While there is no commonly agreed upon definition for a social enterprise there are several shared key qualities. Social enterprises are revenue-generating businesses but they have a focus on creating socially-related good. This mission is central to a social enterprise, particularly for non-profit/community-based entities. For these organizations, “profits” are generally reinvested in growing the business or supporting other key projects. In all cases, social enterprises don’t give money to shareholders or individuals as “profit” (employees will be paid as part of the business plan).
Social enterprises in the community sector often hire people who have been marginalized from the mainstream job market. This could include people facing mental health or addictions issues, people with disabilities, people living in poverty, people experiencing homelessness/poor housing or youth. In addition to job skills, a social enterprise also tends to provide other support services including life skills, counselling and access to other services provided by the organization.
There are a wide variety of social enterprise activities used in the community non-profit sectors include arts and crafts, courier services, catering businesses, laundry services, print shops, restaurants, thrift stores etc.