8 Successful Social Entrepreneurship Examples

For the longest time, most entrepreneurs chose to accumulate wealth in more private sectors. Building a company, hiring employees, manufacturing products and running a well oiled machine was the best approach to be a successful entrepreneur in days past. Today, entrepreneurs can work to improve social issues and challenge real world problems through their businesses. A new business model has emerged which meshes with government and social organizations. Nonprofits and businesses have teamed up to form a hybrid business model, led a by a new generation of social entrepreneurs.

These leaders can successfully tackle social issues while generating profit for shareholders at the same time. Widespread usage of ethical practices such as impact investing, conscious consumerism and corporate social responsibility programs facilitated the success of social entrepreneurs.

Some social entrepreneurs use their know-how and business savvy to make the world a better place. They combined traditional business models with an important social mission in ways that can help to make significant changes in places around the world for decades.

Social entrepreneurs can truly be socially and environmentally conscious. Here are 8 successful social entrepreneurship examples:

1. Bill Drayton

Bill Drayton isn’t just a great example of a social entrepreneur. He was the one who helped define and promote the term ‘social entrepreneur’ itself. He is the founder and current chair man of Ashoka: Innovators for the public. It is an organization that dedicates itself to find and help social entrepreneurs around the world.

He spread out his social entrepreneurship expertise in other organizations as well. He works as a chairman at Community Greens, Youth Venture and Get America Working! In addition to that, The Ashoka Foundation has sponsored over 2,100 fellows in 73 different countries. Some of these companies have gone on to develop leading social businesses that have made a huge impact on communities around the world.

2. Muhammad Yunus

In the world of social entrepreneurs, you can never skip the name Muhammad Yunis. He has quite literally written the book on social entrepreneurship, sharing his expertise in micro-finance and social capitalism through some books.

He is the founder of Grameen Bank, an institution that provides microcredit loans to those in need to help them develop financial self-sufficiency. It was founded in 1983 and the bank has brought in a net income of more than $10 million. Notably, his work with the organization landed him a Nobel Prize in 2006.

3. Blake Mycoskie

Blake Mycoskie is the TOMS founder. Unlike many other social ventures, almost everyone with has heard of this social brand. Its popularity has spread like wildfire and their entire business model is built around the idea to help people in need.

He founded TOMS in 2006 after a visit to Argentina where he learned that many children get sick or injured because they do not have shoes to wear. To combat this, he created TOMS, a business that donates one pair of shoes to needy people for every pair that’s bought. So far, the company has donated more than a million pairs of shoes. In 2011, the company launched another initiative which aims to give away a pair of glasses or sight-saving surgery for every pair of sunglasses or glasses sold.

4. Scott Harrison

Lack of clean and accessible drinking water is a big problem globally. Inaccessibility to safe drinking water is what millions of people worldwide face every day. After a moment of clarity in Liberia, club promoter Scott Harrison decided to make it his mission to change. He headed up a non-profit organization charity: water. Since it began, the charity has delivered clean drinking water to more than a million people in 17 different countries around the world.

He is perhaps one of the most successful social entrepreneurs of all time, with his organization growing more than 100% in the first quarter of 2011, despite a major economic crisis that paralyzed many similar ventures. When speaking in regards to charity, he notably said, “Water as a for-profit startup that has no profits.” They give away 100% of their profit to the countries that need clean water. The model seems to be working for him, and he has quickly created a new paradigm for social entrepreneurs to emulate.

5. Jeffrey Hollender

In 1988, Jeffery Hollender founded a cleaning, paper, and personal care products company called Seventh Generation. The company focuses on producing products that can reduce environmental impact, avoiding the harsh chemicals that are part of today’s leading cleaning and personal care products. Also, the company donates 10% of pre-tax profits to funding nonprofits and businesses focused on the community, the environment and other responsible practices.

Despite adhering to practices that many companies claim limit profits, Hollender and his associates have built Seventh Generation into a major corporate force, bringing in over $150 million in revenue in 2010. He was pushed out of his role at Seventh Generation in 2010, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowed down in social entrepreneurship. He helps with the American Sustainable Business Council, writes books on responsible business practices and is a member of the Social Venture Network and founder of the Community Capital Bank.

6. Shiza Shahid

Shiza Shahid is the co-founder and global ambassador of the Malala Fund. She manages the business operations for Malala Yousafzai, the teenager who became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

Like Malala, Shahid was born in Pakistan. She initially reached out to Malala in 2009 and worked to organize a camp for her and other Pakistani girls. In 2012, Shiza flew to Malala’s bedside after she was targeted and shot by the Taliban for promoting education for girls. Inspired by Malala’s desire to continue campaigning for gender equality and education, Shahid decided to help Malala strategize her campaign. Soon after, the Stanford University grad lead the creation of the Malala Fund, which helps empower women and girls, by advocating and spreading access to education.

7. Xavier Helgesen, Chris Fuchs & Jeff Kurtzman

The B corporation or known as the Better World Books is a fantastic example of a truly successful social entrepreneurship venture. Founded in 2002 by Notre Dame grads Xavier Helgesen, Chris “Kreece” Fuchs and Jeff Kurtzman, Better World’s mission is to maximize the value of every book out there and to help promote literacy around the world.

The company works by reusing or recycling books through sales on their website and donations to schools. So far, the company has used 84 million volumes to raise $12.1 million for literacy funding. The company attributes its success to using a “triple bottom line” model, caring not only about profits but also about the social and environmental impact of everything they do.

8. Bunker Roy

The Indian social activist and entrepreneur Sanjit “Bunker” Roy has helped thousands of people in Asia and Africa to learn vital technical skills and bring solar power to some remote villages. He founded the Barefoot College, an organization which specializes in teaching illiterate women from poor communities on how to become doctors, engineers and architects. What’s more impressive is that each of the college campuses are solar powered and often built and designed by former students.

In founding the college, his goal wasn’t to make a profit for himself but to help improve the economic production and quality of life of women throughout his native India. Some aspects of the project have spread to Africa as well. With women leading and running most of the Barefoot College’s operations, it’s clear that he’s been pretty successful in achieving that goal.


Social entrepreneurs use business to generate both profit and solve some of the world’s most daunting social issues. Social entrepreneurship is the road less traveled, but is one of the paths that can lead to the building of hybrid businesses with “triple-bottom lines.” In this post, we shared 8 successful social entrepreneurship examples.

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