Social Saturday: celebrating social enterprises

By Yousif Farah 
Saturday 13th September is Social Saturday, the first ever nationwide day dedicated to promoting social enterprises that trade with the public. It’s being launched by Social Enterprise UK, to encourage people to buy products and services from social enterprises.

For those new to the concept, a social enterprise is a business model that prioritises its social mission over financial gain. Investing in people, most of its profits are usually reinvested in the business and the local community. When a new social enterprise emerges, entire communities reap the benefits. Varying in size, purpose and industry, the range from small social enterprises like us to nation-wide enterprises like the Big Issue.

Today there are more than 70,000 social enterprises nationwide, contributing £18.5 million to the UK economy, and employing almost a million people.

When you buy from a social enterprise, you buy social. Buying social means you provide an unemployed person with a career opportunity, or provide a homeless person with a bed for the night, or help the environment, as well as saving money and challenging only profit-driven businesses through competition.

Over the years we have had many partnerships with Social Enterprises across the country, including the Big Issue and Social Enterprise UK – who we proudly created the Social Saturday marketing materials for. We buy social whenever we can. Here are some of our favourite social enterprises:

Dalston Eastern Curve Garden
By Craig Temperly

This beautiful community garden and events space was built on derelict land in Dalston, East London, by architectural collective EXYZT in 2010. Since then it has become a vibrant community hub for holding workshops and events, as well as place for locals to relax and take in the peaceful garden greenery. It's good for the community and the environment, with local residents growing their own food and herbs in parts of the garden. We liked it so much we had our 5th birthday there.

Clarity and The Soap Co
Surely one of the oldest social enterprises in the UK, Clarity has been employing blind and disabled people since 1854 to create and sell beautifully scented hand-soaps and other toiletries. Clarity is also responsible for The Soap Co, which has a local shop in Keswick and a national online brand launching this year. With a 30% employment gap for disabled people in the UK, they create important employment opportunities for blind and disabled people, which make up over 70% of their workforce. 

Access Print
Access Print sells print, copy and design services. They are part of the Working Well Trust, a charity that helps support and train people who have experienced mental health problems get back into employment. All of the income from Access Print is reinvested into the charity which allows the trust to provide training and opportunities.

Access Print provides employment for two people in the shop who are ex-trainees and training opportunities for up to 24 others. Trainees are also given opportunities to move into employment or further education through another part of the charity called Rework, with high success rates. We buy from them and we always find their staff so helpful, polite and willing to accommodate our needs, as well as providing a great service. 

Main article by Yousif Farah, profiles by Grant Kingsnorth and Catriona Kinney.

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