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Setting Up a Social Enterprise in Singapore

Author Gabi Bellairs-LombardGabi Bellairs-Lombard

5 min read
Better Business

Are you eager to make a positive impact on society while running a business? Establishing a social enterprise in Singapore might be the ideal path for you! In this comprehensive step-by-step guide, we navigate you through the process.

Setting Up a Social Enterprise in Singapore

A social enterprise is a business entity that addresses societal needs through commercial activities.

In recent years, the concept of social entrepreneurship has gained traction worldwide. Social enterprises combine the drive and innovation of business with a strong commitment to addressing social and environmental issues. Singapore, recognised as a bustling hub for business and innovation, offers a fertile ground for aspiring social entrepreneurs. If you are passionate about making a difference and are considering setting up a social enterprise in Singapore, this step-by-step guide is here to walk you through the process.

Understanding Social Enterprises

Before diving into the specifics of starting a social enterprise in Singapore, it's crucial to have a solid understanding of what social enterprises are. In essence, social enterprises operate with a dual purpose: to generate profit and positively impact society. They strive to tackle social or environmental issues by using innovative business models.

Social enterprises come in various forms, ranging from nonprofits with income-generating activities to for-profit companies with a strong social mission. The common thread that unites them is their commitment to addressing societal challenges. For foreigners looking to establish a social enterprise in Singapore, seeking professional company incorporation services can provide valuable guidance and assistance throughout the process, ensuring compliance with regulations and maximising the impact of the enterprise.

Identifying Social Issues and Causes

One of the initial steps in setting up a social enterprise is identifying the issue or cause you are passionate about. Take the time to research and understand the pressing problems that Singapore faces. Is it poverty? Education inequality? Environmental sustainability? Identifying a specific issue will help guide your mission and determine the focus of your social enterprise.

Engage with the community and conduct thorough research to gain insights into the challenges faced by the population. Collaboration with like-minded individuals, NGOs, and government agencies can provide invaluable perspectives.

Formulating a Social Enterprise Business Model

A well-structured business model is a key component of any successful social enterprise. It defines how your organisation will generate revenue while creating a positive impact. Consider the activities and services your social enterprise will offer and how they could be monetised.

Take inspiration from existing social enterprises and explore innovative approaches. Will you provide products or services that directly address the social issue? Or will you adopt a buy-one-give-one model, where each purchase contributes to a social cause?

It's important to strike a balance between social impact and financial sustainability. A viable business model will ensure your social enterprise can thrive and create lasting change.

Now that you have a clear vision and business model, it's time to tackle the legal aspects of setting up a social enterprise in Singapore. Consider the legal structure that best aligns with your goals and mission. In Singapore, common legal structures for social enterprises include charities, companies limited by guarantee, and cooperatives.

Consult with a lawyer or seek advice from the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprises (raiSE) to understand the legal requirements and registration process. Compliance with regulations and transparency in financial management are essential to gain credibility and trust from stakeholders.

Funding and Financing Options for Social Enterprises

Funding and financing options for social enterprises

Access to funding is critical to building a successful social enterprise. Fortunately, Singapore offers various funding and financing options tailored to social enterprises.

Government grants, such as the VWOs-Charities Capability Fund (VCF) and the Tote Board Social Service Fund (TSSF), provide financial support for capacity building and program development.

Additionally, angel investors and impact investors are increasingly interested in supporting social ventures.

Consider crowdfunding platforms and collaborative partnerships as alternative avenues for securing financial resources. Community engagement and stakeholder involvement can also lead to sustainable funding opportunities.

Building Partnerships and Collaborations

Collaboration is the secret to the success of many social enterprises. Building partnerships with like-minded organisations can amplify your impact and expand your reach. Identify potential partners who share your passion and have complementary expertise.

NGOs, government agencies, and corporate entities can become valuable collaborators, providing resources, networks, and knowledge. Joining industry associations and attending networking events will help you connect with potential partners and stakeholders.

Impact Measurement and Reporting

Measuring and reporting your social impact is integral to the credibility and effectiveness of your social enterprise. Implement systems to track the outcomes and progress of your projects. Metrics such as lives impacted, environmental benefits, or educational milestones achieved can showcase the difference your organisation is making.

Consider adopting internationally recognised frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) or the Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology. Regularly communicate your impact and share success stories to engage stakeholders and attract further support.

Marketing and Branding for Social Enterprises

Effective marketing and branding strategies are essential to create awareness and build a strong reputation for your social enterprise. Craft a compelling narrative highlighting your mission, impact, and unique approach.

Utilise digital platforms, social media, and content marketing to reach your target audience. Share authentic stories of the lives you have touched and demonstrate the positive change your social enterprise is making.

Collaborating with influencers, engaging in community events, and forging media partnerships can further elevate your visibility. A strong brand attracts customers and inspires potential investors and partners to join your cause.

Operating a social enterprise involves complying with various regulations and meeting specific compliance requirements. Familiarise yourself with the legal frameworks governing social enterprises in Singapore to ensure compliance with financial reporting standards, tax obligations, and corporate governance practices. By relying on professional advice and guidance from accountants and legal experts, you can navigate these complexities smoothly and save time as a business owner. Their expertise will help you stay updated on regulatory changes, streamline your compliance processes, and focus more on driving your social mission forward.

Challenges and Opportunities with Social Enterprises

Setting up a social enterprise comes with its challenges and opportunities. It's important to be aware of the potential obstacles you may face.

Competition for funding, resource constraints, and business scaling can pose challenges. However, Singapore's diverse support ecosystem offers collaboration, mentorship, and capacity-building opportunities.

Stay adaptable, embrace failures as learning opportunities, and seek guidance from seasoned social entrepreneurs who have navigated similar challenges. The journey may be challenging, but the impact you can create is immeasurable.


Setting up a social enterprise in Singapore is an exciting and rewarding endeavour. By understanding social enterprises, identifying social issues, formulating a business model, and navigating the legal landscape, you can lay the foundation for a successful venture.

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