Social Enterprises are pretty important businesses. There are over 100,000 social enterprises contributing £60 billion to the economy and employing two million people.

In this weeks episode of ‘I Hate Numbers’ we look deeper into the what, how and form of a social enterprise.

What is a social enterprise?

Firstly, let’s look at a working definition of a social enterprise.

  1. A clear social and or environmental mission.
  2. It has a way to generate most of their income through trade.
  3. An ethos of reinvesting most of that profit back into business.

Don’t confuse a social enterprise with a charity as a charity is not necessarily a social enterprise and a social enterprise is not a charity.

Primary purpose

The primary purpose of a social enterprise is making profits as part of its social mission and purpose.  Those profits can be made by selling products or services.

Social Enterprises are business

Since social enterprises are fundamentally businesses. It is critical and important that business disciplines are applied to how those social enterprises are run. How they grow. How they sustain themselves.

Legal form and structure

We’ve talked about legal structures before so it’s worth checking out our previous podcasts.  If you’re contemplating setting up a social enterprise, then the key question at the very start is the different form or the legal structure that you should adopt.

There are choices, the most popular being

  • Community Interest Company (CIC)
  • Sole trader
  • Co-operative
  • Company limited by guarantee

Community Interest Company

First introduced in 2005 due to a growing interest to offer support to social enterprises.  It is owned by the local community and operated to benefit those people who reside in that community.

Within the CIC world, there are two forms.

  • Private company, limited by shares
  • Limited by guarantee with members

There’s three key questions to answer.  These look at your motivation and purpose for behind why you want that CIC.

  • What your CIC will be doing
  • Dealing with surpluses
  • Who will your CIC to help and how?

Differences between social enterprise and a charity

A social enterprise isn’t always a charity, and vice versa. The main differences are to do with

  • Corporation tax
  • Rate relief
  • Donations
  • Purposes

Listen in to find out more


Social Enterprises are businesses.  They play an important part in the business and community landscape.  Contact us to find out more.

What next

Grab a coffee. Make yourself comfortable. Sit back and listen.

I love doing this podcast and sharing my love of Numbers with you.  Check out the link to subscribe and do not miss an episode.

In this episode

  • Understanding what a social enterprise is
  • Choosing your legal structure for your social enterprise
  • Why a social enterprise is not necessarily a charity
  • Developing your own Numbers confidence and decisions
  • Take more control of your numbers to help make you money, survive and thrive