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Thinking about registering a social enterprise? We’re here to help you get started.

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The Business Support Helpline is the government provision for business support in England, providing free, impartial advice and guidance to help businesses start and grow.

Who we are and what we do

The Business Support Helpline has supported approximately 26,000 businesses last year, with an increasing number considering setting up as a social enterprise. We even helped some businesses recognise themselves as a social venture!

How do you know if you are a social enterprise?

Here are some of the questions we would ask:

  • does the business have a social purpose?  This could be a social and/or environmental mission
  • how do you use profit within the business after all expenses are covered?

What to think about before registering a Social Enterprise:

  • business planning
  • finance
  • legal structures
  • market research
  • sustainability

… and how we can help

Market Research

We cannot stress the importance of market research enough!  The social need is quite often easy to identify, but to be successful there must also be a demand for the products or services that you are going to sell.  We can talk through the many methods of market research, provide you with tools and resources, and even identify relevant trade associations who often collect sector specific data.

Business Planning

Once you have decided to move forward, create a detailed business plan.  A business plan is essential for your social venture and covers objectives, strategies, sales, marketing and financial forecasts.  It will help you to fully understand how your venture will operate, with the scope to help attract funders, investors, partners, staff and volunteers.

You can talk through all elements of a business plan with one of our experienced business advisers, who can also undertake a search for local support such as workshops and mentoring, as well as providing templates to help you get started.

Legal Structures

The range and diversity of the possible legal structures for a social enterprise can be overwhelming.  We can talk through the options to help you make a more informed decision and even undertake a search for support specific to social enterprises (Social Enterprise UK, Inspire2Enterprise, Funding Central and UnLtd being examples of the resources we refer to).

These are some typical questions we ask to help determine whether one of the incorporated structures would be most appropriate:

  • what overheads or running costs do you/will you encounter?
  • what will you be investing in to support your business?
  • will you be employing staff?
  • will you be entering into contracts such as a premises lease, tenders, commercial agreements with clients or suppliers?

The main issues to consider when deciding on a legal structure, and the focus of our conversations would be around:

  • funding
  • how the business will run
  • ownership
  • personal liability
  • profit distribution

Once a legal structure has been decided upon, our business support advisers can help you understand the implications of that structure, the application process and what accounting and reporting obligations are required.


Raising finance can often be challenging but our role at the helpline is to signpost you to all the various options. We consider national schemes as well as drilling down to your local authority area to find any local options. Options include:

  • community funding options
  • funding finder tools e.g. Funding Central
  • grants
  • HMRC tax relief schemes
  • loans
  • Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme
  • start up loans


Business sustainability refers to a service whose actions and purpose are grounded in environmental, social and financial concerns – often referred to as profits, people and planet!

Here at the helpline we encourage businesses to regularly revisit their mission statement and contact us throughout their journey for help and support.

How to contact us

As a multi-channel service, we can be contacted via phone, email, social media and webchat.  Support is ongoing via whichever channels suit you best.

Telephone: 0300 456 3565

Textphone: 0191 581 0052

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