Social Enterprise Ayrshire

VASA are committed to empowering Third Sector groups who identify a niche in the market and create a social enterprise as an alternative or an additional source of income. Before you start trading you should identify your market and draft up a marketing and selling strategy. You also need to make sure you have the required training, skills and experience to start trading. We offer a guide of the key considerations that groups must be aware of when thinking about venturing on a social enterprise. The most critical of these considerations is to seek professional advice. We are here to support and signpost, and through the provision of practical initiatives, VASA encourage the growth of the third sector.

Click below for our Social Enterprise Toolkit Topic:

What is Social Enterprise?

Social enterprise is not a legal entity; it is a term that refers to a means of operating - a business model – rather than an actual legal structure. Third Sector organisations that choose this model for trading are often referred to as social enterprises.

Department of Trade and industry Definition

“A business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners” (DTI, 2002)

Social enterprises are businesses that trade specifically for social and/or environmental purposes. They operate in all markets, selling goods and services to local authorities, central government, private businesses and individual consumers. Social enterprises exist to make a profit just like any private sector business. However, instead of paying dividends to shareholders, any profits or surpluses they make are reinvested into social and environmental purposes; for example providing employment opportunities to the long term unemployed. Without making a profit, social enterprises cannot meet their social and environmental objectives; they must trade, to be sustainable.

Legal Structure

Social enterprises can take many forms, and the best legal structure for a social enterprise depends on their aims. Many are set up as a Company Limited by Guarantee, a Community Interest Company or an Industrial and Provident Society and many are registered as charities.

Types of Social Enterprise

  • Co-operatives and mutual’s - democratically-owned businesses which give employees, customers or members a stake in the business
  • Credit Unions - a type of cooperative which provides financial service to members
  • Housing Associations - voluntary-managed companies which provide affordable housing for those in most need, with profits being reinvested into building up housing stock
  • Social Firms - commercial businesses that provide integrated employment for people who are disadvantaged or have a disability
  • Development Trusts - owned and managed by the local community, their focus is on economic, environmental, cultural and/or social needs in the community. They aim to generate income through trading activity in order to become self sustaining

Criteria for a Social Enterprise in Scotland include:

  • having a social mission
  • able to measure social and environmental impact
  • set up as a trading business, evidenced by the enterprise earning 50% or more of its income from trading. This can include income from contracts but not grants. This criteria marks the boundary between Social Enterprise which can be defined as a "more-than-profit" organisation and the rest of the voluntary sector which is defined as "not-for-profit"
  • reinvests all its distributable profits into activities that further its social mission
  • no more than 35% of profits being distributed in dividends (for enterprises that have shareholding investments)
  • constitutionally independent from any public sector body
  • operates in a competitive market but deals in an social and ethical manner.

Thinking about social enterprise as a route to a sustainable future? Contact us to find out how we can help.

Social Economy

A successful social economy can play an important role in helping to deliver many key policy objectives by:

  • helping to drive up productivity and competitiveness
  • contributing to socially inclusive wealth creation
  • enabling individuals and communities to work towards regenerating their local neighbourhoods
  • showing new ways to deliver public services
  • helping to develop an inclusive society and active citizenship
  • allowing third sector organisations to be less grant dependent

One of the key aims of the Social Economy is the re-investment of monies generated by the Third Sector within the Third Sector.

Email: or call (01292) 432 661.

South Ayrshire Social Enterprise Network -


What will the Network do?

The South Ayrshire Social Enterprise Network has been established to:

  • Encourage improved commercial opportunities amongst the social enterprise sector
  • Share information and enable more collaborative working
  • Enhance the reputation and raise the profile of individual businesses
  • Promote the benefits of social enterprise as a business model for the future

The aims of the Network

The South Ayrshire Social Enterprise Network aims to be a focal point for the social enterprise sector in South Ayrshire. The network is a vibrant market place for exchanging information, ideas and expertise. It promotes enterprise, learning, collaboration and commercial opportunities for social businesses in South Ayrshire. It represents the interests of social enterprises and gives them a chance to have a say in the development of their sector. For SASEN activity please check out

Social Enterprise in South Ayrshire

A 2013 study of South Ayrshire’s social enterprises found that:

  • Almost two thirds of organisations responded to the research already
  • Generate at least 50% of their turnover through trading, as opposed to grant funding
  • Social enterprises and aspiring social enterprises in South Ayrshire deliver a wide range of activities to meet their social or environmental objectives
  • The most common constitutional arrangement for social enterprises was as a Company Limited by Guarantee. Most were also registered charities
  • Most organisations responded to the research were relatively small with fewer than five staff and annual turnovers of less than £100,000
  • There are opportunities to build on existing strengths and grow social enterprise

Who can join?

Full Membership This is open to any Social Enterprise that provides goods or services in South Ayrshire.

Associate Membership This is open to individuals or organisations that want to promote the aims of the South Ayrshire Social Enterprise Network. (This can include voluntary organisations that are not yet trading, partner organisations that support social enterprises).

For more information about SASEN please email: or call (01465) 710628

  • What is Social Enterprise
  • Volunteer Involving Organisations
  • Capacity Building
  • Training
  • Contact VASA