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What is a Social Enterprise?

What is a Social Enterprise? Discover 3 Brands That Will Warm Your Heart

What is a Social Enterprise?

“When our grandchildren ask us where we were when the voiceless and the vulnerable in our era needed leaders of compassion and purpose, I hope we can say that we showed up, and that we showed up on time.” – Gary Haugen, Founder of International Justice Mission

What's the Most Common Type of Business?

When most of us think about business, we think of the most common type of business – a company whose primary goal is to maximize profit. Basically, to do whatever it takes to increase that bottom line.

But there's often a cost to be paid when businesses focus solely on the bottom line. There can be negative impacts on both the workers and the planet resulting in environmental challenges, health problems, and social crises.

Today's consumers aren't looking for business as usual. According to Business Wire, 78% of consumers are looking for companies that are environmentally and ethically sustainability. And Forbes points out that nearly 75% of consumers feel it's a businesses responsibility to give back.

So clearly, it isn't enough to just make money; there's a push for businesses to be better and to do better. And personally, at Alare, we think that's a very good thing.

When you buy a product, you're probably not that interested in how much money that company made last quarter. Hopefully, you're more concerned about the company's story. How does the company treat its employees? Are they paid fair wages or being exploited? Does the company buy wood and paper from the cheapest manufacturer or from responsibly managed FSC-Certified forests? Are the ingredients in the products tested on animals or just willing friends and family? Does the company give back, or do they just use their profits to get the CEO richer?

These questions matter.

What are the Alternatives of Business As Usual?

The concept of a social enterprise was developed in the late 70s to challenge the traditional idea of a small business. And although it has a long history worldwide, it's often misunderstood. Some people believe a social enterprise doesn't generate profit, while others say it isn't a real business. But, neither of these statements is true.

Social enterprises come in all shapes and sizes. They can be for-profit or non-profit, big or small, multinational or hyper-local. Furthermore, social enterprises have two things in common; first, they use their businesses to solve social or environmental problems. Second, they balance their profits with a mission to positively impact the world.

Social enterprises operate like a traditional businesses intending to generate profit. But unlike a traditional business, it uses those profits to address social issues and create a positive change in its communities.

The social entrepreneurship sector employs about 40 million people and works with more than 200 million volunteers globally, with rapid growth in both developed and emerging economies.

Three Heart-Warming Examples of Social Enterprises

Women's Bean Project

Women's Bean Project

Women's Bean Project is a small Denver-based social enterprise with a big mission of helping women get job training and begin new lives. The organization and the women there have been hustling in the manufacturing industry since 1989, when founder Jossy Eyre and two employees turned a $500 investment into $6,100 by making and selling bean soup mixes.

This social enterprise is also a non-profit providing women the stepping-stones they need to become self-sufficient. They hire chronically unemployed women and teach them to handcraft delicious and nourishing products they sell throughout the U.S. The women are in the program for 7 months, after which they graduate into an entry-level, career-building job. While in the program, women participate in various classes and receive continual support from a team of case managers, program volunteers, and community partners.

Women are employed and paid full-time, working on the production floor or in the classroom. The impact of their program is incredible. Since 1989, over 1,000 women have graduated, and 93% of these formerly chronically unemployed women are still employed a year later. Women's Bean Project offers a viable way for these women to stand tall, find their purpose, and break the cycle of poverty.

Shop our collection of gifts from Women's Bean Project > 

Freedom Studios

Freedom Studios

Penny Klinedinst, Beth Gammel, and Christin Majerus knew that human trafficking was happening in other countries. They didn't realize that it was also occurring in their own Sioux Falls, South Dakota community. Once they learned this, they immediately wanted to do something to help. Together they founded Freedom Studios, a social enterprise that creates beautiful bath and body products.

And every product produced in their studio is lovingly made by a survivor. This allows survivors to get back on their feet financially and reintegrate into the workforce.

Freedom Studios also partners with Call to Freedom, a non-profit that helps survivors heal. They provide safe housing, counseling, and mentorship as they begin their new lives. This process of making soap, candles, and lotion is more than just a job - it helps these women build hope, gain strength, and, most importantly, unlock their freedom. Freedom Studios is making a difference in their community and the lives of dozens of survivors.

Shop our collection of gifts from Freedom Studios > 

Bright Endeavors

Bright Endeavors

Bright Endeavors is a social enterprise that creates a positive combination of learning, training, and employment for young moms facing challenging issues. These driven young moms complete a fully paid, comprehensive 16-week job training program creating beautiful, handmade, and eco-friendly candles and diffusers.

These moms, who are often affected by poverty, homelessness, or abuse, are provided transitional jobs and professional skills training as they build a life full of empowerment and possibility. These incredible moms create solid, loving homes for their families through passion and hard work. 100% of the proceeds of their candles support their mission to empower young moms and their children. And each candle lights the way toward strong families and bright futures.

Shop our collection of gifts from Bright Endeavors >

Final Thoughts

Today's consumers are choosing businesses that do more than just provide a product and service. They prefer companies that are giving back to the community. Companies that care about people, the planet, and making the world a better place.


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