What All Aspiring Social Entrepreneurs Need To Know

Unlike regular SMEs, social enterprises (SEs) – businesses which devote significant resources to advancing specific social causes – are concerned with more than just profits. If you’re about to start your own SE, now’s a great time to get going. Here are some handy tips to help you get started.

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Millennials are a formidable spending force with discerning tastes. According to a 2015 Nielsen study, 81% of millennials expect their brands to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship. If you’re thinking of starting an SE, now’s a good time to get started – whether your corporate mission is sustainability, poverty alleviation or advocacy for a specific social cause.

There’s now more support than ever for SEs based in Singapore, with products and services even being designed specifically for the sector, such as corporate bank accounts and unsecured loans. First, however, it’s important to get up to speed with everything you need to know as a social entrepreneur.

Broadly speaking, an SE is a business entity set up with clear social goals which allocates significant resources towards fulfilling its social objectives. Contrary to what some might think, SEs aren’t all about helping the disabled or underprivileged. Causes range from championing environmental causes, to alleviating poverty, to advancing literacy in developing countries. An example of a Singapore-based SE is Tea Ideas, a business selling healthy tea products which seeks to provide employment for long-term unemployed individuals.

Tips to hit the ground running

If your business model fits the bill, the next step is to get your company up and running. You’ll need to register your business with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), build a user-friendly website to introduce your products and social cause, and get yourself listed on relevant business directories to begin building your customer base. Get familiar with Singapore’s SE landscape by reading up on raiSE Singapore’s website, which is a repository of information for social enterprises.

It’s also crucial to get your banking services set up as soon as you can, so you can begin sending and receiving payments. If you’re a qualifying SE, consider going for the DBS Social Enterprise Package, which gives you a business bank account for your SE with minimal transaction fees. Unlike regular business bank accounts, a DBS Social Enterprise account requires no minimum monthly balance or initial deposit – and you’ll also gain access to unsecured loans at preferential rates.

If you haven’t thought about digital solutions for other business functions such as your accounts, HR and payroll, digital marketing and payment systems, DBS’ Start Digital is a good place to start looking. This suite of digital solutions can help you streamline business operations through effective digitalisation. For more tips on digital transformation and other ways to give your business a boost, sign up for DBS BusinessClass, an engagement programme designed for the SME community to access networking opportunities with other entrepreneurs and gain insights on the latest market trends.

Getting the word out

Once your business is up and running, it’s time to start getting the word out about your new venture. Business directories aside, it’s important to explore different marketing options – whether through social media advertising, viral campaigns, media mentions and more.

Of course, all of this requires funding. Aside from getting your friends and family members to invest in your venture, it’s worth looking into grants which specifically support SEs. DBS Foundation, for example, offers grants to support the meaningful work SEs do. The raiSE Singapore website also lists other grants which you can apply for.

As you can see, starting a SE doesn’t differ too much from starting a regular SME. The main difference is that you’ll be devoting a significant part of your resources to improving the lives of those among us who need extra help. Find out more about how DBS can help you with your social cause today.