A common definition of a “social enterprise”(SE) could be, “a profit earning business that has, as its primary goal, creating the maximum positive impact possible in society and/or the environment.
As you can see, from this definition, SE’s are profit making unlike not-for-profits. And, unlike a typical business, their primary goal is not to produce maximum profits for owners and shareholders as in a typical for-profit business, but to create positive change in society and the environment. If you’ve read the “About” page on our website, or my profile on LinkedIn, then you know that United Sewing and Design is an SE.
First, a caveat with my explanation. My business is an LLC and so, is not registered as an SE according to the State of Connecticut. The reason that I chose not to participate in that designation, also known as a “B Corp,” is because in CT, to start a B Corp., you are required to register as an “S,” or “stock corporation,” to sell stock, have shareholders (obviously) and a board of directors. This earns significantly more in fees for the state. Additionally, it also requires a layer of reporting to the public about the social or environmental good created by the SE. My contention is that a business can be labelled by its activities as an SE and participate voluntarily in the public reporting without paying burdensome fees. We’ll see how that works out.
Anyway, why go through the additional research, planning and execution necessary to do good when I could just focus on earning as much money as possible? Believe me, it’s not because I don’t like money! A recent story from NPR, Oregon Public Broadcasting and Kaiser Health News which I found on the WNPR website, contains three important concepts related to the beliefs I committed to several years ago. These beliefs caused me to focus my business on doing good. The story profiles efforts to use questionnaires, filled out by patients in a health care setting, to discover the circumstances in which they live which impact their physical and emotional health.
Family units are the foundation of our urban communities. Social and environmental factors can impact the viability of urban family units. Businesses can positively impact the social and environmental surroundings of urban communities.
Positive business impact means being located in an urban neighborhood which is easily accessible to workers. Business owners must make a commitment to listening, collaborating and contributing to their neighborhoods to discover what residents truly need.
The individuals in family units need a hand up, not a hand out. A job that pays a fair wage ($15 minimum) for good work is a fundamental part of positive business impact in urban communities. Business owners and workers must create together a work atmosphere that stems from a mutually respectful relationship. Workers and their attributes are valued as an asset rather than an expense by owners. Workers view the business as a place to demonstrate their willingness to contribute, their dedication to providing for their families, and their capacity for growth.
I highly encourage you to read the transcript of the story or listen to it at the link above and to follow the business reporting of WNPR, especially the reporting on local manufacturing. I challenge you to consider incorporating some or all of the above concepts into your business! I would also love to hear your thoughts on my post.
Mary Ruth, Owner of United Sewing and Design has over 30 years experience in the manufacturing of products by sewing and is author of “Industry Sewing Construction Methods” http://amzn.to/2yMxMmk. Her focus is on design, entrepreneurship; social enterprise; the connections between the environment, the apparel industry, and manufacturing; and how owners can leverage artistic methods to benefit their business.