What Does It Mean To Be A Social Entrepreneur?

What Does It Mean To Be A Social Entrepreneur?

June 30, 2021

A revolutionary way to change the world of business 

Entrepreneurs and businesses worldwide are shifting their business approach to emphasize making a positive impact in the world. 

Whether socially or environmentally focused, more and more companies are incorporating social entrepreneurship into their business models.

What does this look like? Some companies will donate a certain amount from each product purchase to a charitable cause and some will donate products to others in need. A select few will pave a new road.

What is social entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurship is when individuals, groups, companies or entrepreneurs develop, fund, and implement solutions to a variety of issues, specifically social, cultural or environmental issues. 

This broad definition and concept have been applied over a wide range of groups, each who have their own beliefs and goals for the program(s). Funny enough, the social entrepreneurial range is so broad, it is difficult for professionals to decide on a definitive definition of the term.

Entrepreneurship becomes social when its social capital is transformed and utilized to impact society positively. 

A relatively new concept, first emerging in the 1980s, offers an altruistic form of entrepreneurship, focused on potential benefits to society. An altruistic person shows concern for the happiness and welfare of other individuals, not primarily themselves.

What is the difference between a for-profit entrepreneur and a social entrepreneur?

The biggest and most significant difference between the two is the end goal. 

A for-profit entrepreneur is a typical business venture, where performance is measured through business metrics like profit and revenues.

Social entrepreneurs can either be non-profits or a blend of for-profit.

What do I mean by this? 

A social entrepreneur following this blended for-profit route combines traditional for-profit business goals with generating a positive “return to society” or social impact. They are driven by the impact their operations can have on communities of interest.

Why is social entrepreneurship important?

Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the father of modern microcredit and founder of the Grameen Bank, is an excellent example of why social entrepreneurship is important and impactful. 

Microloans, and the broader microfinance industry, provide financial services to low-income or unemployed individuals who otherwise wouldn’t have any access to financial resources. 

Dr. Yunus

Dr. Yunus demonstrated this when he gave a loan of $27 to a group of 42 local women who were making mere pennies off their bamboo stools from their previous loans. They were forced into agreement

with their previous, predatory lenders due to a lack of financial alternatives, resulting in the women selling their stools for slightly higher than their cost of goods. With the $27 from Dr. Yunus, these women were able to purchase materials themselves, fully repay the loan and become successful businesswomen. 

The goal of social entrepreneurship efforts? 

To address the unmet social injustices and needs within communities that have been taken advantage of, overlooked, or restricted from accessing services, products, or even basic essentials that we are used to in North America.

A modern example of social entrepreneurial spirit is Canadian company Road Coffee’s founder and CEO, Alisha Esmail.

With her background in international development, she spent a lot of time hanging out at coffee and tea farms, meeting coffee farmers and their families. 

It was through this first-hand experience that she quickly learned of the systemic injustices and inefficiencies that keep coffee farmers in poverty. Visiting these farms and seeing how hard farmers are working, made it clear that they are being taken advantage of by those in power - and that things needed to change. 

How is Road Coffee a social entrepreneurial company?

In Road Coffee’s case, we are passionate about deepening relationships. Our passion for impacting the lives of smallholder farmers has led us across the world to meet and learn from coffee farmers.

We know our coffee farmers personally. We know the quality of their hand-picked beans. We innovate roasting techniques to bring out amazing flavours and aromas. We are the first to introduce BeyondFair (™), a way for farmers to capture more value, grow their business, and benefit the lives of their families and community. 

One of the ways we can help these farmers is by opening new markets for them. These farmers deserve to be empowered, rather than being oppressed by unnecessary middlemen and other people in power.

To clarify - this isn’t about giving handouts; it’s about giving farmers a “hand up”. Here’s the best part, we’ve designed this program so that each project continues to positively impact farms through their next harvest, allowing them to share equipment and knowledge with their neighbouring producers. It’s a ripple effect that lifts the burden of financial stress and allows their communities to grow and prosper.


Author Jordan Calladine