Social Enterprise - What is it and why should everyone know about it?

We recently sat down with David, from Twice Podcast, and talked about our goals, motivations and our learnings so far with Collaborate.  During the interview, we talked about the fact that Collaborate is a social enterprise and our journey to how we got to that point.

Since then I have been asked by several listeners what actually is a “social enterprise”? It is a great question, as up until a year or so ago I too had never heard of the term.  But ever since we started our own social enterprise, I have begun to see them everywhere.


So what is a Social Enterprise?

A social enterprise is a “purpose-driven organisation that trades to deliver social and environmental impact.
— Akina

Essentially, social enterprise brings together entrepreneurial skill and genuine concern to make our society a better place.

Social enterprises can take many different forms.  On the one hand they can be a charity that makes money and re-invests it back into the organisation, and on the other they can be a for-profit business that has a strong social focus. What they have in common is that they combine a desire to achieve social good with commercial methods.


If Social Enterprise is so great, why isn’t everyone doing it?

That’s a great question.  David from Twice Podcast asked if we thought social enterprise “is something that is going to become more commonplace in the future” and our immediate response was yes! Social enterprise is so prevalent in our lives, it is hard to see how we couldn’t get to the point of every enterprise having a social good element. However, as Ceara was talking, I began to realise that by working with charities and community organisations every day, we are immersed in a culture where people want to do good, and we really are in a bubble of social enterprise.

When you step out of that bubble, you realise they are not so prevalent because it is still so hard to start a social enterprise.  Social enterprise can be challenging to define – although the purpose of a social enterprise is to make a social impact, they don’t often fit within traditional concepts of “for profit” or “not-for-profit” organisations, meaning it can be difficult to find investment or funding.  Nevertheless, we think that every enterprise should be a social enterprise, and although it is a bubble, it is a pretty wonderful bubble.  There are so many people out there doing great things.

In December last year, we were invited to speak at an event hosted by the Social Change Collective.  The Social Change Collective are a group of young professionals in Wellington who host an event every month highlighting a social issue.   They invite speakers to talk on this topic and then pose a call to action at the end.

The event we spoke at was called “How to do good better.”  We were on the panel alongside One Percent Collective and the Good Registry.  We spoke to a room of over 100 young professionals on giving what you could, whether that be giving your time or money.

After the event, I began talking with people who wanted to find out more about the social enterprises out there and how they can support them. Here are some of my favourite social enterprises:


The Wā Collective

The Wā Collective aim to not only to end period poverty but to reduce the amount of waste we put into our landfills.  Wā Collective is a social enterprise which provides affordable, accessible and sustainable menstrual products to students right on campuses by pairing with students’ associations. Their Wā Cups are subsidised to below cost price via their Bought to Support Programme, where every cup sold subsidises one for a student at their partnered institutes.  Their purpose is simple, it’s to keep students in class and give them the freedom to live a healthy lifestyle by preventing period poverty.

Find out more


Some members of the Collaborate team in their Little Yellow Bird T-Shirts

Some members of the Collaborate team in their Little Yellow Bird T-Shirts

Little Yellow Bird

Little Yellow Bird supplies corporate uniforms and ethical clothes to businesses, providing ethical employment & education opportunities for workers in developing countries.

Find out more



Misprint make custom and good-looking notebooks made from recycled and repurposed waste paper. We have used their booklets during Webstock and the Social Enterprise World Forum.

Find out more



Ethique is the French word for ‘ethical’ and is the first beauty company in the world to develop an entirely solid product range. All products are sold in compostable packaging, meaning zero consumer waste.  In 2017, Ethique’s dedication to sustainable beauty practices has prevented the manufacture and disposal of more than 175,000 plastic containers worldwide.

Find out more


Indigo and Iris

Indigo and Iris produce a vegan and cruelty-free mascara.  50% of their profits from their first product, Levitate, will be donated to help end avoidable blindness in the Pacific.

Find out more


Not only are these all enterprises with people and looking after the planet at their core, they are also have all been founded by some inspirational wahine!

Obviously, there are so many more social enterprises out there, that I haven’t listed.  If you are interested in finding out more about social enterprise in New Zealand, I cannot recommend enough listening to Twice Podcast’s interviews.

If you want to find out more about the amazing community organisations who use and support Collaborate – you can check them out here.