What Working at a Social Enterprise Has Taught Me About Business

Growing up in the booming age of technology with a fascination of the multi-billion dollar CEOs and tech founders such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, it has always been my idea that the sole purpose of any business is to make a profit – and A LOT of it. Starting a business, scaling it, and making as much money as possible seemed to be the goal of any and all entrepreneurs. It wasn’t until later on in my life that I realized that might be a goal of a business, but it certainly isn’t the purpose of a business.

Purpose and the Social Enterprise

social enterprise

As human beings, we were designed to have goals in our lives. Goals are the motivators that keep us on track and moving in a positive direction. However, our goals are not always the same as our purpose. A business is not much different in this respect. Oxford Languages Dictionary describes the definition of purpose as “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.” Any life or, in this case, any business without purpose is generally dull and uninspiring. So, before we set goals for a startup company, we must know the purpose for the company’s existence. What is it that keeps your business growing, your employees motivated and benefits your community?

In the same way that a human has the energy and power to bring positive impact to those around them, a business has the ability to use its resources to impact the world around it– known as its stakeholders. In either case, change starts with one person consciously deciding to use their energy and resources to make a positive change for others. In the business world, we call this type of business a “social enterprise.”

During my final college semester at the University of New Mexico, I received an offer to work in a digital marketing position at a local social enterprise startup. Keep in mind, being twenty-one at the time, I had no idea what a social enterprise was, so it took about a hundred explanations from my employer before I started to understand. Needless to say, I accepted the job offer. That company was Santa Fe Innovates, a social enterprise business accelerator in New Mexico. I quickly realized Santa Fe Innovates’ purpose – to advise startup founders how to scale their businesses while encouraging them to have a positive impact on the world.

Key Leadership Skills

Working at Santa Fe Innovates has taught me many things. Here are just a few of the top leadership skills I have learned along my journey:

  • Become conscious of the impacts your decisions have.
    • Every decision you make and every action you take will inevitably have an impact. It is your job as a leader to think through every action taken and the consequences that can occur. Think about the actions you can take to benefit both your business and community.
  • Become community-focused.
    • As a leader in your business, an essential goal should be to connect with and support your local community. Find out where problems exist in your community and use your connections and resources to help solve those problems.
  • Spend time with your employees to help them grow in their personal and professional lives.
    • Employees are the backbone of your business. They can make or break your organization. The best employees will excel in their work and bring life to their team by encouraging others around them to excel in their tasks. Make it a repeatable goal to spend a few minutes asking your employees about their career goals, mental health, life outside of work, and attitude towards their current job. Spending time with your employees will boost morale and motivate them to excel in their position with a greater sense of pride and purpose.


The best business leaders have a large impact on the world around them – oftentimes, the impact is much larger than they expect. It’s often said that any positive change in the world starts with us. We can be catalysts for change by helping others understand why social enterprises are good for business.

Today’s consumers are more loyal to companies that offer something beyond their products and services. They trust brands that lead initiatives, which serve the common good and improve social objectives.

A social enterprise is a business that pursues a double mission: grow revenue and have a positive social impact. They are also organizations that take responsibility to be good citizens and serve as role models for both employees and consumers. For startup social enterprises, it is essential to incorporate social impact and financial sustainability into the company’s DNA from the very beginning. I encourage all current and future entrepreneurs to consider how they can positively impact the future and build purpose into your businesses.

Also, check out:

Examples of top social enterprises:

Ideas for starting a social enterprise:

Santa Fe Innovates business accelerator:

Alex Ennis

About Alex Ennis

Alex Ennis is the digital marketing manager for Santa Fe Innovates. He is a graduate from the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management. Alex is interested in the concept of a brand’s image and how businesses build successful brands.