10 Celebrity Social Entrepreneurs

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Many people look up to celebrities, because they see celebrities as role models, as successful people, who are to be emulated.

10 Social Entrepreneur Celebrities

Here I’ve collected 10 celebrities who have also created or participated in social entrepreneurship initiatives. It is inspiring to see their good work, and it can show you that there are great possibilities in both doing good and doing well in life.

1. Bono Uses Celebrity For Social Good

U2 singer Bono has used his international celebrity for social good in a number of ways. For example, a clothing company that he founded with his wife has partnered with college students in Ohio on a business project they expect to roll out to other campuses around the world.

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Students at Miami University’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship buy blank cotton T-shirts that are made in Africa and resell the shirts to other organizations, making some profit and providing a market to help build trade and employment in Africa. Bono and his wife Ali Hewson founded Edun Apparel Ltd in 2005 to produce clothing in developing countries that would provide increased trade and jobs to those areas. The company stresses that its message is “trade, not aid.” The company hopes that its Edun Live on Campus pilot project will expand to at least 40 campuses by 2011.

2. TOMS Shoes Founder Gains Celebrity Through Social Entrepreneurship

TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie has gained celebrity by creating one of the preeminent examples of success in the world of social enterprise. TOMS Shoes is based on a simple concept, which is to give a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes purchased. Blake has an amazing story to tell of how he’s built the TOMS Shoes name into an internationally recognized brand.

One Day Without Shoes: April 8th, 2010 [Photo by emma.kate] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The company sells comfortable canvas shoes that range between $40 to $60. Blake came up with the idea when he was traveling in Argentina and encountered many children who were in need of shoes. Since the company was founded, they have given away over 400,000 pairs of shoes in 21 countries, and TOMS is doubling the size of their operation each year. An AT&T commercial served as a tipping point for TOMS Shoes, bringing worldwide attention to the their efforts.

3. Jeff Skoll Gains Celebrity As CEO and Philanthropist

Jeff Skoll has achieved celebrity status as a philanthropist and social entrepreneur. As the first President of eBay, he also pioneered the creation of the eBay Foundation through the allocation of pre-IPO shares. In 1999, Jeff founded the Skoll Foundation, which quickly became the world’s largest foundation for social entrepreneurship.

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The foundation drives large-scale change by investing in, connecting and celebrating social entrepreneurs and other innovators who are dedicated to solving the world’s most pressing problems. The Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship is the foundation’s flagship program which currently honors and supports 81 leading social entrepreneurs from 66 organizations worldwide. The foundation also co-produces the annual Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. Jeff founded Participant Media in 2004 with an idea to inspire social change by creating films that are accompanied by social and advocacy campaigns to engage people on the issues addressed in the films.

4. Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver’s Social Enterprise Projects

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has made a name for himself for his role in promoting social enterprise to help young people. The latest event he is promoting I called the Capital Growth Youth Enterprise event, which provides an opportunity for young people to find out more about youth enterprise projects that use food growing as a focus. The event brings together expertise and lessons learned from a number of exciting projects across London, featuring a range of speakers.

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Participants include The Golden Company, a social enterprise that works with nature and urban communities to create opportunities for training and employment. School Food Matters operates a pilot program with Waitrose to enable schools to sell their own produce outside selected Waitrose outlets. Cultivate London is a new urban agriculture enterprise in West London that supports vulnerable young people by providing a number of training and apprenticeship opportunities.

5. Reality TV Celebrity Peter Jones Aligns With Social Enterprise

Peter Jones is using his celebrity star power to draw attention to social enterprise. Jones, who is best known for his role on TV’s Dragon’s Den, has aligned himself with social enterprises that benefit young people by giving 100,000 pounds to Make Your Mark, which runs a social enterprise contest for young people. A helping hand from TV personalities like Jones can achieve a lot for a social enterprise, as it gives them profile and gets people asking questions about the role of social enterprises in general.

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Right now there is still some confusion among the general public on the role of social enterprise. Even among those groups of people who would be most supportive of the idea, very few of them even know that it exists. Once people meet a social entrepreneur or experience what a social enterprise can do they are often very supportive, and celebrities just help that process along.

6. Celebrity CEO Richard Branson’s Views on Social Entrepreneurship

Richard Branson is a celebrity CEO who is famous around the world for his Virgin Group of over 400 companies. There is much that he has learned from his business career which he believes can be applied successfully to social enterprise. Branson has been involved in a number of humanitarian initiatives which include his role in starting up the Elders. This is a small, dedicated group of world leaders who work objectively and without a vested personal interest to solve difficult global conflicts.

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Branson is famous for starting up numerous enterprises, and he gives some tips about how he has built his group of companies on the premise that “Small is beautiful.” Knowing the enterprise through and through and working with a small team at first are excellent pieces of advice for social enterprises. The next step is to systemize the venture and duplicate it.

7. Celebrity Social Entrepreneur Muhammad Yunus

Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus became an international celebrity for his ground-breaking concept of microcredit. More recently, he’s turned his attention to the idea of social enterprise with a yogurt factory in Bangladesh. Located along a dirt road 140 miles northwest of Dhaka, workers are busy building the small factory for Danone, the French food company. The one-story building is the epicenter of Yunus’ new big idea that he believes can transform the world as much as microcredit already has.

Muhammad Yunus - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2010 [Photo by World Economic Forum] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The concept it represents is called social business enterprise, and in Yunus’ vision it marries the interests of corporations like Danone with economic development in a way that has never been tried before. Companies would draw on microcredit-funded businesses to incorporate nonprofit models into their bottom-line operations, seeking not just revenue but social returns, and also returning the profits to the communities where they operate.

8. Celebrity Philanthropist Jacqueline Novogratz

Jacqueline Novogratz has become a celebrity for her work as the founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund. The Acumen Fund is a non-profit global venture capital fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve problems of global poverty. The fund invests long term capital in business models that effectively serve the poor as a complement to traditional aid. The fund currently manages over $60 million in South Asia and East Africa.

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All of the investments are focused on delivering such necessities as affordable healthcare, clean water, housing and energy to poor people in Pakistan, India and Kenya. Before founding the Acumen Fund, Jacqueline has a long history of work in philanthropy with groups like the The Philanthropy Workshop and The Next Generation Leadership programs at the Rockefeller Foundation. She has also founded Duterimbere, which is a micro-finance institutions in Rwanda.

9. Tim Campbell Uses Celebrity To Help Young People

Tim Campbell gained celebrity for his reality TV experience as Lord Alan Sugar’s first TV Apprentice. He is using this fame to promote his passion for helping young people by offering them some fantastic opportunities that are back by blue chip support. Campbell left Lord Sugar’s Amstrad empire to set up his own venture called Bright Ideas Trust, which helps young people to start their own businesses.

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Tim sees business as a great leveler for those from difficult backgrounds. His organization receives at least 30 applications a month from young people and they support most of these through direct investment or business development. The social enterprise operates by taking donations form corporate enterprises like Bank of America and investing the money into young Londoners’ business ideas. These investments are in the form of loans that must be paid back, and Bright Ideas Trust takes an equity stake and recoups the money when the business is sold.

10. Celebrity MD Sophi Tranchell On Fair Trade Chocolate

Sophi Tranchell has become something of a celebrity as the manager of the socially responsible company Divine Chocolate. The company is actually owned by cocoa farmers and puts the fair trade policy into practice in everything it does. According to Tranchell, fair trade works by setting a guaranteed minimum price for the chocolate the company buys. If market price gets below a certain level, then the fair trade price sets in.

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There is also a fair trade social premium that is calculated, which may be $200 a ton, for example. So for every ton that is purchased, the company pays an extra $200 to the farmers who then decide collectively and democratically how they wish to spend the money. This social premium is an amount that the farmers receive that is always in excess of what they would get from selling their cocoa on the open market.