Aspiring Social Enterprise case studies

Find out more about the experience of organisations that have been awarded the Aspiring Social Enterprise accreditation, which has been developed to support aspiring social enterprises to get started on the pathway to recognised standards of good practice.

Read about their social enterprise journey so far, why they applied for the accreditation, and their experience of the application and assessment process.

To register your own interest in applying for the accreditation, please click here to complete a short form.


Aspiring Social Enterprise accreditation

Beyond Recovery is a fast growing new social enterprise already making a proven difference to people with repeat offending behaviour, complex mental health issues and drug and alcohol problems who are involved in the criminal justice system.

Beyond Recovery aims to help people look beyond mere survival and existence, and instead to move forward, with hope, resilience and purpose in life. The impact of this work creates far reaching ripple effects in communities, relationships, careers, business opportunities, as well as complete recovery from previously intractable diagnoses.


Beyond Recovery logo

Beyond Recovery team photoFounded by Jacqueline Hollows, Beyond Recovery is a social enterprise that helps people look beyond stigma and restriction.

Beyond Recovery was founded following an insight I had in 2013 about how I could assist with the rehabilitation of people with addictions and convictions. I started volunteering with community organisations and I could see the untapped potential of these often-marginalized people. I could see the resilience and determination they had lived on and how that could create healthier and happier lives if pointed in the right direction. I could see the creativity and ingenuity they had for solving problems. I could see that the people themselves did not know any of this.

My training and exploration of different paradigms for working with addictions and offending behaviour, including coaching, counselling and interventions, gave me the tools I needed to start working with the people I felt passionately about helping. I created Beyond Recovery on pure passion and drive, with limited resources and a mission to eliminate stigma and create an equitable platform which would provide greater opportunity for our beneficiaries.

Many interventions tap into the potential of human beings. Our programme goes beyond that by creating the opportunity for transformational and sustainable personal insight within each human being.

As Beyond Recovery has grown, the potential for change has grown and the vision has grown. We want to support our beneficiaries by creating employment opportunities; creating opportunities for social reform; and, as one of our peer mentors said “showing us that we can help ourselves and help others”.

There is still so much more to do; so much more potential; so much more positive change that can occur. I recognise that passion and drive can only take one so far, we now need robust strategic plans; a qualified and diverse team and financial stability and resilience in order to create the step change needed to unleash the incredible potential to change some of society’s most intractable issues.

The difficulties with COVID-19 lockdown has led to a rethink of our strategy. What started as a way to keep supporting our guys in prison has now become a pitch to move to a digital platform. A big bold solution that could help so many more people rehabilitate and include families and prison staff.


We have previously focused on serving our population and winning business or donations on a project by project basis.

Prior to COVID-19, I realised that to be sustainable the business now needed to become financially resilient. Part of that is to ensure we have traded income and are not just reliant on grants or donations.


The application was easy, it just took me a long time to get around to actually doing it! But once I got on with it, it only took a couple of weeks to be approved.


The main support I received were the gentle nudges about completing the form.


It is important for Beyond Recovery to achieve the Social Enterprise Mark as it is a badge of honour, showing that we adhere to social enterprise principles and that we can be relied on.

We aim to achieve this within 18 months (extra months added because of COVID-19).


Click here to find out more about Beyond Recovery.

To find out more about the Aspiring Social Enterprise Mark and how it may benefit your organisation, please click here.



Charitable Travel is a social enterprise travel agency, which offers holidays, hotels, flights and more whilst focusing on purely social objectives rather than driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.

They sacrifice their travel agency commission so customers can make a free 5% donation to their choice of registered charity through a dedicated JustGiving website.


Charitable Travel logo

Charitable Travel is a registered CIC and a financially protected travel agency. Our purpose and mission is to help customers with holiday and travel plans and, at the same time, support the great work that UK-based charities deliver around the world.

Every penny of profit earned by Charitable Travel, everything we do and everything we offer our customers, supports charity fundraising and good causes. Being a social enterprise means we don’t pay our shareholders or owners any bonuses or dividends. Any profit that we make is either re-invested in the company or donated to registered charities.

When customers book a holiday or cruise with us, we sacrifice travel agency commission so the customer can make a free 5% donation to their choice of registered charity, through our dedicated JustGiving website.

We’re able to keep our prices competitive because of this aspect, we don’t want to accumulate profit for ourselves, we want to accumulate donations for charity.

We pride ourselves in offering travel expertise, a wide choice of holiday options, quality, great value and a unique way of creating travel-for-good for our customers as a true not-for-private-profit social enterprise.


  • Networking
  • Learning
  • Customer reassurance that we are working towards the Social Enterprise Mark

The application process couldn’t be easier. The support was easily available for any questions. The whole process took about three weeks, much of which was consideration on our part.


We received great help in clarifying the various steps of accreditation, which was the most useful.


Although we are already operating with the Social Enterprise Mark criteria in mind, as a new business, we are not yet able to prove we meet the 50% trading criteria. Therefore, we aim to achieve the Social Enterprise Mark within a year.

This is important to us as it will provide assurance that we are on track to live our social enterprise values, and the reassurance of our purpose being truly for community and society at large.


Click here to find out more about Charitable Travel.

To find out more about the Aspiring Social Enterprise Mark and how it may benefit your organisation, please click here.



Ground Up Digital is a Digital Marketing Agency, which helps organisations to improve their online presence and engagement with customers. This enables them to maximise their sales and outreach.

We specialise in Google Ads campaigns and Facebook advertising as well as producing high quality websites. In online advertising, the basic concepts are easy to understand, but specialist knowledge is crucial to achieving successful results. Expertise adds depth, effectiveness and most importantly, value for money.


Ground Up Digital logo

Rory MasonOur founder Rory was determined to leverage the skills and know-how he had built up during years working in digital marketing agencies for corporate clients in a new way, prioritising social objectives and a strong ethical compass.

Raw ability does not always easily translate into personal career success. For those who find education more difficult due to disability, or make poor early choices, evidence of employment capability can be lacking or inconsistent. In a competitive job market this can lead to applications being overlooked and a dispiriting negative spiral of rejection, as lack of experience then becomes yet another barrier to employment.

At Ground Up Digital, we will help our trainees to break free of this spiral. By focusing on intrinsic capability rather than employment history, we will offer employment to people who may never been offered a proper chance to show what they can achieve. Our trainees will progress through a learning programme from the basics of digital marketing to an advanced, practical understanding of how online promotion can be used to drive a business’s success.

Ground Up Digital is not a training company, but an active business. Trainees will learn on the job, ensuring that they build not only specialist knowledge but also the practical, business-focused, hands-on skills that make a robust basis for a longer-term career. They will be paid accordingly, at Living Wage from day one – we are an accredited Living Wage employer.

As they become able to work autonomously, they will be able to choose if they want to take the transferable skills they have built up to a different employer, either in the same field or a different area. Or, they can stay with us and advance their career as an experienced member of the Ground Up family, with the option to potentially specialise further or train others themselves.


Building trust and credibility is central to attracting the clients we need, to achieve our business and social goals. We have high social aspirations that we’re fully committed and bound to, yet in order to achieve them, we need to first create our foundation.

Rory Mason with the Aspiring Social Enterprise accreditation certificateAchieving the Aspiring Social Enterprise accreditation enables us to make a public demonstration of commitment, to mirror both the formal obligations created when the company was formed, and our personal aims. It allows us to bridge the gap between where we are currently – stabilising our start up business for dependability – and where we look forward to being – an established, effective social enterprise..

Being able to tell our existing and future clients that we’ve been awarded this accreditation gives them an external perspective on our ambitions. Having external validation that we are aiming in the right direction shows them that our mission is more than a lovely idea. It underlines that our vision is realistic and attainable, and that choosing to work with us is a genuine step for social good.


The application process for the Aspiring Social Enterprise accreditation was a refreshing change for us. The criteria focusing on your starting framework, goals and direction of travel, not just what you have done so far, were appropriate to our situation. The process flow was straightforward and did not demand too much time investment, which is hugely important when you are a very small team with clients to look after.

We checked over the eligibility criteria as set out in the Qualification Framework and then completed the application form. It was so nice for once to review a completed form and be able to see all the positives of what we’ve achieved so far, rather than just the blanks showing how much further we want to go!

We first became aware of the Aspiring Social Enterprise accreditation in the last week of July. We registered our interest and paid an application fee, ready to start applying in August. We checked over the eligibility criteria as set out in the Qualification Framework and then completed the application form in mid-September. We were delighted to be advised that we were fully approved for accreditation as the very first Aspiring Social Enterprise on 21st November 2019.


During the application process it emerged that it would be necessary to clarify some aspects in our Articles of Association to meet the requirements for the Aspiring Social Enterprise accreditation. We were provided with guidance from compliance experts at Social Enterprise Mark CIC. They were very generous with their assistance and suggested small changes that successfully achieved the criteria, while remaining true to our original vision for the future development of the company.

When our application was approved, we received a feedback report, confirming how we met the criteria and providing feedback on what we need to do to meet the requirements for the Social Enterprise Mark, which we will feed into our governance plans. This will include formalising an update process for our income forecasts and introducing a corporate social impact framework.

This will help us ensure that we meet wider expectations on the nature and extent of the benefits we deliver, putting us in a good position to move up to the Social Enterprise Mark as soon as possible.


We want to achieve the Social Enterprise Mark as soon as possible, while being realistic about the natural challenges we will need to overcome to get there. We are focused on building a sustainable business with great ambitions, and that can take time.

The important thing is that when we do reach this goal, it will be as a robust, fully-fledged Social Enterprise, ready to make the most of the opportunities that achieving the Social Enterprise Mark will open up for us. Achieving the Social Enterprise Mark will provide objective recognition of our standards and the social good we are doing. We see it as a signal of trust, an independent confirmation that we will be operating in accordance with the principles that we are proud of. It will demonstrate the importance that our social goals hold for us, in a straightforward way that can be understood by anyone.

Being seen to do good in business is great for doing business, but there’s more to it than that. Our social aims create passion and purpose in what we do and pursuing them contributes to our own fulfilment, as individuals. So formal validation that we are making a difference won’t just matter to Ground Up Digital as a company, it will mean a lot to each of us personally, too.


Click here to find out more about Ground Up Digital.

To find out more about the Aspiring Social Enterprise Mark and how it may benefit your organisation, please click here.



Tobias Recruitment Group CIC is a young yet ambitious specialist recruitment business based in Plymouth. As a CIC business, at least 65% of our profits are used to benefit our local community by either self-funding or donating funds to various projects across Plymouth and Devon.

We specialise in the placement of permanent and contract staff within the Engineering, M&E, and Facilities Management industries with particular focus on Mechanical, Electrical, Air Conditioning, and Combustion.

Tobias Recruitment Group

Tobias Recruitment Group CIC is essentially a recruitment business. We’re less than a month old and specialise in the placement of permanent and contract staff into the engineering and facilities management industries. The difference with us is that we were specifically launched as a social enterprise!

Our founder Leon Coates has worked within the recruitment industry for nearly 15 years and during that time, he noticed that wherever or whoever he worked for, it was all about profits. So, with the onset of Covid-19, he decided it’s time to give back rather than take out – and Tobias Recruitment Group CIC was formed.

Before starting the business, we thought long and hard about how we can give back and the areas that need the help most and, as a result, came up with a three-year plan to introduce one key service each year which we feel are urgently needed.

The first project that we hope to launch is a completely free mental health clinic where people can come to feel safe and even have the chance to speak with a fully qualified mental health professional when they need it most. We’ve found, both through our own experience and from speaking with several local people, that access to mental health support is severely lacking and the support that is available, takes sometimes years to access. By the end of year one, we aim to have a space dedicated for local people who are struggling with everyday life to feel welcomed and safe and whenever possible, have access to professional counsellors and mental health professionals. If the venture is successful, we’d love to open additional centres in multiple locations around Plymouth and Devon to continue supporting those who need it.

Our year two project is an elderly support programme where older people can have access to a variety of services and networking events, such as coffee mornings, low impact fitness classes, light gardening and so on. Inspired by a charity close to our founders heart, this programme aims to provide the elderly with a place to come and feel welcome, whilst having the opportunity to meet other people in a similar age range with similar interests, in the hope that they can gain new friends, join in on activities and expand their local support network. We’ve found that in more remote parts of the countryside, some elderly people become isolated and without support which is something we hope to change.

Raw ability does not always easily translate into personal career success. For those who find education more difficult due to disability, or make poor early choices, evidence of employment capability can be lacking or inconsistent. In a competitive job market this can lead to applications being overlooked and a dispiriting negative spiral of rejection, as lack of experience then becomes yet another barrier to employment.

At Ground Up Digital, we will help our trainees to break free of this spiral. By focusing on intrinsic capability rather than employment history, we will offer employment to people who may never been offered a proper chance to show what they can achieve. Our trainees will progress through a learning programme from the basics of digital marketing to an advanced, practical understanding of how online promotion can be used to drive a business’s success.

Ground Up Digital is not a training company, but an active business. Trainees will learn on the job, ensuring that they build not only specialist knowledge but also the practical, business-focused, hands-on skills that make a robust basis for a longer-term career. They will be paid accordingly, at Living Wage from day one – we are an accredited Living Wage employer.

As they become able to work autonomously, they will be able to choose if they want to take the transferable skills they have built up to a different employer, either in the same field or a different area. Or, they can stay with us and advance their career as an experienced member of the Ground Up family, with the option to potentially specialise further or train others themselves.

In year three, we intend to fully fund, or at least subsidise, a day nursery for struggling local families to access. Childcare is such an expensive and difficult service to access and some families simply can’t afford it, which restricts their ability to gain employment and in turn, affects the local economy. We hope that launching this service will allow struggling families the opportunity to break down those barriers and re-join the workforce, which will ultimately contribute to local spending and boost the Plymouth economy.

Whilst the three objectives above are long-term goals, we’ve also pledged to offer half a day of our time each week to help the local job centre with teaching employability skills to unemployed Plymouth residents – things such as CV writing, interview techniques, presentation and communication skills etc. With Covid-19 affecting so many, we feel it’s important to help lighten the load of our local job centre by offering training and development to those who need it.


Even though Tobias Recruitment Group was established as a Community Interest Company, and we’re a member of Plymouth Social Enterprise Network, having the Aspiring Social Enterprise accreditation was important to us as it helps to enforce our credibility as a social enterprise business. Any business can claim to give back but having this accreditation essentially proves that for us and supports us to work towards standards of good practice.


The application process was incredibly simple and straight forward. It took us only a couple of hours to complete and we received a decision within a few days, which was brilliant for us as a new business.

From our initial contact with Rachel, we received the application information the same day and had it completed and returned the following working day. After that, it took only a couple of days before we received confirmation that we’d been accepted.

The assessment feedback we received was great! As a business, we’ve not really marketed ourselves as a social enterprise but, after reading the feedback, have decided to follow the advice given by really advertising the projects we hope to implement and fund moving forward. As all our funds are generated from either our founder’s financial backing or by commercial trade, it’s the services that we offer which we initially focussed on marketing. But with the feedback provided, we’ve now got multiple platforms advertising the social impact we hope to provide to the local community.


Whatever questions we had were quickly responded to with detailed and precise responses but honestly, with the whole process being so straight forward, we didn’t really need much additional support.


For us at Tobias Recruitment Group, the credibility gained and becoming part of such a worthy network of businesses is definitely the most important thing. We’re proud to hold the Aspiring accreditation and we’re planning to work hard in year one to achieve the Social Enterprise Mark in our second year of trading. If we can get there sooner, then great but year two is our aim. We also hope to progress to the Gold Mark in due time.


Click here to find out more about Tobias Recruitment Group.

To find out more about the Aspiring Social Enterprise Mark and how it may benefit your organisation, please click here.