What Does It Mean to Be a Social Entrepreneur?

I never heard the phrase social entrepreneurship when we started building the foundation and helping others over five years ago. I always believed I had an entrepreneurial spirit, but I would link that to traditional business practices. Social entrepreneurship is a term that refers to the practice of using business strategies to achieve a positive social impact. This can include addressing poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation. I learned quickly that leading a foundation and exploring how we can help others qualified me as a new social entrepreneur, and it has been the most rewarding work imaginable. 

I want to share what I've learned and inspire other savvy business leaders, budding entrepreneurs, or foundations to think about how they can help more communities.

One example of social entrepreneurship is creating a business that employs and trains individuals from disadvantaged communities. This provides jobs and income for these individuals and helps break the cycle of poverty and build stronger communities.

Another example is the development of products or services that address environmental concerns, such as using sustainable materials or implementing green energy practices. These businesses benefit the environment, educate consumers on the importance of sustainable living, and inspire other companies to follow suit.

Social entrepreneurship can also involve innovative financing models, such as impact investing or crowdfunding, to raise capital for projects with both social and financial returns.

Impact investing:

This is when investors put their money into companies, organizations, or funds with a positive social or environmental impact. Impact investors expect to earn a financial return on their investment but also prioritize the impact their money is making.

Community investing:

This type of impact investing focuses on providing loans, investments, or other forms of financing to underserved communities. These communities may be located in low-income areas or comprised of underrepresented groups such as women or minorities.


This provides small loans to individuals or groups with limited access to traditional banking services. Microfinance can help people start or expand small businesses and can be an effective tool for reducing poverty.


This is a way for entrepreneurs to raise money by getting small contributions from many people, typically through online platforms. Crowdfunding can fund a wide range of projects, including social enterprises.

Social impact bonds:

This is a type of pay-for-success financing in which private investors provide upfront capital to finance a social program and are repaid by the government if the program achieves specific social outcomes.

Overall, social entrepreneurship is a powerful tool for positive change. By using business strategies to address social and environmental issues, these entrepreneurs are creating profitable companies and making a meaningful impact on society.

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Sean W. Couch

President & Co-Trustee at the J.W. Couch Foundation

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