“So many people feel they have a social mission, but don’t know how to carry it out,” explained Social Enterprise UK‘s Liz Minns, who travelled to Northampton this week to meet Andrew and Julie from Inspire2Enterprise and Meanu Bajwa-Patel from the University of Northampton.

More of a passionate discussion about the meteoric rise of the social enterprise, the day represented a chance for three leading lights in the sector to discuss how they could work together to help more social entrepreneurs realise their dreams.

From prison-based beehive manufacturing to the fantastic work carried out by Ashoka U in fostering cultures of social innovation within universities and colleges, the discussion was lively and thought-provoking.

“There’s definitely a stigma around the word ‘business’,” explained Andrew, as the topic turned to the importance of planning the commercial element of social enterprises. “Lots of entrepreneurs we speak to put a great deal of work into their idea before considering the business plan or legal structure. And, as we know, having the wrong structure in place from the start can cause big problems further down the line.”

Everyone around the table agreed how important it was for students to gain early exposure to the social enterprise scene. To aid this, the language needs to be simplified, Meanu pointed out. “A lot of young people have a social mission, but they’re unsure how to measure the impact of their big idea,” she added.

Much of this can likely be attributed to a lack of business experience, and as Julie noted: “The conversations the Inspire2Enterprise team has with new social enterprises often last two hours or more and are usually based on how to create business plans. It’s why we’re able to help so many organisations get off the ground, because we have that understanding of the commercial element.”

Wrapping up, Liz expressed her desire to shine an even brighter spotlight on the wonderful work undertaken by social enterprises in the UK. To do so, she explained, there needs to be a much better understanding nationally of why they exist.

“Our definition of a social enterprise is ‘a business where society profits’. Imagine if that message could filter out far and wide!”

We’re confident it will!

Inspire2Enterprise would like to thank Liz and Meanu for their invaluable time.

From left to right: Liz Minns (Social Enterprise UK), Andrew Cook (Inspire2Enterprise), Julie Tebbutt (Inspire2Enterprise), Meanu Bajwa-Patel (University of Northampton)