Social enterprise (n.): a business that directly addresses a social need either through its products and services or through the people it employs

Have you ever bought Girl Scout Cookies? Donated an old TV to Goodwill? Noshed on some Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream? Or spritzed some Downy Wrinkle Release on your shirt as you’re sprinting out the door? Then you already know a bit about social enterprise: a growing, worldwide movement of businesses that exist to change the world for the better. A social enterprise is a business that addresses social problems, improve communities, people’s life chances, or the environment. This might sound like a charity, but social enterprises are businesses. They make and do things that earn money and make profits like any business.

It is HOW they work and WHAT they do with their profits that are different: working to make a bigger difference, reinvesting the profits they make to do more good. They do this in lots of different ways: creating jobs for people who would otherwise be left out; reinvesting profits in community projects; protecting the environment, providing vital services for people who might not get them otherwise.

It’s this combination of doing business and doing good that makes social enterprise one of the most exciting and fast growing movements in this country and across the world.

To learn more, scroll down to see the answers of commonly asked questions.

What makes a social enterprise a social enterprise?

All social enterprises have these traits:

  • They were set up with specifically to make a difference
  • Aim to generate their income by selling goods or services rather than grants and donations
  • Puts at least half of any profits back into making a difference
  • Covers its own costs in the long term
  • Pays reasonable salaries to its staff

These traits form the balance between an ethical business and a charity. Many people see the future full of social enterprises because of this healthy balance. Through “buying social”, we show that we believe in companies that put people and the planet first. Learn more about Cincinnati social enterprises and their work to make our community better.

What is the difference between a social enterprise and an ethical business?

It is all about the difference of their missions. A social enterprise’s mission is to help the community, and therefore, they try to maximize their amount of social good it created with the money that it has. An ethical business works to make a profit for its stakeholders and attempts to minimize its negative impact on society or the environment in the process.

Where can I find Greater Cincinnati social enterprises?

We have a list of local Cincinnati social enterprises on our Buy Social! page. Check it out!

How can I get involved?

If you are interested in joining our mission, check out our Connect page. We have all the supplies needed to show your support and to stay connected.

Where can I get advice on starting up a social enterprise?

Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub is Cincinnati’s social enterprise support system. They offer training on how to design a social enterprise…and how to manage one well once you have it up and running.. Check out their website, flywheelcincinnati.org to learn more and connect with them.