Setting up a social enterprise

Business: Setting Up

    You must choose a business structure if you a’re starting a business that helps people or communities (a ‘social enterprise’).

    If you want to set up a business that has social, charitable or community-based objectives, you can set up as a:

    If you a’re setting up a small organisation like a sports club or a voluntary group and don’t plan to make a profit, you can form an ‘unincorporated association’ instead of starting a business.

    Community interest companies (CICs)

    A CIC is a special type of limited company which exists to benefit the community rather than private shareholders.

    To set up a CIC, you need to apply to Companies House, and:

    • include a ‘community interest statement’, explaining what your business plans to do
    • create an ‘asset lock’- a legal promise stating that the company’s assets will only be used for its social objectives, and setting limits to the money it can pay to shareholders
    • get your company approved by the community interest company regulator – your application will automatically be sent to them

    The CIC regulator has guidance on CICs, including the forms you need to set one up.


    Co-operatives and industrial and provident societies are both types of mutual. A mutual is an organisation owned by, and run for, the benefit of its members.

    Further information

    Get advice and case studies from Social Enterprise UK and Inspire2Enterprise or download guidance on business structures for social enterprises.

    Find out about legal forms for social enterprise.

    There are also opportunities to invest in local enterprise with community shares or to bid to run a local service.

    Start a business to help people or communities – business structures including community interest companies and co-operatives