Social entrepreneurs are undeniably paving the way toward meaningful and lasting social change, and with their growing presence in today’s market, this is a dynamic group that shouldn’t be ignored. We spotlight 23 social enterprises with distinct missions that are fiercely and creatively driving change across society.
Mission: to make great coffee for the greater good. 734 Coffee aims to help displaced Sudanese peoples start something wonderful.
Fun Fact: 7˚N 34˚E are the geographical coordinates for Gambela, a region in Ethiopia where over 200,000 displaced South Sudanese citizens now live after fleeing war, atrocities, drought and famine in South Sudan.
What we love about 734 Coffee: 734 Coffee tackles some of the humanitarian crisis that stems from ongoing violence by building a brighter future for the displaced people of Sudan.The organization sources coffee harvested by growers in the Gambela region, brings it to the US and directs proceeds to scholarships and education programs for refugees of Sudan.
Impact: By sourcing their coffee from growers who employ South Sudanese refugees, 734 Coffee provides employment opportunities for these people. Along with its parent company Humanity Helping Sudan, 734 Coffee provides 100-150 individual scholarships per year.
Founder: Manyang Reath Kher founded Refugee Campus as part of his Humanity Helping Sudan Project. This project is dedicated to providing sustainable aid for refugees who, like Manyang, were displaced by the violence in Sudan.“Being a social entrepreneur is really hard. You have to really believe in your purpose to work that hard,” said Manyang.
Watch to learn more about how 734 Coffee is redefining the word “refugee.”
Mission: Ashoka identifies and supports the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, learns from the patterns in their innovations, and mobilizes a global community that embraces these new frameworks to build an “everyone a changemaker world.”
What we love about Ashoka: Ashoka identifies and supports the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. In finding and cultivating social entrepreneurs whose system-changing innovations solve deep-rooted social problems, it provides citizens the confidence and tools needed to solve problems for the greater good.
Ashoka’s Impact: Ashoka Fellows help to drive systems change through spurring independent replication that brings about a“new normal” for society. This “new normal,” in turn, helps to shift public policy and industry norms, all while enabling a culture of changemaking that helps others to take initiative and bring about positive change in their own communities.
Philosophy around hiring: We hire people who will not rest until that vision is fully realized, and who share and live our values. We are impatient with historic patterns of inequality and are working to change them now. We have a deep respect for everyone as an equal contributor to society.
Leadership: Bill Drayton founded Ashoka in 1980 based on the idea that the most powerful force for good in the world is a social entrepreneur: a person driven by an innovative idea that can help correct an entrenched global problem.
Mission: to share our rich history and promising future through images that refute stereotypes and build the esteem of our children.
What we love about Because of Them We Can®: Because of Them We Can® was started by Eunique Jones Gibson in February 2013 as a 28-day photo campaign where children appeared as iconic Black history figures of the past and present. Inspired by her sons, Chase and Amari, it was a way to teach and refresh Black history while connecting the dots between the past, present and future. Today, Because of Them We Can® has evolved into a movement via an online platform that reaches millions of people monthly across its vast digital footprint. It is committed to responsibly engaging its audience (especially children) with content and tools that help them embrace, amplify and exude Black excellence on a daily basis.
Impact: Since its inception, Because of Them We Can® has evolved into a movement via an online platform that reaches millions of people monthly.
The Pledge: I will honor the sacrifices of my ancestors. I will believe in me. I will pursue my dreams. I will help others along the way.
Founder: Eunique Jones Gibson
Watch to learn more about Because of Them We Can’s work.
Mission: to cultivate leadership, promote sustainable livelihoods and reap structural change with individuals impacted by the criminal justice system in North Carolina.
What we love about Benevolence Farm: Benevolence Farm provides a transitional and employment living program for women leaving North Carolina prisons. Residents in this program develop skills in sustainable farming, small business practices, and food preparation and presentation in an environment that fosters improved physical, spiritual and financial health.
Impact: Benevolence Farm began with the vision to create a more equitable, just and nurturing world for women and the communities they transform. According to their 2020 Annual Report, the organization provided 1,207 nights of safe and secure housing last year and 84% of alumni continued to live freely in the community. The year was also a banner year in sales, with over $50,000 in living wage distributions for their Benevolence Farm Body Care line in which the proceeds go toward fully sustaining the living wage employment component of their mission.
Leadership: Kristen Powers, Executive Director
Mission: to discover emerging social entrepreneurs and invest deeply in the growth of their ideas and leadership.
What we love about Echoing Green: Through Fellowships and other innovative leadership initiatives, Echoing Green spots emerging social enterprise leaders and invests deeply in their success to accelerate their impact. Echoing Green provides seed-funding and leadership development to a new class of Fellows every year and welcomes them into a lifelong community of leaders.
Impact: For more than 30 years, Echoing Green has been on the front lines of solving the world’s biggest problems, raising up the transformational leaders willing to speak truth to power and challenge the status quo. In that time, over 800 leaders in 86 countries have kickstarted ideas with its help. Echoing Green offers $2.7M in seed-fund investment annually and welcomes new leaders to its program each year.
Talent management philosophy: Our dedicated and diverse team hails from all around the world, with a wide range of experiences and expertise.
Leadership: Cheryl Dorsey, President
Watch to learn more about Echoing Green’s work.
Mission: Finley’s is a premium pet brand bringing inclusion to the pet industry through its employment and giving initiatives. Around 15% of the world’s population, or an estimated 1 billion people, live with disabilities. However, they are least likely to be employed or represented in marketing and advertising. Through its marketing, employment and giving initiatives, Finley’s is changing that.
What we love about Finley’s Barkery: As two former special education teachers, Co-Founders Angie and Kyle saw an opportunity to serve a greater purpose through their pets. So, they created Finley’s, named after their resilient rescue pup and CTO (Chief Treat Officer). Finley’s goal is to create paid employment opportunities for people with disabilities while dedicating 50% of net profits to initiatives providing employment training, accessibility, health & wellness and advocacy platforms for people with disabilities.
Impact: What started as a classroom concept 10 years ago quickly grew to shipping a first pallet out of the founders’ garage in a blizzard. Today, with the industry’s most trusted manufacturing, distribution and retail partners behind them, Finley’s is continuing to impact more people across the country. Since 2016, Finley’s has created over 7,000 hours of paid employment opportunities for people with disabilities through its Ambassador Initiative.
Talent management philosophy: Partnering with universities, NGOs and nonprofits, as well as rehabilitative and vocational training programs, we’re showing the world what’s possible. Together with Finley’s, retailers and customers are making people of all abilities a priority in their community by spreading positivity and kindness through our products.
Leadership: Angie and Kyle Gallus, Co-Founders
Watch to learn more about Finley’s mission and work.
Mission: Hesperian strives for a world in which people and communities are equipped to achieve health for all. Its mission is to provide information and educational tools that help all people take greater control over their health and work to eliminate the underlying causes of poor health.
What we love about Hesperian Health Guides: Hesperian Health Guides works to eliminate the underlying causes of poor health. It publishes “Where There Is No Doctor” and other health publications that provide information and educational tools to help people around the world take greater control over their health and lives.
Impact: Hesperian Health Guides has partnered with community health workers, villagers, medical professionals and others to develop, publish and share information. Twenty titles spanning community health, women’s health, children with disabilities, HIV and environmental health have been published. The global spread of its materials is a result of these partnerships and its common commitment to improving health conditions for those most in need.
Leadership: Sarah Shannon, Executive Director
Mission: to provide lasting impact on its clients and communities through holistic business and technology consulting solutions.
What we love about Impact Makers: Impact Makers is Virginia’s first benefit corporation (B-corp). The organization works toward creating lasting impact on their clients and communities through holistic business and technology consulting solutions. Driven by their core values—building communities, holistic solutions, client advocacy, maximizing integrity, fostering collaboration, caring deeply and making a lasting impact—Impact Makers serve as trusted advisors to deliver solutions that align to their clients’ goals and strategies to create real business value.
Impact: Besides delivering business solutions, Impact Makers is committed to contributing its profits and equity to the community. It has delivered more than $3.7 million in community contributions since its 2006 founding and over 11,000 hours of pro bono work since 2009.
Leadership: Michael Pirron, Founder
Mission: to inspire and enable people to do good through their everyday choices.
What we love about Me to We: Founded in 2009 to provide economic opportunity in WE Village communities and sustainable funding sources for WE Charity, ME to WE has grown into a global force for good. WE Charity is ME to WE’s charity partner and their best friend in changing the world. Using a highly effective model, ME to WE is structured to offset expenses and help provide pro bono services to WE Charity’s efforts at home and abroad. ME to WE donates half its net profits to support WE Charity, while the other half is reinvested to grow the mission of the social enterprise.
Impact: Me to We’s impacts have been significant. Over 1500 entrepreneurs in Kenya and South America work with Me to We as artisans, 140,000 students receive leadership training each year and 10 million social impact programs were funded and delivered through product purchases.
Leadership: Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger, Co-Founders
Watch to learn more about the WE movement.
Mission: to transform lives with thoughtfully designed, clean technology. MPOWERD’s innovative products give people the power of self-reliance because the company believes that everyone deserves to be empowered and inspired regardless of how or where they live.
What we love about MPOWERED: In 2012 MPOWERD—with the help of its principal inventor Jason Alan Snyder—created Luci, the first inflatable solar light with the goal of making an affordable clean energy product that people could use in any situation. Since then, its vision hasn’t changed too much; it creates sustainable, affordable and thoughtfully designed products that suit the needs of the many. Whether here in our homes or in the Peruvian mountains, its founders believe that everyone deserves access to well-crafted, functional products!
Impact: MPOWERED works with over 650 NGOs and nonprofits to provide clean energy to those who need it most. Through its partners, MPOWERED distributes clean energy options that provide a more economical and environmentally friendly approach to everyday tasks.
Leadership: Seungah Jeong and John Salzinger
Mission: to maximize the positive impact of social entrepreneurship across the world.
What we love about Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship: The Centre supports and inspires students to tackle world-scale problems through social entrepreneurship, from education to climate change, poverty to healthcare. It offers a rich portfolio of programs, events, financial support mechanisms and collaborative opportunities. The Centre also works to advance the field of social entrepreneurship as a whole through research insights, knowledge exchange and funding.
Impact: In 2020, the Centre invested in 15 organizations, 67% of which are tech ventures. These companies have raised $17.6 million, operating across 77 countries. The ventures realized a 17.5 fold increase in beneficiaries due to the Skoll Venture Award, which also helped recipients to increase staffing 2.4 fold.
Leadership: Peter Drobac, Director
Watch to learn more about the Skoll Centre’s mission and work.
Mission: to educate and encourage consumers to make a routine habit, such as buying soap, impactful.
What we love about Soapbox: Soapbox strives to make your routine habit of buying soap impactful. The organization follows a one-for-one model in which they donate a bar of soap to someone in need either in the U.S. or abroad for every Soapbox that is purchased from them. Soapbox champions transparency and believes that giving back should be easy. This is why each of their products displays a Hope Code, a label on the back allowing customers to see the specific aid partner and project that their donation went toward.
Impact: Since it began, Soapbox has hosted 30,000 hygiene classes and donated 20,000,000 bars of soap.
Leadership: David Simnick, CEO and Co-Founder
Watch to learn more about how Soapbox’s mission.
Mission: to unlock the power of markets for impact. SOCAP Global designs experiences to engage and amplify a community of dynamic individuals and organizations who share values of collaboration, curiosity and a commitment to accelerating social and environmental solutions.
What we love about SOCAP Global: As a thought leadership platform for the accelerating movement towards a more just and suitable economy, SOCAP Global convenes a global ecosystem and marketplace of social entrepreneurs, investors, foundation and nonprofit leaders, government and policy leaders, creators, corporations, academics and more. Through their live and digital experiences, they educate, spur conversation and inspire investment in positive impact.
Impact: Since their first event in 2008, they have convened more than 300,000 individuals who share values of collaboration, curiosity and a commitment to accelerating social and environmental solutions.
Leadership: Kate Byrne, President
Watch to learn more about SOCAP Global’s mission.
Mission: to empower social enterprises and social entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to succeed, while working to foster a social enterprise ecosystem in which they can thrive.
What we love about Social Enterprise Alliance: The Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA) was first formed as the National Gathering for Social Entrepreneurs in 1998. Its purpose was to convene thought leaders and practitioners who could share ideas, lessons learned and networks to increase their impact. This initial gathering soon transformed into what SEA is today, a membership organization that has grown to become the champion and key catalyst for the development of the social enterprise sector. The team at SEA has three objectives in order to support individuals and organizations in the social impact space: grow your network, share your story and build your capacity.
Leadership: Jim Schorr, President and CEO
Watch to learn more about Social Enterprise Alliance’s mission.
Mission: to provide the inspiration, knowledge and tools needed for social enterprises to solve community and environmental problems.
What we love about Social Enterprise Institute: Social Enterprise Institute provides online learning experiences designed for founders of future social enterprises (SE), community interest companies (nonprofits) or part of an organization that works with these industries across the globe. The platform offers training, coaching and e-learning delivered by internationally recognized instructors to support these organizations all the way from their earliest stages to when they achieve long-term sustainability and growth.
Impact: The Social Enterprise Institute maintains the world’s largest collection of online social enterprise courses.
Leadership: Jonathan Coburn, Founder Director
Watch to learn more about Social Enterprise Institute’s mission.
Mission: to achieve a more equal society through creating a favorable environment in which social enterprises can thrive.
What we love about Social Enterprise UK: Social Enterprise UK holds that social enterprise is the future of business. It is the largest social enterprise network in the UK with an ever-expanding membership base of well over a thousand. Social Enterprise UK runs effective campaigns for its members and lobbies on the sector’s behalf. The organization carries out robust and respected research to help paint a picture of the UK’s social enterprise movement and works with corporate partners to broker business for members and other social enterprises.
Impact: The Social Enterprise UK’s Buy Social Corporate Challenge is spearheaded by a group of high-profile businesses aiming to collectively spend £1 billion with social enterprises through their procurement. Fifteen of the UK’s largest companies currently buy from social enterprises through the buy social corporate challenge.
Leadership: Peter Holbrok CBE, Chief Executive
Watch to learn more about Social Enterprise UK’s mission.
Mission: to grow the global social enterprise movement in order to accelerate the transition to a new global impact economy.
What we love about Social Enterprise World Forum: The Social Enterprise World Forum began in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2008. It gathered more than 400 delegates from 29 countries in an effort to raise awareness of social enterprise as an expanding global mechanism for social change. Today, SEWF hosts global and regional events as an opportunity for leaders and practitioners to network, exchange ideas and promote the social enterprise sector internationally.
Impact: SEWF’s first digital event in 2020 became their biggest yet, with 5,000 reserved spots for participants, 234 speakers and 94 social enterprise sessions. However, since its inception, it has expanded beyond a single event and has begun to connect specific communities through its digital platform while also holding forums in various cities across the world.
Leadership: Gerry Higgins, Founder and Managing Director
Mission: to use breakthrough technology to solve persistent problems in health education around the world.
What we love about TeachAids: A social venture that set out to solve pressing health issues around the world, TeachAids is grounded in the doctoral work of Dr. Piya Sorcar, social entrepreneur, researcher and lecturer at Stanford University. Since 2009, the organization has formulated a customizable learning methodology that has been used to address different problems, including HIV prevention as well as concussion prevention and treatment.
Impact: TeachAids has used their methodology to create a range of products providing access to health education. The organization currently has a global ambassadors program and over 250 partners that help them distribute their products for free around the world.
Leadership: Dr. Piya Sorcar, Founder and CEO
Watch to learn more about TeachAid’s concussion education experience, CrashCourse.
Mission: to amplify impactful changemakers to better serve people living in extreme poverty by redistributing wealth from consumer spending.
What we love about Thankyou.co: By manufacturing and selling products directly to consumers, the organization uses the proceeds to fund impactful changemakers who are addressing extreme poverty. Their goal is to provide product purchase choice that will help create a world where not one person lives in poverty.
Impact: Thankyou has given $17 million (AUD) to various organizations that work to end extreme poverty, including the African Visionary Fund, Children’s Ground, Integrate Health and many more.
Leadership: Daniel Flynn & Justine Flynn, Co-Founders
Watch to learn more about Thankyou.co’s mission.
Mission: to provide access to safe and supportive housing, financial independence and a lifelong community of support for women survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction.
What we love about Thistle Farms: Thistle Farms is dedicated to helping women survivors recover and heal from prostitution, trafficking and addiction. They do this by providing a safe place to live, a meaningful job and a lifelong sisterhood of support.
Impact: Since its inception, Thistle Farms has provided over 10,000 nights of safe, supportive housing, 1,633 medical and mental health appointments and 74,800 hours of employment for women survivors.
Leadership: Becca Stevens, Founder
Watch to learn more about Thistle Farms.
Mission: to use business to improve lives by promoting corporate responsibility and conscious consumerism.
What we love about TOMS: Founded in 2006, TOMS is considered the Original One for One Company. This means that for every pair of shoes sold, TOMS provides a new pair to a person in need. With the mission to promote corporate responsibility and conscious consumerism, the organization champions a close-knit culture and has adopted a model where one-third of their profits go toward grassroots organizations.
Impact: TOMS has given nearly 100 million pairs of shoes to people in need, but their impact expands beyond shoes. According to their 2019 Impact Report, TOMS has provided 780,000 sight restorations, 722,000 weeks of safe water and given $6.5 million in impact grants around the world.
Talent management philosophy: TOMS believes that smart risks produce great change, and that its close-knit culture fosters a supportive, collaborative and authentic atmosphere in which they can all learn and grow—both personally and professionally.
Leadership: Blake Mycoskie, Founder
Watch to learn more about TOMS’ mission.
Mission: to change women’s lives by providing stepping stones to self-sufficiency through social enterprise.
What we love about Women’s Bean Project: Founded in 1989, Women’s Bean Project set out to help women achieve independence and self-sufficiency by providing an opportunity to experience the dignity of work and learning how to get—and keep—a job. A core belief of the organization is that all women have the power to transform their lives through employment. Women’s Bean Project hires women who are chronically unemployed and teaches them to work by making nourishing products via a food manufacturing business. The organization’s guiding principles are opportunity, service, transformation, empowerment and sustainability.
Impact: Through its seven-month program, Women’s Bean Project provides core curriculum classes of Financial Literacy, Computer Literacy, GED Coursework, Dress for Success and Group Therapeutic Workshops. Each woman in the program receives over 50 hours of career services training, working one-on-one with a job search coach and attending computer lab (among other) workshops. The organization has served over 1,000 women since its inception and has a 95% employment rate in the year following graduation of the program.
Leadership: Tamra Ryan, CEO
Watch to learn more about Women’s Bean Project’s mission.
Mission: To drive innovation in culture through building strategic connections around hip hop.
What we love about Yo Stay Hungry: Yo Stay Hungry grew from its beginnings as a culinary competition for high school students to an innovative organization that bridges the worlds of rap and food in an effort to preserve the culture in a way that’s never been done before. Founded in 2015 by Syreeta Gates, Yo Stay Hungry has become a trusted brand that pairs youth with professional mentors to prepare meals together quoted in rap lyrics. The organization is guided by one of its core beliefs that “everybody eats”—meaning there is enough room for everybody at the table.
Impact: Four years after its founding, Yo Stay Hungry has hosted more than 8 competitions and served more than 3,500 attendees. It has whet the appetite for rap parties like Jonathan Mannion’s Reasonable Doubt 20th Anniversary celebration and has represented rap culture at events like the 2016 Taste Talk Food and Drink Awards.
Leadership: Syreeta Gates, Creator
Watch to learn more about Yo Stay Hungry’s mission.
Whether it be building strategic connections around hip hop or transforming lives with thoughtfully designed, clean technology, the missions of these organizations are creating real impact. The passion-driven work of social entrepreneurs to date has been monumental, and it will no doubt continue to inspire those with a fire for change, in the social impact sector and beyond.
Seeking HR support for your social enterprise? Visit gosita.com to learn more about our partnership and work with social enterprises!
About Social Impact Talent Advisors
Founded in October 2019, SITA by Nonprofit HR is a collaborative. Our parent company, Nonprofit HR, has been serving the talent management needs of the social impact sector for over 20 years. SITA brings Nonprofit HR’s extensive people management expertise exclusively to the social enterprise community. We address critical human resources needs in direct partnership with social enterprises, foundations, social enterprise incubators and impact investors.