Furniture Link – our social enterprise arm
This year was the 10th year anniversary of our social enterprise arm Furniture Link, so we thought we’d take a look back at our time as a social enterprise and reflect on the #SocEnt space in general.
What is a Social Enterprise?
As many who read this may know, a social enterprise is a unique organization that, as per Wikipedia, ‘applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximizing profits for external shareholders.’
In fact, the definition of a social enterprise is multi-faceted, epitomised by the fact that there is no legal business form for, nor even a common international definition of, a social enterprise (Social Enterprise Canada).
What can be said however is that social enterprises are entities with an explicit focus on the positive social impact they create; any revenue maximization strategies undertaken are rooted in the desire to extend that impact.
Furniture Bank has had one for over 10 years!
There are of course many different forms and paths that organizations take in order to realize a social enterprise model. For Furniture Bank, registered as a charity since 1997, our social enterprise – Furniture Link – was created to generate a stable revenue stream, allowing us to continue to serve clients in need of furniture without being dependant on grants and external funding. For those unable to drop off their unwanted furniture at our warehouse in Etobicoke, Furniture Link provides a GTA wide pick up service (starting from $99), coming to your home and removing your furniture and houseware items for you.
A similar model has been recreated at other charitable organizations such as St. Leonard’s Society of Toronto, which recently took the wraps off their new social enterprise, Klink Coffee. The enterprise itself and the funds generated contribute directly to the job skills training, internships and placement services St. Leonard’s offer their clients (individuals returning home from prison).
In both instances, the positive social impact is baked directly into the product or service being sold.
Social Enterpises need to excel at what they do
However, to be successful, social enterprises need to be just as dynamic and committed to excellence as their commercial counterparts. It is no longer enough to ‘merely’ have a social purpose; consumers expect to have a superior experience when they make their purchase. This was demonstrated at Furniture Bank when we recognised we were missing out on furniture donations because of the lack of an express pick up service. Even though we lack the capacity to offer such a service, we have teamed up with one of the largest private sector suppliers in this space YouMoveMe, to meet that demand.
In fact meeting a demand and excelling at it is quickly becoming a hallmark of a great social enterprise. The fact that each purchase also contributes directly to a positive social outcome makes a compelling case for consumers.
Know of a #SocEnt that’s excelling at what it does? Got any comments about the #SocEnt space in general? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @Furniture_Bank