A social entrepreneur is an innovator who comes up with new solutions to help solve community-based problems. These are the individuals willing to take big risks while seeking big results. However, their work does not just impact themselves: they are trying to make positive changes for society.
There are many paths upon which to approach social entrepreneurship. The most common approach is to start a for-profit company while still making a positive societal impact.
Why Social Entrepreneurship Is Up and Coming
It’s no secret that people are becoming more conscious of the products they buy and who they support. With a simple online search, it is easy to find almost everything you need to know about someone and what they do. If someone wants to buy a pair of shoes, for example, they may do some research to see if there is a company that gives back for each pair of shoes they buy (there are many companies that do this).
Social entrepreneurship is a great marketing tactic that is mutually beneficial. At the same time, it creates platforms for even further progress societally. Even just bringing light to specific problems allows companies to make a sizable difference.
20+ Popular Social Entrepreneurs
Because of all this hype, some outside-the-box social entrepreneurs are doing incredible work out there – let’s count them down!
Bill Drayton is widely considered to be the father of social entrepreneurship and the reason so many people even know this term. His company, Ashoka, supports social enterprises globally. He has over 3,500 fellows who work to make positive changes in the world in different ways.
Ashoka focuses on giving young people the chance to jump on a path toward positive change, teaching them leadership, and giving them opportunities, they may not have had without intervention.
Many of the other people on this list have been impacted by Bill Drayton’s work, and it is almost immeasurable how many people have benefitted from his mission.
Jazzmine is the co-founder of Hara House, which is India’s first zero-waste guesthouse located in Bikaner, Rajasthan, India. Of the money Hara House makes, 20% goes to provide resources, tools, and education to the youth to help get them involved in environmental action. They have empowered children and students to build the tourism hub and help to run the organization.
Jazzmine also founded another organization called Raine for Water, which helped her to learn about grassroots development and social innovation. And she isn’t finished learning about social innovation and non-profit organizations yet! At only 25, her impact is already massive, and she’s just getting started.
Shiza Shahid is the co-founder and ambassador for the Malala Fund. She works with Malala Yousafzai, helping to build camps and funds to promote education among young girls. Shiza flew to Malala’s bedside after she was shot by the Taliban in 2012. From that point on, the young women worked to ensure that women and girls could get an education in safer environments.
Their work continues to not only make education available for young girls but help them continue their education, find happiness in their jobs, and create wider safety nets for women in their communities.
Manish Gupta formed Matr Boomie, a platform that enables some 20,000 artisans in 40 different communities in India to trade goods, supplies, and information. Since 2006, these communities have been connecting in ways that had previously been impossible.
The power of the platform continues to grow as more and more people learn about it and obtain the resources to reach it. These communities have been lifted out of chronic poverty and now have some of the tools they need to continue to live as they climb.
You’ve probably seen someone wearing TOMS. Blake Mycoskie is probably one of the most well-known social entrepreneurs as the founder of this company. He invested $300,000 of his own money to start the company that originally gave a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair of shoes sold. They still do that, but they also support water, anti-bullying, sight, and gun-control initiatives.
To date, TOMs has provided 95 million pairs of shoes, 722,000 weeks of water, and 780,000 eyeglasses or surgeries to those in need. He is truly an inspiration!
Colleen & Maggie Clines
Colleen and Maggie Clines are sisters who created the Anchal Project. This is a non-profit that employs over 150 artisans throughout India and in Kentucky.
Their company provides employment opportunities for women who want to make their products. Through the Anchal Project, these women can buy, trade, and sell goods to lift themselves out of poverty. While they have a clear customer profile now, their project shows incredible promise to change the way we purchase goods.
Scott Harrison moved to West Africa to volunteer, and that moment changed his life. In 2006, Scott formed Charity: Water, a nonprofit that provides safe drinking water in 28 countries that did not have it previously. He has helped to reduce sickness and increase productivity in these countries, having fulfilled 51,438 projects in developing countries.
Charity: Water has some of the best customer perceptions because of just how transparent they are with their marketing materials.
Alex Husted formed Helpsy in 2017 to help reduce the impact of fast fashion on the environment. Helpsy allows people to recycle old clothing. Along with his team, Alex has placed over 1,800 collection containers in the Northeast US, collecting some 25 million pounds of clothes that may have ended up in the trash – Helpsy believes some 85% of used clothing still ends up in a landfill.
Much of the clothing that gets donated either gets given to those in need or donated to organizations that will resell them and use the profits to help others.
Trinity comes from Kampala, Uganda, and that is where his impact is most felt. He’s a social entrepreneur who has a passion for preparing the next generation for their careers and futures. He founded era92, an agency that trains youth in Uganda on technology, arts, and design. So far, 120 from Kosovo have been trained and impacted by this agency.
But Trinity isn’t finished, he also co-founded the 92hands movement that helps young adults become agents of change.
Babban Gona has a goal of supporting small Nigerian Farmers, so they can continue to provide for themselves and their communities. To date, Babban Gona has helped to increase yields to 2.3x that of national averages.
In a country that has a 50% unemployment rate amongst youth, Babban Gona also focuses on providing agricultural training to show them how to start their farms and earn money by raising crops and having solid growth plans.
Patrick Clarke comes from Boston, Massachusetts, and founded the Cape Clasp company, a jewelry company that supports cleaner oceans. For each of their designs, they partner with a different marine life organization and donate 15% of the profits.
This small company shows how hard work, dedication, and passion can make a real difference.
Michelle Valentin stresses the importance of using healthy foods in her cooking endeavors – but she also knows that they aren’t always tasty. She founded Maui Raw to help make healthy food more appealing to everyone. Her goal? Create a positive impact on the world by stressing nutrition.
Through Maui Raw, she has created healthy recipes and ingredients that are affordable and tasty. Even better, she uses local ingredients to keep farming in Hawaii strong.
Chad Dime, Chad Jernigan, and Zach Gordan
Chad Dime, Chad Jernigan, and Zach Gordan worked together to create DIFF Charitable Eyewear, an organization that focuses on providing affordable eyewear throughout the world. To date, they have provided 1.2 million people with reading glasses. The change this makes in the lives of those who receive their gifts is unmeasurable. They can do better in school, at work, and in life. The company also partners with SightSavers to help provide eye exams and surgeries to vulnerable communities.
Their company is proof that overcoming adversity can lead to beautiful futures.
Rachel Brathen is an entrepreneur you might know as “Yoga Girl.” She’s a writer, Instagrammer, and influencer. While she teaches nutrition, yoga poses, and mental health tips, her greatest contribution is to connect teachers with people who need healing. She helps communities that may not have access to healing, mental health, and other spiritual outlets to connect and ensure they are caring for themselves as well as those around them.
With over 2.1 million followers on Instagram, she focuses on women and those who may not be able to afford expensive fitness classes. This is an area where many are competitive, but Rachel continues to lead with positivity.
Clarence is an edtech entrepreneur who started creating educational games in 2011 when he was still in college. He has changed the way students learn and manage themselves all over the globe, gamifying their curriculums and stressing the importance of play and creativity.
In 2018, he founded Boddle Learning, an edtech company that provides e-learning materials to children from kindergarten through eighth grade. He has automated the software, so teachers and parents can get a better understanding of how their children learn. The results? Higher student engagement and children who are eager to learn. It’s a total win-win!
Mica Le John
Mica Le John is the entrepreneur founder of 2Swim, a social messaging platform that helps to connect communities that may have no other way to communicate. These communities help encourage each other and provide threads of connection where there aren’t any and help make tools for collaboration. Mica also writes and speaks on topics ranging from technology and art to social justice.
Tony Weaver Jr.
Tony Weaver is the entrepreneur founder and CEO of Weird Enough Production, a media company that produces media images of black men and other minority groups. The focus is to create positive images – something that Weaver noticed was severely lacking.
He founded this organization at only 20 while having a solid plan for how to do it after an internship and aims to correct the gross misrepresentation of black men in the media. He’s attracted attention from different media companies and continues to push the needle on representation.
Rachel Klausner is the CEO and Founder of Millie, a charitable giving platform. After spending a year volunteering after high school, she found a way to combine her passion for helping others with her design background.
Rachel has also helped run programming classes for children, designing software for startups, and helping to personalize technology to help other non-profits.
Muhammad Yunus is the entrepreneur that founded Grameen Bank, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. While most people don’t think of banks in connection with charity and social entrepreneurship, Muhammad has changed that perception.
The Grameen Bank is known as “the bank for the poor,” and has been in operation for over 40 years. It helps those who run small businesses by giving small loans and banking opportunities without collateral. So far, the bank has distributed $24 billion in loans to 9 million borrowers. The borrowers have gone on to build businesses, get an education, and positively impact the world around them. The Grameen bank shows no signs of stopping and stresses the importance of training employees to continue building.
Alex Stephany built Beam after meeting a homeless man at the local subway station. He’d continuously buy this man coffee, but he could see that the man was in a dire situation. It wasn’t until the man had a heart attack that Alex decided to take action. He created “Beam,” a crowdfunding platform that gives career opportunities to those facing homelessness. Beam now not only helps people find careers but can help provide them with skills training and education to get jobs and keep them through open communication in the workplace.
The platform has grown and helped countless people get the skills and tools they need to dig themselves out of homelessness and find meaningful careers. Many of those people, in turn, return to help others.
Social entrepreneurs are doing good for the world and making a difference – whether they impact 10 people or 10 million. The individuals on this list are doing what they can with what they have to bring positivity into spaces where there previously was a huge void to fill.