A Brief History of Social Entrepreneurship

The concept and term social entrepreneurship has been tossed around since the 1960s. It was even popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s when some of the greatest social entrepreneurs of all time were working on their social ventures to address timely issues such as a lack of financial self-sufficiency in Bangladesh and reducing environmental impact of cleaning products in the United States. The twenty-first century also saw the rise of great social entrepreneurs aiming to encourage literacy, put shoes on the feet of millions of children, and give sight to those in need.

socialenterprise-prizeCatapulting the concept of social entrepreneurship into the spotlight was the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. Founder of Grameen Bank, an institution that provides microcredit loans to encourage economic growth at the grassroots level in Bangladesh in order to help the disadvantaged develop financial self-sufficiency, Yunus’ Nobel Prize brought social ventures into contemporary consciousness. Since it’s founding in 1983, the bank has brought in a net income of more than $10 million.

Other great social entrepreneurs

Jeffery Hollender 1998 founder of Seventh Generation

Mission: produce cleaning and personal products with a reduced environmental impact
Business Model: 10% of pre-tax profits given to fund nonprofits and businesses focused on the community, the environment, and responsible practices
Success: $150 million in revenue in 2010
Other Ventures: helps with the American Sustainable Business Council, a member of the Social Venture Network, and founder of the Community Capital Bank

Xavier Helgesen, Chris “Kreece” Fuchs, and Jeff Kurtzman 2002 founders of Better World Books (B Corp)

Mission: maximize the value of every book out there and to help promote literacy around the world
Business Model: reusing or recycling books through sales on their website and donations to schools and maintaining a “triple bottom line” – caring not only about profits but also the social and environmental impact of their business
Success: 84 million volumes has raised $12.1 million for literacy funding

Blake Mycoskie 2006 founder of TOMS

Mission: provide shoes to needy people
Business Model: One-for-One – the company donates one pair of shoes for every pair that is bought
Success: More than a million pairs of shoes have been donated
Growth: In 2011 company launched another One-for-One business with sunglasses and glasses

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