Connections - 05.31.22

Social Enterprises: What Exactly Are They?

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by Elliot Massuda, Foothold Technology

Here at Foothold Technology, we launched our first-ever social enterprise directory about a year ago. We worked diligently to spread the word to the community, allowing our directory to expand and grow, and all the while celebrating the amazing work within our community.

In doing so, we also gathered some unexpected lessons and discoveries – some of which I thought might be important to share. In particular, that the word “social enterprise” has many meanings and does not necessarily resonate with everyone in the same way.

So, as we continue celebrating and showcasing social enterprises, I thought it would be helpful to share components that define a social enterprise.


This is the underlying reason for the work that you all do, day in and day out. In general, the mission of social enterprises is to help create better lives for individuals and communities. For me, this is what separates social enterprises from social entrepreneurs and businesses that incorporate social good in their business models. Social enterprises typically provide direct support to our most vulnerable communities.

Goods & Services

Put simply, social enterprises usually have a good or service that they are selling, which can be anything from baked goods to car detailing work.


A core function of many social enterprises is to provide employment training or opportunities. Individuals can use these opportunities as a stepping stone in order to find employment elsewhere. Or, it can be a lifelong employment opportunity.

Funding Sources

Although some funding can come from the sale of the goods and/or services, these revenue streams are typically not the main source of funding. Most social enterprises rely on other funding sources, such as donations, grants, or government funding. Financing may be one of the biggest obstacles for social enterprises to launch and continue their operations.

I hope the above-referenced components of a social enterprise were helpful. In an effort to continue this conversation, we are hosting a webinar on Thursday, June 2 at 12 pm EST titled Stories from Social Enterprises: Challenges and Success Stories from Social Enterprise Employment Programs. Learn more and register for the event. We’re eager to hear your thoughts and further discuss the components that make up a social enterprise.

Elliot Massuda is Strategic Partnerships Manager at Foothold Technology. Foothold Technology’s software helps transform the way you provide care. Visit us at