Blog - Sharing a business model can lead to success for social start-ups

Blog by Eddie Wilkinson

This week (17-23 November) sees Global Entrepreneurship Week, the world’s largest campaign to promote entrepreneurship and encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs to consider starting up their own business.

Sharing business models is one way of making the start-up journey easier. And for some aspiring social entrepreneurs this is already happening through Scottish social enterprise development agency Firstport’s replication product ‘Ditto’. 

Funded by Resilient Scotland, Ditto is an off-the-shelf package that helps people set up social enterprises using tried and tested business models. Launched in February 2013, it brings together a valuable package of practical guidelines, industry knowledge and financial advice as well as business advice and support. 

One of the many advantages of setting up a social enterprise is that people instinctively appreciate what the business stands for. And with consumers increasingly preferring to buy ‘social’, social entrepreneurship is on the rise. But turning a passion into a successful and sustainable business can be challenging. 

The Ditto concept takes franchising principles from the private sector and applies a softer form of replication in a very localised way.

The Ditto concept takes franchising principles from the private sector and applies a softer form of replication in a very localised way. This takes the best from both worlds – the private sector’s ability to scale up and replicate business models that work and social enterprise’s ability to respond to the pressing social and economic needs of local communities.

By identifying people who have achieved success with their own business models and are willing to share the secrets of their business success, we can offer budding entrepreneurs an advantage. So future entrepreneurs will know which questions to ask before starting out, have realistic expectations of what can be achieved and will understand the resources required to survive.  

So far Ditto has worked with ten successful social entrepreneurs (model contributors): Café, Home help Service, Bakery, Childcare service, Baby goods boutique, Bike repair and maintenance service, Thrift or charity shop, Gardening and landscaping service, Craft retailer, Community transport service

Additional investment from Resilient Scotland has allowed for the commitment of more resources, advancements in product design and delivery as well as high profile promotional campaigning. As a result the programme has been significantly enhanced and has been making an impact across Dundee, Fife, Glasgow and Edinburgh. 

Last year Ditto helped a dozen start-ups and hopes to match that figure by the end of 2014. It also aims to find at least two more business models to offer to aspiring individuals. Most importantly it will continue to strive to encourage social entrepreneurs to become involved and empower others to make a difference in their communities. After all, if we're going to help bring about economic, social and environmental benefits and create more sustainable communities, we need to learn from one another.

For more information on Ditto visit http://www.firstport.org.uk/projects/ditto

Eddie is Project Manger for the Ditto project

All views are the author's own