A social enterprise is a cause-driven business whose primary purpose is the improvement of social livelihoods & serving the common good. The social enterprise arena is still relatively dormant in the country with only a few players actively involved. Poor service delivery & high unemployment are two major issues bedevilling the majority of citizens in this nation. Those two aspects can be significantly addressed by an increase of activity in the social enterprises domain. Social enterprises can create employment & fill service delivery gaps left by government, whilst fostering innovations in health, education, the environment & business.

A social entrepreneur is driven by the urge to solve social problems. Thus, there is an infinite array of social enterprise business ideas that one can build on. Here in, I will discuss 10 of such ideas for consideration & the drawing of inspiration for other ideas. The ideas will cover both profit and non-profit initiatives. Bear in mind that these ideas can be scrutinized and analysed with the aim of refining them.

1. Community Shop

This operates on a fee for service business model. This shop entails selling food to low-income communities at discounted prices. The food can be sourced from supermarkets or purchased from them at cheap prices. This will be food that supermarkets can nolonger sell due to issues such as nearing expiration dates, minor breakages or mislabelling, for instance. This idea is premised on the fact that most people lack access to basic food commodities. Principally the thrust here is to salvage food that would normally get thrown away had it not been sourced from the supermarkets. Extreme caution ought to be exercised to ensure sourced food is still safe, is sold and consumed whilst being suitable for human consumption.

2. Online Marketplace

The thrust here is to assist struggling goods or service providers. Most people are goods or service providers but they don’t have the financial muscle to advertise and market on their own. The online platform created serves as a listing service that connects the providers to the buyers; it operates on a market connector business model. Revenue can be realized through either directly charging providers, from commissions on goods sold or from premiums added on selling prices. Profits can be used to enhance the social wellbeing of communities where providers come from.

3. Sustainable Water Initiative

This would operate on a fee for service business model. Small and affordable water purification mechanisms made from over-the-counter equipment can be built. Start-up funds can be sourced from donations or interested stakeholders. Technical expertise can outsourced from engineers willing to volunteer their knowledge for altruistic purposes. Maintenance & staffing costs can then be covered from sales revenues realized from selling purified water.

4. Micro lending & social crowd funding

The market connector business model also applies for this idea. This involves the devising of an online platform for people or organizations to lend money to entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs will use such a platform to find funders for their business initiatives. Basically entrepreneurs will submit their stories for consideration by prospective lenders. The lenders & the entrepreneurs will be charged service fees for using the platform.

5. Food Outlet Initiative

One can, for instance, open a bakery, restaurant or coffee shop with the main focus being on building skills for unemployed at-risk youth groups such as orphans. An employment & skills training business model will be used here. The profits realized are then used for salaries, skills development & other appropriate social enhancement programs.

6. Innovative Information Dissemination Products

Let me paint the picture with an example to enunciate. You can produce a magazine majoring on health issues or current affairs information for instance. You then provide it for free to low-income communities, whilst selling it to wealthier communities. The revenues realized from the sales are then used to better social livelihoods of the low-income communities. This idea works using the cross-compensation business model. The concept here is identifying something easily saleable that can carry vital information. For example, you could get baby blankets inscribed with vital information on baby care. So get very creative with this concept.

7. Student accommodation & study initiative

There are numerous vacant and unused empty buildings, rooms and spaces around. Take into consideration that most tertiary students struggle to find decent and affordable accommodation or conducive studying environments. One can buy or rent those empty and unused spaces, renovate if need be, and subsequently let or sublet them to students for accommodation or study purposes. You can even go to greater lengths of even selling reasonably priced meals at those facilities and any other basic student consumables.

8. T-shirt-Based Crowd funding

Print t-shirts with a catchy cause statement/design such as “Because I Am A Man I Don’t Abuse Women”. Sell them at events where multitudes of people converge. Then you could say, for every 5 t-shirts sold, the selling price worth of one t-shirt goes to charitable activities or 20% of every t-shirt’s worth sold is channelled towards charitable activities. T-shirts are very popular with the youth and thus the key here is to tap into that demographic of the population. Come up with creatively designed and inscribed or embroidered t-shirts that are catchy but championing some noble cause.

9. Art & Craftwork Initiative

Identify talented artists, sculptors or craft persons. Contribute to their operational costs (which are usually quite reasonably low). Later on, individually or collectively, buy their artefacts at subsidized prices and then you resell or export to high-income customers. Split profits afterwards & also use some of the profits to expand their operations. Part of the profits can also be used to facilitate the apprenticeship of other unemployed youths to do art & craftwork for income generation.

10. On-demand goods-based philanthropy

This uses the independent support business model is quite straightforward. Create a business venture that sources on-demand goods at reasonably cheap prices. Employ vulnerable or unemployed people to be sales persons and pay them based on commission. Channel some of the profits towards philanthropic activities.