By Kevin Marquis, Social Enterprise Manager
A recent report by financial firm Paymentsense ranks Sunderland third in a list of the top 15 cities which offer the best environment to start a new business.
Latest Government statistics also show a significant increase in the number of start-up businesses who are choosing the social enterprise approach, acting more commercially whilst delivering services and reinvesting their profits for social good.
Social enterprises are playing an increasingly important role in economic growth with the statistics identifying around 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing £24 billion to the economy and employing nearly a million people.
So why set up a social enterprise as opposed to a traditional business?
This type of business sets out on a mission to do good in the world and is motivated by social objectives rather than maximising profit. They do, however, have to be profitable to survive but the profit they make is either reinvested or donated to create a positive social or environmental change.
Consequently social entrepreneurship as a new way of understanding and doing business is getting more and more attractive. You may not realise that there are many social enterprises in the North East and particularly in Sunderland, trying to make it a better place for all. Because of this Sunderland has been awarded ‘Social Enterprise City’ status.
Sunderland-based Bishopwearmouth Co-operative CIC is a great example. Previously a City Council service, it is a business that uses horticulture to provide day care services, training and employment opportunities for those with learning difficulties. You may have read recently that they have launched a fully commercial, retail garden centre which has significantly increased turnover, profitability and opened up many new opportunities for the business.
Building on the success of the garden centre, they have acquired the adjacent cemetery house which they intend to convert in to a café / restaurant to serve the Garden Centre. This will further increase retail sales and deliver on their social objectives – expanding the range of services, training and employment opportunities for their care customers.
This business is making a real social impact for some of the most disadvantaged in our community and having worked with the team, it was great to see their efforts recognised when they won the social enterprise award recently at the Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards.