Social enterprises – thinking of a career change?

Helen Oparinde, Development Officer in VAL’s Sector Support team, examines the option of setting up a social enterprise as part of your own plans for the recovery phase of COVID-19.

Maybe you have been furloughed for a few weeks and have been using your time to volunteer as part of the COVID-19 response. Or maybe you’re working from home, or have recently been made redundant as part of the economic fallout of the pandemic.

It’s given you an insight to your local community more – albeit from a socially distant perspective. Perhaps you don’t fancy going back to the commute routine. Or that role that didn’t give you job satisfaction. Or you are not sure what employment opportunities you can access post-redundancy.

You want to do something that provides you an income but at the same time has a social purpose that benefits the community you now feel more part of, setting up a social enterprise might be for you.

Characteristics of a social enterprise

The characteristics of a social enterprise, as described in Social Enterprise UK’s guide, includes generating the majority of your income through trade and reinvesting the majority of profits rather than being primarily set up for owner or shareholder value. A social enterprises is accountable and transparent by having a board of directors that is legally accountable for the organisation’s social mission as well as its financial performance.

Key to success

The key to success of a social enterprise is that you have a product or service that someone is willing to pay for. Be that a private individual or a public service organisation that procures a service through a commissioning process.

You will need to create a social enterprise business model – one that combines social impact and profit creation. The Dragonfly Collective has carried out some research with Cass Business School to produce a toolkit, which offers 17 business model types and a seven-step process to business model design.

Once you have the model in place, then you can select a legal structure to run your social enterprise such as a community interest company or a community benefit society.

You might need to access some social investment along the way to provide income for capital purchases or working capital. Good Finance has a diagnostic tool which helps you decide whether social investment is right for your organisation.

Now you are ready to promote and sell your service or product. Facebook Blueprint is a partnership with MediaTrust and Facebook to help the VCSE sector by providing an e-learning pathway covering the fundamentals of advertising with Facebook and Instagram.

If your social investment idea will aim to provide support to the communities of Leicester City and Leicestershire then you can access free support from VAL to help you with the steps to key to success described above. Just send us a message. If using our online contact form use support for your organisation in the reason for contact drop down box.

Get support from VAL

If you are a charity or community group and you need additional support to deliver services during the pandemic, VAL is here to help.

We can offer advice on issues that affect charities, from fundraising to proper governance and managing volunteers.

You get can in touch via:
0116 257 5050

Helen Oparinde

Helen Oparinde is a Development Officer for VAL as part of the Voluntary Sector Support team. Helen is an expert in charity governance and provides face-to-face and telephone advice to local charities and community groups. You can contact Helen at