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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 November 2006, 22:09 GMT
When profit isn't the bottom line
By Toby Poston
Business reporter, BBC News

Eden Project
The Eden Project is one of the UK's most successful social enterprises

People usually set up their own business for one or all of the traditional reasons: money, power and freedom.

But there is a growing breed of new entrepreneurs whose business heart beats to a different drum.

They are setting up social enterprises - companies whose key targets are not solely turnover, market share and profit driven, but are also about creating some sort of benefit for the local community or the environment.

Prime examples are companies like Cafedirect, The Big Issue, the Eden Project and Jamie Oliver's restaurant Fifteen.

Government support

The government wants more entrepreneurs to follow in their footsteps, and together with a coalition of charities and educational bodies it has designated Thursday as Social Enterprise Day.

Chancellor Gordon Brown, Minister for the Cabinet Office Hilary Armstrong and Minister for the Third Sector Ed Miliband are making some 18m available to try and raise awareness of social enterprise and encourage people either to get involved or to invest in them.

Their new plan includes measures to promote social enterprise within schools, provide more training for entrepreneurs, appoint social enterprise ambassadors to be role models and review how tax relief could be used to help the sector.

"From classrooms to boardrooms, people need to know what social enterprise is and what it can achieve," Mr Miliband says.

"That is why we are launching this action plan today - to shine a light on a movement that is at the vanguard of social change and enable it to continue to grow and thrive."

Growing trend

The government estimates that there are now 55,000 social enterprises in the UK, employing more than 775,000 people and contributing 8.4bn each year to the economy.

Eden Project: Gets more than a million visitors a year and has contributed 700m to the local economy
Cafedirect: Fairtrade coffee provider that works with farmers in 11 countries to ensure they get a decent income
Newlife: Leicester-based construction firm that provides jobs and training for long-term unemployed and school leavers without further education

Business Link London, the Capital's small business and advice service, recently surveyed 425 commuters and found that more than 20% of them had dreams of setting up a business that made a positive impact on society.

"It's no surprise that growing numbers of people are looking for more than just a wage packet out of their work," says Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of Social Enterprise London, which supports social entrepreneurs in the city.

"Social enterprises offer innovative people a way to use their business savvy to make a difference in their local community."

One of the companies it has worked with is Continuous Entertainment, a music company set up by two women, Eve Horne and Jessica Farrar.

Jamie Oliver and his crew from Fifteen
Jamie Oliver's restaurant chain has trained disadvantaged youngsters

With the help of funding from The Prince's Trust the women launched their operation in February 2005 with the principal aim of developing aspiring talent, especially among groups who would not otherwise be able to afford to use a recording studio.

Since launching they have provided music production, song writing, sound engineering and artistic development services to more than 160 artists of varying ability, age, race and gender.

"Musical talent isn't limited to people who are lucky enough to be able to afford professional studio facilities," says Eve Horne.

"We know that there are so many talented people out there and we wanted to offer an affordable facility for them to explore and develop their talent."

Enterprise award for arts centre
25 Oct 06 |  North West Wales
Report hails community projects
01 Oct 04 |  England
Cafedirect floats ethical issue
02 Feb 04 |  Business

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