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

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.

They 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.

Inner Peace People CIC is a self-help service popping-up in communities across the Midlands, which seeks to change the way people choose to relax. They offer a more mindful solution when it comes to your relaxation, putting your mental health first.

Founder Joshua Bradwell has lived experience of mental health issues and has set up pop-up cafes to allow people to chat openly about their mental health over coffee and a slice of cake.

Inner Peace People logo

First off, I’m going to start with the name of our social enterprise, The Inner Peace People C.I.C. Inner peace is very important to us all and I thought It would be an inclusive name to anyone connected, without giving a label to our users.
We focus on offering an alternative form of café where the ethos is about promoting good mental wellbeing.

Inner Peace People cafe advertHaving personal experience of a mental breakdown two years ago, I discovered there was hardly anywhere that was non-clinical to visit and speak to likeminded people. I created a friendly and tranquil atmosphere for people to open up about their mental health with people with similar experiences. We make our ambiance tranquil by stimulating the five senses as much as possible by using waterfalls, dimmed lighting, sounds of nature, relaxing scents and great tasting refreshments.

Our customer journey is especially important because our aim is to offer a safe space and a place to reflect. We are passionate about recovery as much as prevention; we want people to leave the café feeling refreshed and well equipped to deal with life’s challenges. Preventing suicide is our main goal.

I also think when it comes to social entrepreneurs, it’s like being part of a family. I have been to many organisations and meetings and you can always tell the difference between companies operating purely for profit and ones that are not. I have found people very willing to help and share and feel I have found my tribe! I am incredibly surprised that social enterprise is not spoken about more, but I do hope that the world will be full of them in years to come. This time last year, I had no clue what a social enterprise was, but I went away, had free consultations and was questioned on my business model… at times it was draining but at the same time it was all for the best. If you want change you have to make it!

The main reason I decided to apply for the Aspiring Social Enterprise accreditation is because I wanted to ensure I set up my social enterprise to remain for the long term. In our first year of trading I wanted to ensure we stuck to good practice and remained sustainable by trading products and services instead of being reliant on grants and funding.

After doing research into the perks of the accreditation, I decided that it would provide peace of mind knowing that moving forward we live up to social enterprise instead of just calling ourselves one and not really doing what we set out to do. It’s good to be singing from the same hymn sheet and to have support from the team at Social Enterprise Mark CIC is reassuring, especially in this climate.

I found the application process to be a good one. I initially applied for the accreditation when our organisation was set up as a company ltd by guarantee but was advised to think about our legal structure because I had to meet a specific criterion.

I went away and after lots of consideration I set up as a C.I.C. ltd by guarantee. I liked the honesty of the application process and felt that I was on to good things when filling out the application form.

Throughout the process, I found the correspondence was exceptionally good and helped me to build trust.

When applying for the accreditation I stayed in contact with Rachel Fell, from when I initially enquired right through to applying for and achieving the accreditation. We discussed the legal structures and then I went away to research what would be best for my social enterprise.

Because of the decisions on legal structure, it took longer than I expected to register the company, but as soon as I had registered with the CIC Regulator, I was ready within three months. I am glad I took my time on this. When I had set up my legal structure the application process was fairly quick.

The assessment feedback received has helped me think about more ways to trade, which is important to being sustainable in the long term.

It’s important for us to achieve the Social Enterprise Mark because you can say you are one thing and be another. I want to keep up good practice and to grow, and the image of my social enterprise is especially Important. I think when people see the Social Enterprise Mark logo, it gives credibility and builds trust. Realistically I want to achieve the Mark within the next 3 years.

Click here to find out more about Inner Peace People.

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