Social Entrepreneurship

So these are exactly some of the inspirational subjects I want to share with my readers. Today I attended a conference hosted by FIWAL, Federation of International Women’s Associations in London. The conference was on the topic of Social Entrepreneurship.

A socially responsible entrepreneur is someone who starts a business with the goal of serving society in one way or another. Sometimes they are individuals who decide to find a solution to a particular problem in society. They take matters into their own hands rather than waiting for government or established business to do something about the problem.  Others identify a need and set off to fulfill the need. Businesses can be set up as non-profit or as profit-making models, however the profits are folded back into the business.  Some main differences between socially responsible enterprises and charities are their structure and governance. Socially responsible enterprises are free to set up whatever business model they deem appropriate rather than being dictated to by government requirements.

An example of a socially responsible entrepreneur that you may be very familiar with is the British chef, Jamie Oliver. Beyond his amazing culinary empire, Jamie identified a need to give back to society by offering career opportunities to troubled youth who otherwise were heading for disaster. He started the 15 Apprentice Program, which has also become a TV reality series. The program consists of identifying 15 young people and putting them through a very rigorous culinary program with the overall goal of turning them into professional chefs. If you want to read more about it here is the link:

Another very famous socially responsible entrepreneur is Blake Mycoskie who when traveling in South America met children who did not own shoes. He started the company TOMS, a shoe company that for every pair of shoes you buy it donates a pair of shoes to a child in need. He has also expanded the program to eyeglasses.

Today I heard from some amazing women. First we heard from Ceri Jones (pronounced Keri because it is a Welsh name). She is Head of Policy and Research at the Social Enterprise Coalition. This is the United Kingdom’s organization that supports social enterprises. The equivalent organization in the US is called The Social Enterprise Alliance.  Ceri’s enthusiasm for supporting social enterprises was inspiring. An example of their services is the continued lobbying of the UK government for tax law changes.

Then we heard from four women running their own social enterprises.

Lily Lapenna is founder and CEO of MyBnk.

After starting her career working in Bangladesh, she was inspired by the impact of micro loans. She realized how critical financial education was and that many young people never receive a proper background on the subject. When she returned to the UK she decided to fill this void by starting MyBnk, an organization that provides educational programs about business and finance delivered through the schools, to children ages 11 – 25.  One of their programs is called MyBnk-in-a-Box where the children set up and run a bank within the school for their peers.

Amazing Fact I Heard Today:

Although I believe this fact pertains just to the UK, it may be indicative of other countries in the world:

1 in 20 young adults, ages 16 -24, don’t think they have to pay back credit card debt.

Background: Micro loans are small loans made to poor men and women who have no collateral. The goal is for these men or women to start small businesses with the loan, to become self- sufficient while at the same time enhancing the local economy. Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus is credited with starting the Grameen Bank in 1983 in Bangladesh, the first bank to make these small loans available to customers. Many others followed.

Kresse Wesling is a co-founder of Elvis and Kresse.

Her company uses de-commissioned British fire brigade hoses, which otherwise would end up in landfill, to make beautiful belts, handbags, and wallets. Fifty percent of the profits are donated to the Fire Fighters Charity. Kresse shared some great stories of how as a child she was obsessed with recycling and visiting town dump and recycling centers. Her company is also exploring other potential recycling opportunities. She is referred to as environmental entrepreneur. Even the movie stars are joining her cause. Cameron Diaz appeared in Vogue Magazine wearing one of Elvis and Kresse’s belts.

Chantal Coady is the Founder of Rococo Chocolates.

Well, she had me at chocolate.

She is an example of someone who decided to follow her passion for chocolate and started her own business in 1983. She wanted to change the very snobby atmosphere of chocolatiers by creating a more inviting and welcoming chocolate paradise.  In 2007, she had the unique opportunity to buy one of the chocolate farms in Grenada that had been providing her with chocolate. They have since set up a joint venture that ensures that the grower gets fair prices for their chocolates. She has used this chocolate to develop her Rococo Organic House Blend.

Amazing Fact I Heard Today:

Chocolate consumption is outpacing cacao production. The average age of a cacao farmer is 73. It is projected that there will be shortage of cacao production in the future and that the price of chocolate will rise astronomically. The industry needs to motivate younger farmers to continue growing cacao. One way to do this is to allow the cacao farmers to reap some of the amazing profits generated by the chocolate industry. Organizations like Fair Trade have been instrumental in helping agribusiness around the world. For further reading go to the links below:

Lastly, we heard from Diana Verde Nieto. She started

Her company issues a seal of approval, A Blue Butterfly, to those companies whose practices meet very demanding standards of sustainability. It begins by having these companies fill out self-assessment forms and then by using an elaborate algorithm that culls through social media, the Internet, and public records for data about the company, to generate a profile. If all the standards are met they get the seal of approval.  So now you can feel good about the products you buy for your home and family, knowing that the designer or manufacturer is behaving ethically and that you are also playing a role by supporting only these well-behaved companies. The website profiles big designer names as well as small business owners.

Aside: Sustainability in short is the responsible management of resource use.

With the exception of Chantal Coady who was closer to my age, all of the other speakers were amazingly much younger.  Are we finally succeeding in imbedding social consciousness in our younger generations? What most of the these entrepreneurs had in common was a passion for following their vision, for placing a higher value on the societal contribution, and for placing financial gain last on their priority list. Some of these entrepreneurs have reaped amazing benefits both personal and financial proving that you do receive positive payback for doing good deeds. I admire these social entrepreneurs, for following their passion in identifying a problem and finding a solution all with the goal of bettering our planet.

I would be remiss if I did not share the name and business of a lovely young woman who sat next to me at lunch. Cecilia Crossley recently had a baby and while watching a UK TV ad for orphanages, was so moved that she decided to do something about it. She is founder of From Babies With Love, a company that will donate 100% of its profit to charities supporting orphaned and abandoned children around the world. She has set up an on-line retail store to sell beautiful organic baby clothes. It’s supposed to go live in 10 days, so stay tuned. Her website is: They are truly a start-up operation, their inventory will be kept in their home, and I understand her husband will be master picker and packer. I wish them the best.


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