Interested in starting up a social business or charity? We’ve worked with over 100 clients and have learned a lot from our projects at FreshSight. While it may seem daunting, we’ve got some top tips for entering the third sector.

1. Start slow.
A lot of the social entrepreneurs we see come through have so much passion and drive, that they want to offer loads of different services to help as many people and address as many social issues as they can. However, especially in the beginning, its important to establish an initial focus. Without this focus, it can be hard for social startups to grasp their target market, hone a mission statement, and social impact could be spread too thin.

2. Have a plan – but be flexible!
Like any startup, having a schedule laid out that includes execution of various aspects in the business is vital to keeping on track with starting up. However, the third sector and the social business scene can often be unpredictable. It may happen that the funding you’ve been banking on doesn’t go through, the partnership you’ve been developing crumbles, or the concept that you’ve worked hard on does not stick. Social enterprises in particular, especially startups, are most successful when they follow a “lean startup” model, and have the ability to pivot and be flexible if things don’t go to plan. Keeping a backup plan and a cool head is the key to continuing helping people even if you don’t hit success on the first time around.
Exercise a clear ethos and understanding of your social impact.
Through numerous projects that we have had at FreshSight, we have found in our research that social organisations that have a clear mission statement and explain their social impact well are most successful commercially. Having a section of your website devoted towards your ethos and mission is vital to people understanding your company and what it is you’re looking to accomplish!

3. Funding, funding, funding!
Funding is absolutely vital to starting up a social business, and the social enterprise scene in Scotland has loads of opportunities. Have a look into what funding opportunities on and apply for some grants that match your social issue, sector and business type (the more niche to your business, the better) – you never know what you may be awarded!

4. Utilise local resources.
If you’re lucky enough to startup in Scotland, you have an abundance of local resources to help you and your business thrive. Most of the large cities in Scotland have social enterprise networks (SENs), such as GSEN in Glasgow, ESE in Edinburgh, and ASEN in Aberdeen (one of our past clients!). These social enterprise networks will pretty much whatever you need – particularly funding, business advice, network building and partnership development. One of our past clients were lucky enough to have GSEN help them with their gorgeous business plan – which allowed them to apply for funding and organise their young business!

5. Flaunt your strengths – but recognise your limitations.
People involved in social business often times want to change the world and help as many people as they can. However, it is important to recognise the limitations of your business as it develops. Social entrepreneurs can often take on too much, which can overwhelm staff and cloud social mission and projects. Remember to keep a close eye on business capacity and scale in order to be successful, so that you can help as many people as you can for as long as you can!

From all of us here at FreshSight, we wish you good luck with social business ventures. If you need any in-depth business solutions, you know where to find us!


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