It is difficult to be a social enterprise because you are in the middle of a business and a charity. The challenge is to keep the balance between your business and social change activities. This challenge intensifies when market winds push you to either side. At the heart of this balance is the value proposition which drives the business model. Most of us know that value proposition is not about features but it is about outcomes. This reminds me of famous saying by Charles Revson an American businessman, founder of Revlon and philanthropist. He famously said:
“In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope.”
For a social enterprise, the value proposition needs to be well-balanced. From the business perspective, the product and/or service need to deliver the outcomes. These can be a mix of quality, price, aesthetics etc. The customers make purchase decision based on the value expected which in turn is a function of perceived benefits (e.g., taste) and perceived sacrifice (e.g., money). From the social benefits perspective, the outcome is mostly in the form of a social change. This needs to be monitored, measured and managed.
So how all of this relates to Harry Specters?
Our unique selling proposition (USP) is “great product, great cause”. Our wide range of award winning chocolates is a value offering, but not unique. Our uniqueness is in our “great cause” – providing employment, free training and free work experience opportunities to young people with autism. This differential benefit appeals to customers, as they not only buy a great product, but also contribute to a great cause. They are the catalysts of the social change that we dreamed. Creating this balance of “great product, great cause” is core to Harry Specters and would be hard to imitate, giving us a sustainable competitive advantage.
Many social enterprises fail to keep this balance. They focus too much on the “great cause” and fail to offer “great product”. However, if they have a “great product”, it will automatically drive their “great cause”.
We are, and will always be a “great product great cause” company offering award winning products, including our delicious chocolates and making customers feel good. To astute business people we always say:
We make chocolates in our factory but we sell customer experience and social responsibility.
Yes there is plenty of support for social enterprises in the UK. The starting point for us was Social Enterprise UK, Unltd, and School for Social Entrepreneurs. Hope this helps.
Your project is a true inspiration.
I would like to thank you for your wise words of advice around setting up Social enterprises.
It would be good to see greater support for these types of project across the country.
Do you know if there are any networks or plans to share this type of practice across the UK?
How beautifully said!