By Stephen King, Founder at SocialBusiness.org
Starting a new business is difficult and that is no different for a social business or social enterprise. However, within the difficulty lies a silver lining of advantages for the social entrepreneur, which can come through better operating costs, labour, and marketing.
Socialbusiness.org is one of the leading online publications following social businesses around the globe, and as such, has seen countless examples of how social businesses have leveraged their social mission to enjoy benefits that a traditional business does not.
One of the simplest is in marketing, and TOMS Shoes is a great example. We have featured them numerous times on the site and their marketing message is pretty simple: buy one pair of shoes and another pair will be given to someone in need. That message is pretty hard to compete against if you are selling an ordinary pair of shoes at the same price, and thus, their shoes are doing well, having recently expanded into TOMS Eyewear. This one-for-one model is growing in popularity, as it is easy for the customer to understand and for the business to set-up, and we have a gallery of articles on our site showcasing these great social businesses.
A key part of any business is the people and social businesses often need a wealth of people-power to deliver their services to both rural and urban communities. With social businesses, you can often leverage the charity aspect of your business to get volunteers—yes, free labour! When you are delivering a great food program like FoodCycle, in locations all across England, you need help. Any restaurant takes lots of staff to run, and FoodCycle manages to run many of them across the country using food surplus—400,000 tons of it—and unused professional kitchens. With the majority of the staff coming through volunteers, it helps to keep the costs low and enables the food to reach more communities.
There are a growing number of companies that are finding it cheaper do the same thing as a big company, although at a lower cost while making the world a better place. GnewtCargo deliver parcels emissions-free for the last mile in London, and they can do this with no fuel costs, less expensive maintenance and no congestion charges. This can make them cheaper than the big guy in diesel trucks. Although it might seem like a paradox at first, social businesses are finding ways to lower operating cost and improve our environment.
Lastly, our own company, SocialBusiness.org, is enabled by the crowdsourcing power of Trend Hunter. They have been our partner since the beginning and the marketing power of social good on the back of a platform like Trend Hunter has been awesome to watch. The reach and power of our message has been amplified via the crowdsourced model, and we get these benefits largely by association rather than at high costs.
The in-between state of being a business and being philanthropic has its clear advantages over the regular entrepreneur. The social business can enjoy the perks of the social mission in its ability to attract consumers and people to their cause, and at the same time, see real commercial benefits to their operations. SocialBusiness.org is fascinated by these social businesses and how they are re-writing the rules on how to be successful while making the world a better place.