Exploring Retirement


Welcome to the May 2014 edition of Exploring Retirement. Each month we provide articles on well-being in retirement and also feature activities to explore. Our intention is to build up a resource that can be used by anyone who is nearing retirement or who has recently retired. The material may also be useful to group leaders and discussion facilitators working with recently retired individuals.

This month we are looking at social entrepreneurship as a possible outlet for those retired people who are aware of a social need and feel they want to try a new challenge. A social entrepreneur is someone who works in an entrepreneurial manner, but for public or social benefit, using a business model to address an unmet need in society. A social entrepreneur recognises a social problem and uses traditional entrepreneurial principles to organise, create, and manage a venture to make social change. Whereas business entrepreneurs typically measure performance in terms of profit and return, social entrepreneurs often start nonprofits and citizen groups.

To help readers relate to the real experience of running social enterprise, I recently arranged to interview a local social entrepreneur and ask him about his experience. To read what he had to say, click on the navigation aid on the side or simply scroll on down.

Feedback from readers is welcomed. Please let us know your thoughts on using your knowledge, skills and experience to make a difference. E-mail your comments to editor@exploringretirement.co.uk

Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship is a very broad term and there is some disagreement about how exactly it can be defined. Some have advocated restricting the term to founders of organisations that primarily rely on earned income, meaning income earned directly from paying consumers. Others have extended the definition to include contracted work for public authorities, while still others include income from grants and donations. The defining characteristic of social entrepreneurship is it's focus on addressing a societal need, as against a focus on purely making a profit.

According to SOCIAL ENTERPRISE UK, social enterprises should:

This short video clip provides some examples that illustrate the diverse nature of social entrepreneurship.

Support for Social Entrepreneurs

UnLtd is the leading provider of start-up funding and support to social entrepreneurs in the UK and offers the largest such network in the world. UnLtd resources hundreds of individuals each year through its core Awards programme. They operate a unique model by investing directly in individuals and offering a complete package of resources; from Awards of funding, to ongoing advice, networking and practical support.

To learn more about UnLtd and it's work click here

UK Awards for Social Enterprise

In the UK the annual social enterprise awards are sponsored by The Independent on Sunday. The awards recognise high achieving and ground breaking organisations and people in social enterprise. New categories, recently added, include social enterprise champions - people who are making a significant contribution to society through social enterprise. To learn more about these awards click here.

Education and Training for Social Entrepreneurs

The School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) was founded in 1997 by Michael Young. It's mission is to address inequalities and social exclusion by supporting social entrepreneurs from all backgrounds to transform their talent into sustainable solutions to poverty and disadvantage in communities. It does this through the use of action-learning based programmes of personal and organisational development.

The social enterprise development programme is aimed at those who have an idea to start a social enterprise or those in existing community organisations and charities who are trying to diversify their income streams through business development. SSE operates across the UK and Ireland as well as in Australia and Canada. To learn more about SSE click here

Interview with a social entrepreneur

To find out more about what it is really like to be a social entrepreneur, I recently interviewed Derek McClure, a former Director of Development at Action Mental Health for over 25 years. Derek left Action Mental Health to co-found Northern Ireland's first Economic Social Firm, Acceptable Enterprises (Larne) Limited as well as Scrabo Catering Enterprises Limited, which trades as Daisie's Cafe. Daisie's Cafe is a small restaurant/coffee shop that offers training and employment to people with disabilities, including mental health issues, and it was there that Derek and I agreed to meet.

I started by asking Derek about the practicalities of starting a business that primarily employs people with learning disabilities and/or mental health issues. He began the planning for Acceptable Enterprises (Larne)Ltd in 1997 and actually launched the business in 1999. The intervening period was devoted to extensive market research and fund raising. The company employs about 15 staff of which approximately 50% are disabled. Mostly they do sub-contract work for local and national companies who often experience a short-term demand for extra staff. Everything from aerospace to repackaging health and beauty products!

Planning for Daisie's Cafe began in 1999 before launching the business in 2000. Derek had identified a need for a local restaurant serving hot meals at reasonable prices. The target population would be local business people on their lunch break and the middle-income retired who wanted somewhere affordable to eat out once or twice a week. The Cafe is located on the site of the local Community Hospital, not as I first thought because it would provide a supply of hungry customers but because the Hospital could offer a good size car park!

Apart from his local initiatives Derek also oversees a company based in County Durham in the North of England. The company employs around 200 people providing supported living to allow people with disabilities to remain in their own homes. You can learn more about their activities by clicking here. I asked him how he coped with the travel involved and he pointed out that with regular flights by Easyjet from his local airport, he could be door-to-door in about an hour. He obviously is not a man who is easily deterred. To help with the governance of these various companies, Derek reports to a Board Of Directors, drawn from people with a wide range of experience in this sector.

Derek gets a lot of satisfaction from seeing his staff, who often are classified as having learning difficulties, achieve National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ's) that equip them for jobs in the catering industry. When he discovered that they would need some experience in "silver service", he promptly organised a number of special functions in the Cafe and invited the local business community to dinner! He especially recalled organising an Italian Evening, which featured local celebrity Father Martin of theThree Priests fame, who sang some italian arias to the diners great delight. Derek never let on to the staff that among the audience that evening was the NVQ Assessor and that the evening was part of their course assessment. For Derek, the glow of achievement that his young staff experienced for the first time in their lives when they were awarded their certificates, made the effort involved well worthwhile.

Derek is passionate about what he does and never stops thinking of ways to promote the business. In 2014 the Cafe will be the town Mayor's "Charity of the Year". Daisie's Cafe has also been honoured by being asked to provide the catering for the Mayor's Inaugeral Dinner. He also has plans to have a stand at the local Arms Forces Day which features an Air Show that draws enormous crowds from near and far.

I asked Derek what advice he would give someone thinking of starting a social enterprise. Not surprisingly he stressed the commitment needed. To succeed you need passion, drive and loads of initiative. Derek emphasised that first and foremost he is running a business that must generate sufficient income to enable him to pay his staff.

We ended the interview by discussing his retirement, which is now only about a year away. Like many successful business people, he is concerned about succession planning, having devoted so much of his life to building the business. He is considering a number of options but is unlikely to just walk away and grow roses (he is a keen gardner). Derek will probably stay on the Board as a non-executive Director and may get involved in a consultancy/mentoring capacity. I came away with the impression of an ordinary man with an extraordinary passion and commitment. Perhaps these are the most important ingredients for a successful social entrepreneur.

Here is a short video clip from a previous interview Derek gave for Volunteer Now.

Related links

  • The Prince's Trust
  • The Prince's Initiative for Mature Enterprise is a not-for-profit UK-wide organisation, dedicated to helping people over 50 set up in business. It offers support through free training courses, mentoring support, networking events and online resources. For further information click here

  • European Initiatives
  • It can be quite difficult to learn about social initiatives across Europe. A useful source we have come across resulted from a European-wide competition that was announced as a one-time initiative in 2013, with the objective to research, present and disseminate innovative ageing practices in Europe to diverse stakeholders. You can read about the outcomes by clicking here.

    Guest contributor - Michael McSorley

    This month guest contributor Michael McSorley returns to London, the capital city that provided him with the source for his April article about the city's cultural attractions. On this occasion, Michael addresses the subject of quality TV programmes as a cultural imperative. In particular, he argues the case for watching the live transmission of the London Marathon. To read Michael's blog, click here.