founded by Ron Bills, offers a global product line of clean cooking technologies that cook faster while reducing fuel use, smoke, and toxic emissions.

6. Sustainability-Focused Products Or Services

Besides economic advancement for underserved communities, sustainability is another important component of social entrepreneurship.

There are many ways to promote an environmental cause through social businesses and here are some examples:

  • Help people in your community recondition batteries to reduce toxic wastes and save money.
  • Start a business constructing affordable homes with shipping containers either at home or abroad. These houses can provide shelter to the homeless, people affected by natural disasters, or battered women in need of temporary residence.
  • Become a community event planner to connect local businesses or a digital event planner to work with social businesses all over the world. You can specialize in events that support the causes you’re passionate about, generate revenue with sponsorship, and use the proceeds to help charitable organizations of your choice.
  • Start a sustainable, ethical online clothing company that reduces waste!

7. Microlending

Microlending, made possible by the widespread use of the Internet, has become a popular social enterprise business model.

It allows entrepreneurs in the developing world access to loans they’d otherwise be unable to obtain so they can start a small business and sustain themselves.

Microlending institutions help administer such lending for humanitarian purposes and ensure that the money is being put to good use.

These organizations, such as Kiva, allow lenders to choose categories or borrowers they want to support. Lenders will get updates on their loans and later see the amount, plus interest repaid to their accounts.

The use of data allows microlending organizations to select borrowers with a high likelihood of repaying the loans. In fact, Kiva boasts a 97% loan repayment rate.

Lenders often get a return that’s higher than putting money in a traditional savings or CD account. They can fund a portfolio of many dozens of microloans to help disperse the risk.

8. Social Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding has become a popular way for many social enterprises to get seed money without having to go through the lengthy process of obtaining VC funding or loan application.

If you’re passionate about helping other social entrepreneurs realize their dreams, you can start a crowdfunding platform dedicated to helping social businesses, such as Alex Budak’s Start Some Good.

Besides access to supporters, social crowdfunding platforms can assist social enterprises by offering resources and access to additional funding opportunities.

9. Sourcing And Skill Training

You don’t have to be inventing social good products to make an impact.

In fact, many of these products already exist, yet they don’t get to the intended communities due to the lack of distribution systems and proper training.

If you have a talent in organizing logistics and training workforce, you can make a big impact by sourcing several social good products (e.g., clean cookstoves, affordable power solutions) and provide training to underemployed groups in a community to sell the products on a commission basis.

Livelyhoods uses a hub-and-spoke distribution model, with branches in slum communities that serve as training centers and inventory stock points.

In addition, it uses a micro-consignment and door-to-door distribution model to provide women and young people with a low-risk way to earn an income while making social good products available to the community.

10. Educational Travel

If you love to connect with different local communities and share your passion for traveling, consider starting a travel company that focuses on providing an intercultural learning experience and a positive social impact on the local communities.

For example, Evoluzion Travel partners with local communities to ensure that tourism revenue goes directly to guides and local entrepreneurs. They also work with grassroots organizations in the destinations to support community development projects.

They support the local economy by using local transportation, staying at local hotels, buying crafts and products from local artisans, and designing authentic travel experiences that promote cultural exchange.

11. Virtual “Assembly Line”

Outsourcing is everywhere in our society, but what if you can facilitate outsourcing while having a social impact?

That’s what Cloud Factory does. The company provides skill training to underserved populations in specific programming tasks and then create an “assembly line” that can put together a product or project, e.g., a website, in a way that’s faster, cheaper, and with a higher quality standard than conventional outsourcing.

Local workers not only receive job training but also have access to employment with higher wages than they would normally receive doing menial work.


As you can see, a social enterprise can take on many shapes and forms – it’s only limited by your passion and imagination!

There’s a world of possibilities when you connect the global society with local communities.

The success recipe for many of these ventures is sensitivity to the environment and culture of the local community. We can no longer just take what we think is “right” in the Western culture and impose it on other communities.

It’s important to do your homework and understand how a specific product or service can fit into the context to deliver the desired outcomes, as well as how it contributes to the continued growth of the community by investing resources into solving the root cause of the challenges.

It all starts with solving a social problem. What problem are you going to solve through business? What’s your big idea?

Now that you know the challenges, you might want to learn how to start a social business. We recommend you check out, The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Social Business.