Business Planning Guide for Social Enterprise

What is a social enterprise?

Social enterprises are businesses that trade for a specific social, environmental or cultural purpose. Like all businesses, social enterprises operate in commercial markets, generating a profit from their trade. However, unlike other businesses, social enterprises exist to fulfil their overriding and specific social purpose and this is at the heart of every social enterprise, driving everything it does. Around the world social enterprises have lots of different kinds of social, environmental and cultural purposes, reflecting the diverse needs and interests of the communities they work in. This guide focuses on social enterprises in Australia that provide employment for people who are excluded from the labour market. Of course, many of the principles will also be useful for other social enterprises.

Who is this guide for?

The guide is primarily aimed at people and/ or organisations interested in starting a social enterprise and who don’t have experience of doing this before. It is a step-by-step guide to thinking about, researching, planning for, starting and then growing a social enterprise, which will help you to:

  • create a rigorous business plan for a sustainable social enterprise  
  • obtain support for your social enterprise e.g. from partners
  • secure investment for your social enterprise  
  • monitor and evolve your social enterprise in future years

It is also designed to be a useful resource for more experienced practitioners, acting as a reference point and refresher.

How to use this guide

This guide focuses on the extra things that you need to think about to develop a social enterprise compared to a straightforward commercial business. It should be used in conjunction with standard business planning guidance. 

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