Who are social entrepreneurs exactly?

We’ve split them into three groups.

As the concept of social enterprise has grown and gathered pace over the past years, there has been an explosion in numbers of people starting their own.

Just as a social enterprise can be almost any business that already exists, a social entrepreneur can be anyone, however they often fall into three categories, each with their own strengths and experience to bring to the table.

NGO Leaders

With the ever-changing economical and political environments that we face, NGOs often find themselves second guessing how much grant or donor funding will be available. Add this to the long wait for project funds, in some case up to 12 months from submitting a work report, and suddenly NGOs face cash-flow problems that they shouldn’t really based on the great work they do.

This can often force innovation and a shift outside their comfort zone, as they identify where they could possibly generate income through trading which would then be used to enhance the work they do or at the very least provide cashflow for those months where you’re waiting for the funder to approve your interim report and release the funds!

Accidental social entrepreneur

These people started doing something for a bit of fun and sometimes for free, think of products like upcycled furniture, clay maps for the blind or high quality climbing equipment. Then people started asking if they could buy it. First it was their family, then friends of the family, and suddenly a few people they didn’t even know.

At this stage they realised the impact they could have and the income they could generate, and so had to suddenly enter the world of business. Often reluctant, most definitely accidental, their social enterprise began to be formalised and with strategical direction and decision making.

Passion entrepreneur

A number of people have worked in the same line of work for a decade or two, and whilst at first the rush and buzz of the 9–5 had them trapped, they slowly grew tired of this and dabbled in other things.

These other things may have included running art sessions for kids, cooking up plant based food for vegetarians or providing workshops to single mothers. Not too long after do these passion entrepreneurs realise they’d missed a trick, this is actually what will get them up in the morning.

They harness their earning income, save up for a period of time, use their transferrable skills and soon after start a social enterprise that focuses on their real passion, instead of their profession.


The fourth group that is gaining traction are the people who start purposely start social enterprises, having learnt about them at school, from their network or their own research. Let’s hope we see a shift in primary, secondary and tertiary education to ensure social enterprise becomes the norm, different from teaching in the 2000s where we were taught the only point of business is profit!

If you need help developing your idea or social enterprise, get in touch with us via our website.

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