The concept of Social Enterprise is currently surging in popularity, although it has been around for decades. From ecotourism companies to grocery store cooperatives, this approach can embrace many different types of organizations and businesses. There is serious debate as to what constitutes a Social Enterprise and definitions may vary based on a range of factors. The defining characteristics of a Social Enterprise includes having a social mission at the core of the business, and using market-based strategies to generate profit to further social goals.
Quebec is home to a variety of successful social enterprises who are innovatively applying market based strategies to address today’s problems. They can serve as examples for new start-ups. For instance CAMMAC (Canadian Amateur Musicians – Musiciens Amateurs du Canada) is a non-profit that promotes amateur music, and operates a lodge and music center on Lake McDonald in the Laurentians. They run their own music programs from the center and they also rent the space to generate profit to support their programs. Cooperative models are also becoming more and more popular, successful examples such as Vallée Bras-du-Nord (an ecotourism cooperative located in St-Raymond, in the National Capital region) show how local market needs can be met by social enterprises.
If the idea of running a business while addressing a social cause excites you, you will want to do your research up front including exploring which business structure would be most beneficial (ex. for-profit, non-profit or cooperative). The chosen business structure will impact things like, the activities, taxes, potential revenue, and funding options for your enterprise. In addition, creating both a business plan and viable business model for revenue generation will strengthen the chance of your business succeeding.
Depending on the structure you chose, you will have different options for funding your enterprise. For instance setting up a non-profit may allow you access to grants and other programs for which a for-profit would not be eligible. However, as a non-profit there are restrictions on how much revenue you can generate from goods and services, whereas a for-profit would not face such restrictions on profit making, and could potentially have better access to classic business loans and services.
As social enterprises gain in popularity, an increasing number of institutions are recognizing their value and potential. As with any start-up however, a solid foundation based on sound research is an essential prerequisite for success. Meeting with a business coach can help you to determine the best choices for your enterprise.
April will be Social Entrepreneurship Month at YES – a Quebec non-profit which provides entrepreneurship support including business coaching. YES will host a series of workshops geared at better understanding social entrepreneurship, exploring funding options, and marketing strategies for social enterprises. Both the workshops and business coaching can be accessed online, so check out the YES website to learn more.
In collaboration with Townshippers’ Association, a business coach from YES Montreal is in Lennoxville and Knowlton once a month to meet with clients face to face. The sessions are free; there is a one-time $20 administration fee charged by YES.
For more information or to find out the date of the next coaching session in Knowlton, contact Maggie Severs at 450-242-4421 or [email protected]. For information about the Lennoxville sessions, contact Evelina Smith at 819-566-2182 or [email protected].