Social Enterprise in Focus : Who gives a crap? Australia

We’ve mentioned them before, and we’ll talk a bit more about them this time.

who gives a crap? is a social enterprise in Australia who sells toilet roll. Yes, toilet roll. They have a fitting name, an excellent mission and if you keep an eye on their social media sites, some hilarious marketing. They’ve since spread their operations to the U.S. and the U.K., and we hope to see their products in a supermarket near us all very soon.

They’re a great example of the triple bottom line, and deliver an interesting operation with elements of both the integrated and external social enterprise models:

People – with more people having mobile phones than toilets, they recognised the problem in in worldwide sanitation. Their mission is to reduce the -roughly- 40% of people who don’t have access to a toilet and improve the health and wellbeing of these people.

Planet – all the materials they source are forest friendly or recycled. This means they significantly reduce their carbon footprint and yours too – think about how many trees you flush down the toilet.

Profit – they donate 50% of their profits to partners also working in the field of sanitation- currently WaterAid and Sanergy.

If you want to find out about their more recent impact and good work – check out their ‘crap update‘. Otherwise, pop to their web shop and stock up on some toilet paper.

Social Enterprise in Focus : BAM Essentials, U.S.A

This week, whilst browsing LinkedIn, we came across some very useful (and free) tools and resources for social entrepreneurs at socialgoodimpact.com. So check them out! They were posted by Beth Palm who is also the founder of BAM Essentials, a social enterprise that produces organic personal care products benefiting programs for young women from disadvantaged backgrounds in Minnesota. We caught up with Beth to find out more.
How did BAM Essentials start and where is it today?

I’d been creating organic personal care products for friends and family for years, and started getting more interest in where people could buy these items. I wrote a business plan and vetted partners for about a year before formally launching in May 2015 with an online shop and 4 SKUs. Now BAM Essentials has over 30 SKUs, is sold on two online platforms, and 4 retail shops in Minnesota.

What legal entity did you choose for BAM Essentials and why?
BAM Essentials is an LLC, and I chose that legal structure because even though this would qualify as a nonprofit, I didn’t want the loss of control and red tape of nonprofit operations when starting my self-funded business. I’m happy to pay taxes on my profitable social enterprise, and have full control of reinvesting in the social enterprise where I see it’s the best. I wanted to leverage an existing network of supporters and expertise at a nonprofit organization, rather than start from scratch.

Can you give us an idea of one of the challenges you face at the moment?
One of our largest challenges is the competitive landscape and low barriers to entry in the personal care product market. It’s tough to stand out in a crowded marketplace!

Finally, what would be the piece of advice you offer to social entrepreneurs at the beginning of their journey?
My number one most important piece of advice to budding social entrepreneurs is to WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN. The social enterprises I’ve seen fail do so because they don’t have a business plan and/or don’t run their social enterprise with a profitable mindset.

__________________________________________________________________________________________
So perhaps you have a hobby or a skill that you think could grow into a social enterprise. Check out her tools or drop us a message and we can work on taking it to the next level, just like Beth did!

Social Enterprise in Focus : Ghana Bamboo Bikes, Ghana

You may read about the blue economy. The main goal is to source solve problems through what is available locally, without creating waste. This social enterprise from Ghana did just that.

Grown in Ghana, used in Ghana

With seven native species of bamboo locally, Ghana Bamboo Bikes has taken this readily available material and turned it into a social and environmental solution. They build and sell bikes as well as run a bike academy.

Socially, they create employment by first training people, most often women and some areas with a focus on youth, in how to assemble the bikes. Some of these individuals are employees whilst others have the chance to open their own bike shop anywhere in the country.

Meanwhile, on an environmental level they employ ten farmers to manage their bamboo plantations. Bamboo is as an alternative for existing fuel sources which can improve local forests and reduce soil erosion.

With one material they are doing so much for their country, you can read more about their impact here.

Your turn

Now think about what you have locally. Is there something growing in abundance that can be used to replace something man-made? There are lots of examples on the blue economy website so have a look and learn more.

Social Enterprise in Focus : Pana, Albania

We were recently at #Impact2018, a conference in Zagreb, Croatia sharing the regional heroes and heroins in social entrepreneurship, impact investing and corporate social responsibility. As part of this conference, a few social entrepreneurs got the chance to pitch their idea, and Pana‘s story stuck with us, so we thought we would catch up with Pezana to find out more.

There’s a special story behind Pana – can you tell us how the social enterprise started and what inspired you?

Everything started 5 years ago in my home town Tirana. A mix of events were happening in my personal life. Working with orphans and children with disabilities made me understand that projects don’t change their lives, but a profession CAN! My father was a mechanical engineer and he had golden hands. He was able to produce anything with wood. After he retired he wanted to give his knowledge to others, but most of the people look at those retired as not being able to work. As an architect, I saw the gap in the market of unique design furniture, since most of the actual products come from China and Italy and are not tailor-made. There was also a problem in two different areas – losing the heritage of carpenters and also a drop in Albanian manufacturing. In April 2013, Pana was created as a result of all these factors, by taking part in a competition for green ideas and social enterprise organized by an Albanian organization, where surprisingly we won the first place. This was our way to bring Pana to life.

What are Pana’s plans for the next five years?

This is a very tricky question and actually very important. As most of you know, Albania is a very small country and of course has limited resources when it comes to such a niche product like ours. In fact, we do have a lot of orders and usually our clients wait for 2-3 months to get their products, but still this is not enough for us. Our products have totally another monetary value in European countries. Today we sell our product in Albania with lower prices than they should be sold, due to the capacity of Albanians of paying. That’s why we want to expand to other European countries so we can give a real value and price to our products, an element that would help us to grow the number of employees and the value that Albania as a country can have in the European community. So we are working hard in different directions to expand the production and begin to sell our products internationally. Our big dream is to sell our products outside Albania, we see it as the only way to manage to have a bigger impact, a bigger impact on the clients, and to bring the Albanian name to the foreign market. What is more important is having more family members, as the people we are working with are not just employees but part of the big family of Pana.

As a social enterprise, how do you balance your triple bottom line of people, planet and profit?

Pana is only about that, making a balance between the social and ecological mission. Its one of the few cases where both the impacts are equally as important and take the same weight inside the enterprise. Profit is only a mechanism to make the whole structure work. For us, it’s important only to make the structure work properly, living in a country like Albania where the social and ecological part is not something important for our clients, has made us work very hard to have the stability that we do have today (economical). Most of our clients don’t even want to know with whom we are working and what are we saving, that’s why our work and value is underestimated, but this has been another fight for us to educate our clients. We do work hard as just another enterprise that is trying to gain some points in the chaotic Albanian market, but in the mean time to have the balance between social and ecological. During those 5 years we have trained more than 70 people to become carpenters, because for us it doesn’t matter if they are going to work with us, for us it matters for them to have a profession. The family of Pana is so diverse you can find people from 19 years until 73, those coming from Roma community, orphans, retired, returned emigrants, people with disabilities, the list goes on, but we all work together with the same mission and vision.

What’s the current state of social entrepreneurship in Albania and how are you a part of developing it?

Things are going very slowly; and I know the reason why. It looks like there is no collaboration between different entities in Albania. The government is not there to help and manage to give a hand to the new startups and the ecosystem is very aggressive. It’s now an organized market which makes things go wrong sometimes, not because of the entrepreneur but because of corruption, high taxes, lack of financial support and even training. There are some entities trying to make a change, but even the entrepreneurs are very sporadic. There’s a whole generation that is missing the desire to create new things and this could be because the education system is not supporting them to become entrepreneurs. There is a lot of work to be done. In my case, wherever there is a possibility to inspire and give my knowledge, I do it, of course if they gave me the opportunity to make more I would have loved to do it, but until now this is not the case. I am doing my best in the Albanian conditions.

What advice you would give to wannabe social entrepreneurs around the world?

Being a social entrepreneur its one of the most difficult things in life (at least for me) , but when it goes right then the result is outstanding. If you like difficulties and adventure take this trip, it’s a life-changing experience for you and the people that you are trying to change. Besides how hard it is, I can continue forever like this, as Mother Theresa said once: It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.


A very honest and informative interview from Pana, and one that many of us can relate to. How collaborative are the government in your country? The need for strong cross-sector relationships can ensure social entrepreneurship expands and succeeds, however many people working in the ministry of education or work don’t know much about what social entrepreneurship is. We try to change this through holding lectures and workshops, and if you’re a social entrepreneur, offer your knowledge too!

Social Enterprise in Focus : Ginerosity, Scotland

The great thing about social enterprise is we can find examples of it all over the world, supporting different social or environmental goals, yet in different models. You may remember ‘Who gives a crap?’ and their model donated to other social enterprises as part of their commitment to reinvest profits. This month we have another unique social enterprise model – meet Ginerosity, a Scottish social enterprise which, you guessed it, sells gin! We caught up with Colin to find out more:

Tell us a bit about Ginerosity in terms of what you do and where the idea came from.

Ginerosity is the world’s first social enterprise gin. Its mission is to support young adults into education, training and employment.

Produced by the award-winning Pickering’s Gin, Ginerosity launched in Edinburgh in November 2016, quickly attracting acclaim for its delicious gin and praise for its social enterprise aims.

Working across the UK, we have supported young adults to volunteer overseas with the charity Challenges Worldwide and attain respected business qualifications from the Chartered Management Institute. We have recently taken on one of the very people we helped fund to do their CMI qualification.

Comprising the board of Spirits for Good CIC (the legal structure for social enterprise in the UK) are Chris Thewlis, social entrepreneur and board member of Social Enterprise Scotland; David Moore, drinks industry and export specialist, chief executive of Flavourly.com, and Director of Craft Beer Clan of Scotland and Fusion Whisky Limited; Marcus Pickering and Matt Gammell, co-founders of award-winning Pickering’s Gin; and Dave Mullen, Executive Creative Director at marketing agency Story UK.

Ginerosity is a beautifully balanced London Dry gin that is both accessible and complex. It’s produced with 10 ethically sourced botanicals (juniper, coriander, angelica, lemon, lime, orange, lemon myrtle, heather, cardamom and cloves) and makes for a sublime G&T (garnish with mint). Tasting Notes: Fresh, light and bold flavours of citrus and juniper give way to sweetness with a subtle hint of peppery spice, with a crisp dry finish.

How is the social enterprise scene in the UK generally?

Very healthy and growing! There is increasing awareness of what social enterprises are, helped by membership organisations such as Social Enterprise UK and Social Enterprise Scotland. But more and more so, it’s because people want business and industry to be a positive presence if their lives, and to benefit their communities – our society – rather than private shareholders. This is reflected in the huge growth in the number of social enterprise businesses as well as the number of people directly or indirectly employed by them. Another contributing factor is that, crucially, the sector is well regulated and transparent.

You have an interesting social enterprise model (selling a product that has little to do with where your profits go), how does this work in practise, especially regarding deciding where your profits go and measuring this social impact?

We have appointed an independent panel of “Ginerosity champions” to direct our funding. These are 10 industry experts from fields as diverse as Scotch whisky distilling, law, dentistry, film-making, business consultancy, accountancy, hospitality, local government, etc.

We worked with Challenges Worldwide last year because the programme they offered had a far-reaching social impact, and as we continue that positive relationship we are also looking to work with other organisations to build our social impact among young adults across the UK.

We have also partnered with University of Edinburgh whose Dr Sarah Ivory is observing the business and is writing a social impact report so we can have an independent measure of our impact. This report will also be used as a case study at university, further supporting the education of young adults.

Many companies have growing CSR departments, would you encourage them to think about becoming a social enterprise instead and why OR WHY not?

Good question. We would certainly want to see more and more social enterprises, and if businesses change to reflect the growing demand for positive social aims then that can only be a good thing. But it’s not always possible and we respect that. Like private companies, social enterprises are also focused on maximising profits, but it’s for, ultimately, the social good. If a business has that philosophy, maybe it should consider restructuring, and certainly there are plenty of respected agencies and organisations who can support them. If a company is looking to simply gain some PR, it’s probably not for them.

What advice would you give to any wannabe social entrepreneur out there?

Just because you want to set up a social enterprise doesn’t mean you can ignore basic good business practise. In fact, there’s an argument that you should be even more focused and driven! Look at your costs, margins and operations. Develop a solid and realistic business plan. Consider issues such as media, marketing, trademarks, and health and safety. And take the advice and help that is out there. It’s a strong, vibrant and growing community and the majority of people are keen to help. Also, do try to enjoy it! Starting a business is hard work but it should also be rewarding emotionally! Lastly, at the end of the week, put your feet up and enjoy a well-deserved Ginerosity and tonic!

_______________________________________________________________________________________

We certainly know a few who do put their feet up and enjoy one or two, and not necessarily at the end of the week! A great read from Colin, demonstrating it’s all about mentality and approach. His comment about remembering or developing good business practise is key too. Time and time again we see social enterprises fail because they forget they’re there to make money, if you’re an NGO and have all the heart but not so much business prowess, get in touch and we can help you with this.

Social Enterprise in Focus : Dastadast, Iran

As part of our goal to showcase social enterprise from all around the world, we’re off to Iran this month, for a short interview with the team at Dastadast.

Give us a brief overview of what you do.

We founded Dastadast 4 years ago, becoming the first Iranian online non-profit social enterprise. We started with a small budget provided by Dastadast founders and can currently survive with small funds because we are volunteer-based. Our volunteers contribute their skills, time and knowledge to create change.

We run an online market for handicrafts made for individuals who don’t have fair access to market, including immigrants, villagers, women, youth who recently started working and the creators of traditional heritage crafts which are in danger of extinction.

What are your main goals and how do you achieve them?

The most important mission is to empower handcraft producers and we do this by selling their products online. One of the main intentions of Dastadast is the empowerment of women. Our social impact so far is that we currently cooperate with 400 women from 15 provinces of Iran. These make up approximately 90 percent of our producers.

 

In order to achieve this goal, we currently do the following:
•  Provide a vast market —  e.g., online and seasonal markets
•  Exclude large dealers
•  Introduce producers and giving them full control on prices
•  Cooperate with empowerment groups, rural cycles and environmental NGOs
•  Use professional designing to re-design the products and achieve higher quality

 

What is the current situation for social enterprise? what advice would you offer anyone who wants to become a social entrepreneur?

There is currently no model for social enterprise in Iran. This said, there are few groups who use social entrepreneurship to create impact. Entrepreneurs should be very patient and believe in their goal. They need to study and know the effects they may make and make sure the solutions they propose are according to sustainable development principles and do not cause any damage.
__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

This is another example of social enterprise developing in a place where social entrepreneurship is little known or developed. No matter where you live, there are always others trying to develop this field, so reach out, share ideas and help it grow.

Social Enterprise in Focus : Triciclos, Brazil

We love reading news about social enterprise and recently we shifted our attentions to what was happening in South America. This is where we came across Triciclos, a certified B-Corp social enterprise based in Brazil. They were set up in 2009 and offer a range of initiatives that support their triple bottom line efforts.

Triciclos aim to reduce waste and create circular economies. They do this by educating individuals and organisations about how to be more sustainable in their daily life. They work with large companies such as CocaCola, Walmart and Nestle to increase their impact as well as visiting schools to engage students in recycling.

Their environmental impact is phenomenal. They collect a range of materials to recycle, from places that didn’t have the opportunity to recycle before. Through their various processes, they recycle these materials, completing the cycle.

On top of this, they scored a whopping 135 in their BCorp certification process proving their commitment to their staff, community, environment and governance. Furthermore, they check the positive impact of any supplier they deal with.

They are growing across South America, now in Brazil and Chile. Initiatives like this are welcome all around the world where we see plastic, glass and rubbish spoiling nature and causing animal deaths.

 

 

Social Enterprise in Focus : Auara, Spain

We took a break from blogging in August. Now we’re back with a splash, quite literally, to talk to you about this social enterprise from Spain – Auara.

A twist from the traditional bottled water

‘The water with values’ has taken quite a huge step forward by placing itself as a social enterprise selling bottled water. Auara reinvests 100% of its dividends in providing safe drinkable water to those who need it as well as watching their environmental impact by using only bottles made from recycled plastic. The water itself is ‘homegrown’ from León in northwest Spain.

Furthermore, they don’t simply donate their profits to NGOs working in the field of safer water. Instead they involve themselves and work with local partners, providing them with co-financing. This way they can be there on the field, be a part of and see the social impact first hand. This allows them to be more confident and transparent when reporting to others.

Social and environmental impact

You may have heard that some companies are water grabbing or getting concessions on underwater reservoirs. Sometimes even underneath populations who don’t even have access to clean drinking water. Well here is a social enterprise working to provide everyone with access to that very thing. You can even stock their water if you want to or become an ambassador, so find out more on their ambassador page.

Social Enterprise in Focus : Electra Energy, Greece

Greece has been in the news far more than it probably wanted to over the past few years. Everyone knows about the beauty and history of the great country, however recently the focus has been on the economy and refugee crisis. In response to this, a number of initiatives have started, and the social enterprise sector has taken off. We managed to talk in-depth to Ignacio Navarro, general manager of the social co-operative Electra Energy, a Greek cooperative enterprise that focuses on the development of renewable energy social investments, aiming to produce, manage and commercialise renewable energy to it’s members and other communities.

Why and how did you start Electra Energy?

Back in 2016, the team of Electra worked together to set up investment plans for residents and farmers communities of the Region of Lamia (a rural town in Central Greece) aiming to replace their oil burning furnaces with biomass systems that burn leftover olive trees cuttings to produce heat and hot water. As a result of this promotion, the Municipality proposed the development of the first bio-energy school community of the Region, turning the old oil boiler into a biomass combustion unit, and engaging the local community to clean their forests and provide their feed-stock to the school. The project served as inspiration to the founding members in the ambition of setting up a legal enterprise and promote initial services, technical consultancy and networking.

Electra Energy was thus launched in September of 2016, and the main purpose is to create job opportunities through the promotion and development of collective investments on renewable energy. Electra forms part of an Eco-system of social enterprises related to the promotion of sustainable energy, and it is co-partner of the organization SEYN (Sustainable Energy Youth Network) a non profit organization established in Belgium, who act as a mentoring and educational body for new entrepreneurs interested on the promotion of sustainable energy transitions.

What legal form did you adopt and how does this help or hinder you?

In Greece there are many different cooperatives enterprises which operate under different frameworks and operational rules. Electra Energy Cooperative was launched as a “KoinSEp -Koinonikes Sindeteristikes Epixiriseis N4430/2016”, defined as an economic, business, productive and social activities undertaken by companies or associations, whose purpose is the pursuit of collective benefit and service general social interest.

Compared to other existing frameworks, this legal form is the most flexible and involves less financial and legal risks to its members, a fact that was crucial during the constitution since the founding members wanted to test the business approach by running the minimum cost and risks at least during the initial steps, and it was also the form requiring less amount of administrative work and time for it’s constitution.

What are the social and environmental goals that get funded through your profit?

Our goal is to find collective investments to develop and produce renewable energy in Greece, and to be able to be launched as an energy supplier to compete in the local markets, always aiming to the social added value of giving open membership, participation and support to new and existing members.

During the first ten months of operation, we have focused on community engagement, networking with potential stakeholders, and identifying project opportunities that align with the principles and objectives of the organization. Right now the cooperative is initiating the permiting process for a small wind turbine in North Greece and participating in the legal work to allow better legislation to allow an investment on solar self consumption for multiple tenants.

The cooperative aims it’s economical activity to grow and attract social investments based on the principle of “renewable energy as a common good”. A common is a shared resource managed by a community who create rules to make the resource durable. The resource cannot be monopolized by one or a group of individuals. We aim to create business models that preserves these principles while contributing to create innovative and smart products and services to improve the quality and efficient of the Greek energy market. Electra Energy business activity aims to be aligned with three basic principes of the cooperatives enterprises (International Cooperatives Alliance): Fair and Easy Access to Common Goods, Energy Tranition in the Hands of Citizens and Fair Supply.

How have you managed to cope through this difficult financial time?

First steps are never easy and specially for a new enterprise. We also find obstacles in working with public authorities and speeding up licensing processes for the development of first projects that could bring us income. Out of the 9 founding members, 4 are unemployed, only one is part time employed in the cooperative and all the rest work on volunteer basis. However, from the beginning we all planned a two year grace period until we expect any substantial incomes that could cover at least some full time jobs within the organization. We currently have support from a German social investor, a lady aware of the Greek situation who liked our model and ambition and decided to cover some of the operational expensive until the cooperative can become self sustainable from it’s activities.

What advice would you have for would-be social enterpreneurs?

If there is anything I had to choose to say to them, (it would be to) work with people you like, have fun doing what you do, even if the idea is full of risks, always ask for help and advice but most importantly, don’t listen to all advice. Taking risks is a part of the activity and social entrepreneurship is full of risks and unknown paths. We may find that sometimes people tell us that what we are aiming to do is not possible, but it is, so remember to be open to advice but, always learn to trust your gut.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

A special thanks to Ignacio for a very informative interview about Electra, providing us with a few links to find out more about commons and the International Co-operatives Alliance. Feel free to join the SEYN network as well if you are involved in the field of sustainable energy.