What is an Employment Social Enterprise?

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Employment social enterprises (ESEs) are businesses built to do good. They provide jobs, training, and support to people who are getting back on their feet after experiences like incarceration or homelessness.

Employment social enterprises exist because they see this talent pool for the strengths they hold, not the barriers they face. And they build businesses where this talent can shine. 

How do they do it? ESEs offer employment and skill-building opportunities through the production of high quality goods and services. And they reinvest the money they make in their businesses and their people — providing good, paying jobs and vital supportive services that help their employees bust through barriers to employment. Think housing, access to childcare, mental health services, coaching, and much more. Once employees are ready, ESEs help them find their next job. 

Consider this: If you’ve felt boxed out from opportunity time and again, you need a safe place to develop your skills, have the freedom to make some mistakes, and build the muscle memory to thrive in the workplace. 

ESEs make it their business to be this safe place. Creating workplaces for employees to build skills and confidence takes entrepreneurial leadership and extra investment to execute well. ESEs do just that AND successfully compete with businesses with a much lighter lift. 

The best news? They work. Independent research shows that the on-the-job experience ESEs provide their employees more than doubles job retention and significantly increases wages and total incomes. In turn, these gains support economic security and asset-building, particularly for communities of color, and reduce rates of homelessness, recidivism, and incarceration in communities nationwide. 

And it’s a growing industry meeting a significant need. There are more than 700 of these innovative businesses operating across the country, collectively employing tens of thousands of people. 

Today, the notion of inclusive employment and conscious consumerism is urgent and in vogue. ESEs were the original inclusive employer, doing the hard yet soul-affirming work of building businesses that ensure untapped talent can shine.