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Top Social Entrepreneurs and What You Can Learn from Them

jean pierre fumey



Social entrepreneur

Social entrepreneurs focus their efforts on developing solutions that address community-based problems. These business persons are ready to take big risks as they seek great results to make positive changes for society.

While there are several paths that a social entrepreneur can take, the most common one is establishing a for-profit company but make a positive societal impact.

In recent years, social entrepreneurship has recorded increased growth because many people have become conscious of what they buy and whom they buy from. Shoppers want to buy from companies that give back to society from the revenue they make.

Here are top social entrepreneurs doing incredible work to further progress societally.

What is Social Entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurs are change agents. They are entrepreneurs who use their businesses to create a positive impact on society. The do-gooders are found in private sectors and channels part of the profit that their companies make to social issues they see around them.

These change-makers alter the status quo whenever it’s not good enough and teaches the world that businesses are not about making profits but they also understand social value creation. As a result, these initiatives offer large scale solutions to both local and global problems.

Here are the world’s top social entrepreneurs.

Alex Husted: He is the CEO and founder of Helpsy, an organization that focuses on sustainable future or fashion. While 95% of textiles including shoes and clothing can be recycled, reused and reduced, nearly 85% of them ends up in the trash. Through his company, Alex advocates for reducing or using less, next reuse and lastly recycle what you can’t reuse. So instead of disposing of clothes people should give them out to those who need them.

Alex Stephany: After meeting a homeless man in a subway station, Alex was motivated to build Beam. Although he kept on buying him coffee, he realized the man was poor and needed help. One day the man had a heart attack forcing Alex to take action. Through his crowdfunding platform, the social entrepreneur offers individuals facing homelessness career opportunities, skills training and education. These skills help people get out of homelessness and build a meaningful career as well as help others in return.

Babban Gona: The social entrepreneur works with small scale farmers in Nigeria to help increase yields thus support themselves and the community. As a result of this initiative, the unemployed youth are trained on efficient agricultural methods, grow crops and have solid growth plans thus lift themselves from poverty.

Bill Drayton: The social entrepreneur pioneer owns Ashoka that teaches young people leadership as well as give them opportunities to join a path of positive change which they cannot get without intervention. As a resulted a lot of individuals have benefited from Drayton’s work and mission. Further Bill Drayton chairs the board for both Get America Working! and Youth Venture.

Blake Mycoskie: He is the founder of TOMS and a well-known social entrepreneur. From inception, the company gives a needy person a pair of shoes after every sale of its shoes. In addition to that, the company support water, sight, anti-bullying and gun-control initiatives. These initiatives have given out 95 million pairs of shoes, 780,000 eyeglasses or surgeries and 722,000 weeks of water to those in need.

Chad Dime, Chad Jernigan, & Zach Gordan: They are cofounders of DIFF Charitable Eyewear which is committed to providing affordable eyewear globally. As a result of this organization’s efforts, more than 12 million people across the world are using its reading glasses. So people can now do better in life, at work and in school because of this gift. It has also partnered with SightSavers to provide eye exams and surgeries to those who need this help thus giving vulnerable communities a beautiful future.

Clarence Tan: The EdTech entrepreneur began creating educational games while still in college. His goal is to change how students learn and manage themselves, gamify curriculums, and show the importance of creativity and play. Through his Edtech company, Boddle Learning created in 2018, Clarence provides Kindergarten to eighth-grade pupils eLearning materials and automated software that helps both teachers and parents to understand how children learn. The outcome of Clarence’s initiatives is that children are now eager to learn and have higher student engagement.

Colleen & Maggie Clines: The two sisters founded Anchal Project, a non-profit that has employed more than 150 artisans in India and Kentucky. As a result of this initiative, women seeking employment get opportunities to make their products and trade them through this project thus lift themselves out of poverty.

Dave Spandorfer: He cofounded Janji in 2012 while in college. Together with his business partner, Dave reflected on the fulfilment they received from running and were motivated to launch a business connecting them with sports. They also wanted to share their joy with others hence the make the world a better place.

Hannah Davis: Hannah started BANGS Shoes after college and together with her team they sell shoes and invest the proceeds in entrepreneurs across the world. Also, the BANGS Shoes founder and the president continued with her personal development that has contributed to the growth of her organization.

Jacqueline Novogratz: The Acumen founder launched this company with the help of the Cisco Systems Foundations, the Rockefeller Foundation, and many other philanthropists. The objective is to use long-term capital to finance businesses geared towards creating solutions for social issues. SO Acumen starts to receive back its funds when the business becomes profitable. Acumen also partnered with the World Bank and built a microfinance institution in Rwanda

Jazzmine Raine: The social entrepreneur co-founded Hara House which is the first Zero-waste guesthouse based in India. 20% of all revenue generated by Hara House is used for youth’s education and finance tools and resources they need in the environmental actions. As a result, these empowered children and students built and runs a tourism hub. Further, Raine for water was an organization she founded to learn social innovation and grassroots development.

Jeffrey Hollender: The cofounder and CEO of Seventh Generation focus on natural products. Jeffrey is a speaker, consultant and activist for corporate social responsibility. He has also authored seven books such as How to Make the World a Better place. Jeffery is also the CEO and cofounder of Hollender Sustainable Brands, a company that sells products for personal and sexual health like tampons, condoms, pads, lubricants and the like.

Laura Wittig: She is the founder of Brightly and together with her team they advocate for sustainable fashion brands. The centralized platform is the alternative to Amazon and helps customers find ethical beauty, fashion and homegoods brands. Laura’s experience as the product manager at Adobe, Google and Amazon motivated her to create a one-stop shop for any conscious customer looking for sustainable clothing brands. So her goal is to work with customers to take conscious consumerism forward.

Manish Gupta: He founded Matr Boomie that helps 20,000 artisans from up to 40 communities in India sell their merchandise, get supplies and information through this platform. Through it, communities have been able to connect differently than they previously. As a result, these communities have become empowered, have the tools they need for their trade and have shed off chronic poverty and continues to climb the economic ladder.

Mark Koska: The SafePoint Trust founder has distributed over 4 billion safe injections to up to 40 countries through auto-disable syringes. Redesigning medical tools such as syringes is a solution to many health issues being experienced across the world. Therefore under-funded clinics can now use non-reusable inexpensive syringes without transmitting blood borne diseases.

Mica Le John: The 2Swim founder helps communities with no other ways of connecting to communicate through this social messaging platform.  The tool for collaboration allows them to encourage each other and connect effortlessly. Additionally, Mica writes about social justice, art and technology.

Michelle Valentin: The Maui Raw founder understands that healthy foods are not always tasty but she stresses their importance in all her cooking endeavors. So Michelle focuses on nutrition and looks for creative ways to make healthy foods appealing. So you will find healthy, tasty and affordable recipes and ingredients on Maui Raw. Additionally, Michelle prefers local ingredients in order to support local farmers in Hawaii.

Muhammad Yunus: The Grameen Bank founder and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner changed the perception that there is no relationship between banks and social entrepreneurship. His bank has been in operation for 40 years and focuses on the poor. For instance, small business traders can get small loans and other banking opportunities even if they lack collateral. As a result, 9 million borrowers have obtained $24 billion in terms of loans from Grameen Bank helping them build their businesses, educated their children as well positively impact their community.

Patrick Clarke: The Massachusetts-based social entrepreneur is the founder of Cape Clasp Company that supports cleaner oceans. The company designs and sells jewelry and donates 15% of its profits to marine life organizations it has partnered with thus making a real difference through passion, dedication and hard work.

Rachel Brathen: The Yoga Girl, is a social entrepreneur is a writer, influencer and Instagrammer. Rachel teaches yoga poses, nutrition and mental health tips. She also connects people who need healing to teachers thus helping communities with limited access to mental health, healing and spiritual help to connect. Her focus is on women who cannot afford to pay for expensive fitness classes and as a result, Rachel has more than 2.1 million followers and leads with positivity.

Rachel Klausner: The founder and CEO of Millie spend one year after high school as a volunteer and this helped combine her design background with a passion to help others. Through her charitable platform, Rachel designs software for startups, runs programming classes for children and personalizes technology to support other nonprofit organizations.

Trinity Heavenz: The erag2 founder originates from Uganda and through his agency he prepares youths for their career and future. Erag2 trains these young adults with skills such as art, design and technology, thus giving them a good start. Further, Trinity is the cofounder of the g2hands movement that empowers youths to become agents of change in the country.

Tom Szaky: The TerraCycle founder began his social entrepreneur journey by selling worm waste fertilizer. Based on the success of this multi-million dollar, Tom began recycling and repurposing used objects. His focus on hard to recycle objects was the solution that municipalities and industrial were looking for. Aside from environmental focus, he donates two cents to charity for every single item that TerraCycle recycles.

Tony Weaver Jr: He is the founder and CEO of Weird Enough Production. Tony targets black men and minority groups using media images produced by his media company. When he founded this company he was aged 20 and he aimed to correct the media’s gross misrepresentation of black men. His efforts have attracted the attention of different media companies and still pushes this topic of representation.

Sanjit “Bunker” Roy: Many Indian children are raised in households that make less than $1 per day; however, that was not the case with Sanjit. After visiting rural villages in his country, Sanjit decided to create a way he could close the social-economic inequities in his community. One of his solutions is the Barefoot College that he founded in 1972 to target children from poor families. In this solar-powered college, students play the role of learners and teachers at the same time.

Scott Harrison: He is the founder of Charity: Water, an organization that serves 28 countries with safe drinking water. As a result of these nonprofit initiatives, water-borne diseases have reduced and its 51,438 projects have increased productivity in developing countries. Further, Charity: Water is transparent in how it uses its marketing materials giving the best customer perceptions.

Shiza Shahid: The Malala Fund cofounder and ambassador work with Malala Yousafzai and both have helped raise funds to promote young girls’ education and have build camps. In 2012, the Taliban shot Malala and Shiza flew to be with her and since then they have been working together to ensure girls and women have safer environments to pursue their education. Aside from helping them get education both ladies helps girls continue with their education, get jobs and find happiness working, as well as increase safety nets for women in the society.

Willie Smits: An encounter with a baby Orangutan left to die in a heap of trash changed this former microbiologist into a social entrepreneur. He formed the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation that takes care of abandoned apes and those at the risk of getting harmed. Aside from rescuing the Orangutans and apes family, the foundation trains the locals about sustainable farming methods for forest areas preservation and reforestation. Willie Smits is behind Masarang Foundation.

Xavier Helgesen, Christopher Kreece Fuchs & Jeff Kurtzman: The three are cofounders of Better World Books met at Notre Dame University, as they were tutoring a football team. The three began selling their collection of unwanted books and founded the B-Corp online bookstore to fund global literacy. Additionally, Helgesen is the Off Grid Electric’s CEO and cofounder, a firm that gives homes located in the “off-grid world” access to renewable energy. Kurtzman on the other hand served as AID Through Trade’s CEO, a firm that distributes Nepalese accessories around the US. He is also a cofounder of a nonprofit Operation Incubation that supplies developing world countries with low-cost, low maintenance incubators.

What Can You Learn From Entrepreneurs?

Aim High

Social entrepreneurs are concerned with social problems like education, health, poverty, equal opportunities and more. As a result, these business persons set high objectives and this keeps them motivated. Together with their teams, they work for an important cause.

See Markets are the means

These entrepreneurs start a social venture to solve problems that they see in society. They do so using the markets and not any other means. For instance, sell their products and use parts of the proceeds to fund education, health, water and eradicate poverty.

Financial sustainability

While social entrepreneurs are happy when their companies make some profits they view it as important as long as it’s a sign of financial sustainability and leads to the achievement of the founders’ mission towards the community. Also, it’s important for the company to be financially sustainable but the desire to make profits shouldn’t divert its social objectives.

People are at the centre of organizational attention

Social entrepreneurs and their teams put people and their needs as their first priority. In other words, companies’ internal and commercial operations are centered on improving the target audience’s lives in addition to that of their employees, customers, communities as well as relevant stakeholders. As a result, this objective is meant to keep social entrepreneurs and their companies sustainable throughout the years.

Build the right team

A social entrepreneur cannot achieve so much when working alone. Actually, they are likely to become get overworked or experience burnout. Instead building a team around social enterprise helps the entrepreneur replicate all their project processes across other service channels in development. So having a skilled team facilitates scaling and helps in acquiring necessary resources and skills.

Involve all stakeholders

Focusing on what your business should offer rather than being open to opportunities can lead to failure. For instance, entrepreneurs that focus on marketing and sales can hinder them from dedicating and achieving their objective of giving the vulnerable equal opportunities. They will become more concerned with making profits and forget about engaging the community members when making decisions concerning their needs.

Jean-Pierre is a polyglot communication specialist, freelance journalist, and writer for with over two decades of experience in media and public relations. He creates engaging content, manages communication campaigns, and attends conferences to stay up-to-date with the latest trends. He brings his wealth of experience and expertise to provide insightful analysis and engaging content for's audience.

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