Aston awarded official ‘social enterprise’ status
- Aston University given the Social Enterprise Mark for supporting the growth of businesses with a social or environmental mission
- More than 150 social enterprises have benefited from Aston’s business growth programmes
- Aston one of only 10 universities in the UK to be awarded the Mark.
Aston University has been awarded the Social Enterprise Mark for providing vital support to businesses that put people and planet before profit.The accreditation means Aston University has itself been recognised as a social enterprise for the work it does in supporting and developing many other social enterprises.
The Social Enterprise Mark is the only internationally available accreditation for organisations that proves they place the interests of society and the environment before shareholder gain.
Social enterprises are different to traditional businesses in that most of the money made will fulfil a social purpose, or is reinvested in the enterprise itself, its projects or a charitable arm. The more successful a social enterprise is the more social benefit it can deliver.
Supporting social enterprise is key to Aston’s mission to be the leading university for business and the professions, as well as promoting business as a force for good. The University has supported more than 150 social enterprises through a wide range of programmes, including:
- 21 new social enterprises created via the Birmingham Skills for Enterprise and Employability Network (BSEEN) in the last five years
- 40 social enterprises participated in Aston’s business growth programmes in the last five years, including the Aston Programme for Small Business Growth, Pitchfest, and the Small Business Charter Growth Vouchers programme
- 90 social enterprises supported via the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses UK alumni community, of which Aston is a lead delivery partner
In addition, 30 Aston students took part in Social Storm – an international competition where students are given 24 hours to tackle housing and food security issues with sustainable ideas.
As well as providing practical support, Aston University is also at the forefront of academic research in this field. Ute Stephan, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Aston Business School, is a lead researcher on a EU-funded project (SEFORIS – Social Entrepreneurship as a Force for more Innovative and Inclusive Societies) exploring how social enterprises thrive in different contexts and how they change their contexts to create positive social change.
Other recent projects include ‘Identifying Social Enterprise’ funded by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Policy & Government Inclusive Economy Unit, UK, and ‘Business-driven Social Change’ funded by the Network of Business Sustainability, Canada.
Paula Whitehouse, Associate Dean for Enterprise at Aston Business School, said:
“Aston is one of a small handful of universities to have received this accreditation, and we are very proud to join them. The vitality of this sector is undeniable, with over 70,000 examples now in existence in the UK contributing £24 billion to the economy.
“Through our leading business growth programmes, our doors are open to social entrepreneurs who want to learn how grow their business and maximise social impact, and our specialist research provides policy makers with insight to enhance support for social enterprise and inclusive mission-led SMEs. I hope this accreditation reinforces the message to entrepreneurs that we are right behind this movement.”
CASE STUDY: Miss Macaroon
Rosie Ginday’s business Miss Macaroon is combining sales success with a social mission to help disadvantaged people gain new skills.
Since starting up in 2011, the Birmingham-based entrepreneur has offered intensive work-based training to 26 unemployed people – including ex-offenders, care leavers and victims of domestic violence. Six of them have been taken on as employees, and five have moved on to mainstream employment, while others have found jobs with Rosie’s wider network.
Late last year, 33-year-old Rosie launched her first macaroon and prosecco bar in Birmingham city centre and is now looking at other UK cities. A trained pastry chef with experience at a Michelin-starred restaurant, Rosie is even taking her passion for macaroons back to their French roots – by selling them to customers in Paris and Cannes.
“With the effects of austerity and wages not growing in line with inflation to cover living costs, people feel they’ve got a better chance doing something by themselves. For me, it was about doing something I’m passionate about and learning new things. As a business owner you’re constantly having to do that and improve.”
Rosie has taken full advantage of new private sector led mentoring schemes for business owners, having won a place on the prestigious Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme and NatWest’s Entrepreneurial Spark network. Last year, she was named EY Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year for the Midlands.
“Having access to peer and expert mentors is so important, because you can ask them silly questions rather than floundering in the dark trying to search for the right answers,” said Rosie. “And developing a network of like-minded business owners is crucial, because it can be lonely and invariably quite stressful, so it’s good to have people who know what you’re going through.”