What is a social enterprise, and why are we proud to be one?

What is a social enterprise, and why are we proud to be one?

This quote from Anna Lappe encapsulates why Khushi Kantha is proud to be a social enterprise.
I’ve spent thirteen years working and volunteering for all sorts of charities in more than twenty countries around the world, from Malawi to Mongolia, and Serbia to Sri Lanka. I’ve worked with ‘big name’ charities supporting hundreds of thousands of people affected by major humanitarian emergencies, including Save the Children and the British Red Cross – and small organisations doing brilliant things in local communities, like the Happy Baby Community, who support pregnant women and mothers who have fled from violence or traffickers to seek international protection in the UK.

But in order to create opportunities for mothers in Bangladesh to generate sustainable incomes, and ultimately break the inter-generational transfer of poverty, I passionately believe in the need for a social enterprise approach.

‘The community grows together with the enterprise’

As part of my prospective customer research, I was really interested to find out what people understand by the term ‘social enterprise’. Here are some of the responses I received:
“A ‘not for loss’ organisation”
“Those who make the items are fairly paid”
“Good for all”
“Business for good”
“Business with ethics”
“Business with a social/environmental cause”
    As a social enterprise, Khushi Kantha aspires to meet all of these definitions.
    Our mission is two-fold, incorporating both social and environmental impacts.
    We aim to create opportunities for mothers in Bangladesh to provide for their children with dignity, and promote environmental wellness through employing circular principles in our production approach. We will do this by making and selling ultra-soft, eco-friendly, multi-purpose baby ‘kantha’ blankets with a vibrant stand-out factor, hand-stitched from reclaimed cotton.
    Khushi Kantha is registered as a Community Interest Company (CIC), limited by shares. CICs are a special type of limited company, which exists to benefit the community, rather than private shareholders. Our mission is written into our Articles of Association, which is accompanied by a ‘community interest statement’, explaining who we aim to benefit and how, and a statement of responsible business principles. All of this information is publicly available on the Companies House website.
    We are proud to be a member of Social Enterprise UK, the national membership body for social enterprises and their supporters, and honoured to feature in this video for their #shopsocial campaign. Check out the clip from Khushi Kantha’s first-ever photo shoot about 57 seconds in!

    Empowering women and sustainable shoes, upcycling textiles and nappies you can reuse!

    Through my efforts to bring Khushi Kantha to life, I have been very lucky to benefit from the wisdom of some incredibly inspiring female social entrepreneurs, who I am learning so much from.
    Jitna Bhagani of shakti.ism (a social enterprise selling accessories that empower, ethically handmade using upcycled saris) and Fritha Vincent of Secret Projects (who unfold women’s power in India through the making and selling of foldable, useful and charming products) have been incredibly generous with their time and brilliance. I’ve also enjoyed great conversations with Maher Anjum of Oitij-jo, a collective who work to promote Bangla-inspired creative initiatives, and Sabeha Miah of Juta Shoes, who partner with British Bangladeshi women to create sustainable shoes, hand-made to order in London and social enterprise, and run shoemaking workshops.
    As a mum, it’s important to me to use ethically-sourced, eco-friendly products wherever I can. Some of my favourite baby and child-focused social enterprises include:
    Pebble Child, who make beautiful hand-knitted toys, providing employment for women in rural Bangladesh that fits in with the rhythm of their lives, stems the tide of economic migration to the cities and keeps families together.
    -Lanka Kade, who sell fair trade wooden toys and a gorgeous, ethnically diverse range of dolls, handcrafted by skilled artisans in Sri Lanka.

    Mahi celebrating 12 weeks in the world with her multi-purpose Khushi Kantha baby blanket, Lanka Kade doll, Pebble Child rattle and personalised handmade unicorn, knitted by a family friend
    Bambino Mio, who make lovely cloth nappies, and Cheeky Wipes, who offer brilliant reusable wipe ‘starter kits’.    

     Our multi-purpose baby ‘kantha’ blankets can be used as makeshift changing mats when the need arises!
    Alive and Kicking, the world’s only non-profit football manufacturer, who create ethical jobs, donating sports balls and deliver vital health education in communities facing disadvantage in sub-Saharan Africa.

    I treated the girls to an Alive & Kicking football for their first birthday, after an indicator on their 12 month development review asking whether they could throw a ball made me realise I’d never even shown them one
    -And finally, while their products are not specifically aimed at little ones, my daughters are big fans of Oddbox, who fight food waste through their sustainably-sourced fruit and veg boxes!

    Opi and Mahi love playing in the Oddboxes I leave dotted around all over our flat…it buys me a few minutes peace to make a coffee!

    How can you help us achieve our social enterprise goals?

    All mothers want the best for their children – and will use every resource they have to offer them the future they deserve. Motherhood is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had – but it’s also the hardest. Every day brings new challenges.
    But for some mothers, these challenges include being able to meet basic needs, like food, clothing and education. We want to create opportunities for struggling mothers in Bangladesh to provide for their children with dignity.
    Our children will inherit the planet – we want to pass it down to them in the best state possible. Khushi Kantha contributes to the circular economy by promoting a shift from ‘take-make-waste’ ‘reclaim-repurpose-reuse’.

    With your support, Khushi Kantha can be nurtured into a flourishing social enterprise that uses the collaborative power of a global community of mothers to build better futures for the next generation.
    Sign up to our mailing list to follow our journey, and be the first to hear when we launch sales! And please spread the word about what we’re doing to anyone else who you think might be interested in joining our community.

    What does ‘social enterprise’ mean to you, and what’s your favourite social enterprise?
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