Starting a Social Enterprise

Starting a Social Enterprise

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If you’re interested in starting a business that will help others or improve the environment, then setting up a social enterprise could be the first step.

In the last decade, social enterprise has boomed, with a significant increase in the number social enterprise start-ups.

There are a number of legal structure available for social enterprises our business guide Jules Ellison has over 15 years experience supporting social enterprises to start well and thrive.

Jules can help you decide on the right structure and guide you through the paperwork to incorporate.

Give us a call to discuss your needs: 01453 297466

Cost: £50 - £350

(CIC incorporation generally £150)

What is a social enterprise?

A social enterprise is a company whose core mission is to benefit and improve society. Like any business, they aim to make a profit but this is always reinvested back into their social or environmental goals.

Social enterprises can be found in almost every industry, ranging from very small local projects to multi-million-pound service companies, and each may have a different legal structures.

Despite this diversity of business focus, social enterprises share a similar set of characteristics:

  • a clear social or environmental purpose
  • generate an income predominately from trading
  • reinvest the majority of their profits in their social mission

When setting up a social enterprise there’s no one legal business structure to curtail you. You can choose the form that best suits your business and its social purpose including:

• Sole trader or business partnership, which must be registered with HMRC
• Limited company, which must be registered at Companies House
• Community interest company (CIC) – a limited company that operates to provide a benefit to the community they serve rather than private shareholders.
• Charity or a charitable incorporated organization
• Co-operative, which is owned and run by members for their own benefit

CICs must have a clear social mission and are regulated to ensure they maintain this purpose. To set up a CIC, you need to apply to Companies House with a ‘community interest statement’ that explains your business plan and create an asset lock to protect company’s assets. You’ll also need approval from the CIC regulator. Once established, a CIC must submit detailed accounts, an annual return and a CIC report each year.

For further information on CICs, visit the Office of the Regulator of Community Interest Companies page on