21 Startup Ideas for Social Entrepreneurs

Best Social Enterprise Ideas to Launch Today

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If you’re someone who wants to make a difference in your community and the world, you might just be the ideal social entrepreneur. Social entrepreneurs are business owners that develop a startup with the goal to make a social or environmental impact.

Whether it’s building a tool or providing a service for existing charities — a social enterprise is a much-needed part of the modern American fabric. Learn more about how to start a social startup by reading our list of the top social entrepreneurship ideas, and start making a positive change today.

Also Recommended: Check out our full list of the best startup ideas and our guide on how to start a startup.


Social Entrepreneurship Ideas

The social enterprise space is phenomenally diverse and presents a wide range of startup ideas. If you're looking to help implement real change in the world and simultaneously start a successful business, then you'll definitely want to take a look at the social entrepreneurship ideas we've sourced.  

From helping to fund other startups to breaking down the barriers to education, there's a social enterprise idea for everyone.

1. Crowdfunding Platform

Crowdfunding platforms are a useful tool for entrepreneurs, charitable causes, and individuals to raise money and reach their financial goals. To create a successful crowdfunding platform that is able to compete with other trusted platforms, you’ll need to create a unique idea or function that sets your platform apart. This could be a network of investors, advertisement opportunities, or specified crowdfunding topics such as real estate.

2. Food Waste Solution

With at least one-quarter of the food produced in the US going to waste every year, food waste solutions are a booming part of the startup space. Finding ways to recycle waste food and put it to good use is not just beneficial to those who may be struggling financially, it's also become a trendy way for higher-income consumers to prove their commitment to sustainability and reduce their own carbon footprint. The food waste solution market is not just consumer-focused, though, because these startups are simultaneously helping food producers to improve their profit margin. A knowledge of the FMCG space is certainly beneficial if you would like to venture into this industry.  

Also recommended: Get inspired by these startups addressing food waste and hunger.

3. Clean Energy

Next up on our list of social enterprise ideas is clean energy. It’s no secret that clean energy is growing in both popularity and necessity. A clean energy startup can be either a product or service that takes a green approach to produce energy such as electricity-generating bicycles or solar paneling. Developing concepts and executing your business idea will require either knowledge of clean energy or the support of someone who has this knowledge.

Recommended: Check out our full list of startup ideas for green entrepreneurs.

4. Microlending Business

A microlending business loans small amounts of money to people who cannot qualify for loans through other institutions. Normally, this startup charges a fairly high interest rate to its customers to mitigate risk if the borrower defaults on their loan. In underserved areas, microlending businesses can help provide communities with opportunities to introduce much-needed resources to their local communities.

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5. Ethical Online Marketplace

With more people at home than ever, the convenience of shopping online has grown in popularity. However, this doesn’t mean that the marketplaces available are providing products that are ethically sourced, made, or sold. That’s where you come in! An online ethical marketplace provides a platform for ethically made goods to be found and purchased by interested consumers.

6. Fair Trade Subscription Box

There are subscription boxes for everything these days. To lower costs, however, many businesses opt to sell products that the makers aren’t adequately compensated for. A fair trade subscription box startup provides the ease and excitement of a subscription box while introducing consumers to fairly traded, handcrafted products that they can feel good about purchasing.

7. Edtech Startup

Next on our list of social entrepreneurship ideas is edtech. With more schools adjusting to online teaching, an edtech startup could give students an easier route to education. Whether it is for K-12 education or college-level students, the time to develop technology to enhance online learning is now.

Make this startup unique and socially responsible by doing your research on the problems schools face today with their eLearning software or equipment, and work to develop a product that smoothes the creases in online teaching.

Learn more about starting an edtech startup from the founders of Trashbots!

Also recommended: Check out our full list of startup ideas for education entrepreneurs.

8. Special Needs Services

Providing services to special needs communities can be a great way to make the world a better place and give those living in difficult circumstances the help they need at the same time. Special needs can mean anything from the elderly to those living with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. The first step to founding a special needs service startup is identifying a problem that needs to be solved. Some recent special needs services startups that have hit the mark include Bluereo, which developed a specialized toothbrush for people with disabilities who struggle with the mouth movements associated with brushing their teeth. If you or someone you are close to lives with special needs, you may be uniquely qualified to found a startup in this space.

9. Sustainable Materials 

The demand for sustainable materials has increased dramatically in the last decade. Construction companies, product manufacturers, and consumers alike all want to know that the products they make and buy are not contributing to the decimation of resources anywhere in the world. As a result, many new startups are taking on the challenge of providing sustainable building and production materials. Many sustainable material startups use big data and AI to create their offering and provide raw materials that reduce production costs and are less harmful to the environment.

Check out our interview with the founder of sustainable materials startup Hempitecture.

10. Educational Travel

Educational travel is a combination of well-planned tours, location visits, and cultural immersion, all set with clear learning objectives in mind. With the world embracing travel again, this space is booming, and there is opportunity for startups at every level. Whether you're building an app that helps to plan educational travel trips or creating a service that hosts such tours, there's no doubt that, with a bit of tourism experience, you can definitely find a niche in this space.

Check out our interview with the founder of travel startup Citycatt.

11. Clean Beauty Products

The clean beauty market has seen significant growth in the last few years, and that upward trend is not expected to stop any time soon. Clean beauty products are created mindfully without toxic ingredients and with clear labeling that gives the consumer peace of mind about what they are purchasing. Much of this segment is focused on the use of natural ingredients rather than chemicals or man-made components. Opportunity in this sector will depend on your market accessibility and the magnitude of the problem you're solving. Often, solutions for those who experience adverse reactions to certain products are your best bet for a successful offering.

Recommended: Get inspired by these clean beauty startups.

12. Water Purification

Unfortunately, there are plenty of places in the US and across the globe that don't have access to safe, healthy drinking water. Your startup could be the answer to providing people with usable water. Whether you develop a portable water purification tool or an entire system for homes and businesses, this startup idea has the potential for high profits as well as a strong social impact.

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13. Online Courses

You probably know the saying that knowledge is power, so it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to have access to a good education. Sharing knowledge through online courses makes education more accessible and provides a service for people interested in learning the skills you have to teach them.

To make this a socially-focused startup idea, gear your online courses towards teaching valuable skills that can help students find employment or enhance their quality of life.

14. Sustainable Clothing Line

Fashion is one of the most wasteful industries on the planet. If you’re thinking about starting a clothing line, consider making it a sustainable one! A sustainable clothing line can make an impact by creating thoughtful garments that are long-lasting and ethically made out of sustainable materials such as linen or hemp.

Get inspired by these sustainable clothing startups.

15. Charity App

Creating an app is one of the most popular startup ideas. Make philanthropy more accessible by creating a charity app. This could be an easy space to crowdfund for charities, make donations, or fulfill a need in your community. Since most adults have smartphones, a charity app startup can provide an easier way for charities to gain the funding and support they need in order to help the people who need it most.

16. Climate Tech Solution

There's no doubt that climate change is a hot topic right now and rightfully so. With the powerful technology we have access to in terms of AI and big data, it seems fitting that this tech should be applied to one of the most important issues facing the human race. If you're interested in joining the climate tech solution space as a startup, there are two prerequisites: your offering needs to solve a problem that contributes to climate change, and it needs to be a tech-based solution.

Check out our interview with the founder of climate tech startup Bluebird Climate.

17. Farm-to-Table Startup

As consumers become more aware of the impact that food choices have on their health and on the environment, sourcing produce directly from farms, essentially cutting out the large supermarket chains, has become a very popular trend. Farm-to-table startups have a wide range in which to operate. There is tech required for ecommerce and inventory management on the farm's end, and on the customer's end, there are online marketplaces, delivery methods, and payment solutions to explore. 

18. Volunteering Platform

There are many people in the world who have the time and inclination to volunteer but simply don't know where to start. Volunteering platforms can help steer these people in the right direction and benefit charitable organizations at the same time. Founding a volunteering platform startup can begin quite simply with scope for growth. Niches in this space can include specific locations, types of organizations, forms of volunteer work, and even certain target markets such as corporates who want to get their team members involved in volunteering as a team-building activity.

19. Fintech Startup

A fintech startup is defined by the combination of technology with a financial services focus on improving service delivery to businesses or consumers within the space. This startup offers a lot of potential for entrepreneurs who have a creative idea to make finances and investing more attainable. Often, founders who are successful in this space have encountered some type of breakdown in service delivery in the financial sector themselves and found a solution which they then package as an offering. 

Check out our interview with fintech startup Debbie!

20. Smart Mobility

Moving people and products around in a sustainable and emission-friendly manner has become an important focus. With more people choosing not to drive their own vehicles, smart mobility solutions are in demand. Uber proved this when they disrupted the space with their solution, and since then, more smart mobility entrepreneurs have found ways to improve upon this. In this space, you can choose to focus on any point in the spectrum, from pedestrian safety to direction services and even last-mile delivery.  

21. Mental Health Startup

The increased interest in and awareness of the importance of mental health in the last decade or so is certainly a positive shift for humanity. This increased focus has also brought with it opportunities for startup founders in the mental health space. Whether it's a service, an app, or a product, if you've got an idea that will fit into the mental health industry, get on it now.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out our list of the top startups to watch in 2022!

FAQ

What is a social enterprise?

Social enterprises are startups or businesses that aim to make a positive change in the world. Social enterprises are for-profit organizations, but what sets them apart is how they choose to make those profits. Such organizations will have social objectives as their primary goal and use a commercial structure to operate the organization.

How does a social enterprise work?

In some instances, social enterprises may donate or reinvest some of their profits to implement this positive social change, or the very nature of their service or product may do so on its own. Social enterprises often aim to have a strong impact on society while simultaneously maximizing their profits and then using that to fund social programs.

What are examples of social entrepreneurship?

Sekem produces herbal, medicinal, aesthetically focused, and gastronomical products that serve the needs of its customer base. Its social impact includes building biodynamic farms, building educational establishments for children, and building a healthcare center devoted to holistic medicine. Jamie Oliver's Fifteen, offered disadvantaged young people a way to create better future opportunities by training in the food industry. Indian startup, Jaipur Rugs, produces socially responsible and high-quality floor coverings and simultaneously empowers local artisans by helping them to connect with the global market.

How do I come up with social entrepreneurship ideas?

This process is not too different from coming up with any business idea, but the focus will always need to be on ultimately doing good. As with anything, you'll always find more success if you get involved in something you're passionate about, so make that your starting point. Then, find the problem that needs to be solved. That solution is your social entrepreneurship offering. If you are not directly affected by the problem you're attempting to solve, be sure to consult with those who are living the experience to ensure that you have considered all the aspects of the issue. 

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