The 10 Most Successful Social Entrepreneurs of All Time

Updated Nov 4, 2022.
Social Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs primarily initiate and establish their business course with the sole aim of maximizing profit. 

Changes in cultural, religious, environmental, and social outlay have prompted business entrepreneurs to embark on a social mission to impact their communities while making a profit. 

This impact could include global poverty alleviation, job training programs, and loaning startup businesses to finance their dream projects to give back to society. Many of the world’s top business tycoons have established non-profit organizations.

This article will cover social entrepreneurship and discuss the top 15 most successful social entrepreneurs of all time.

Let’s get started.

What is Social Entrepreneurship?

In defining social entrepreneurship, there is the need to set boundaries to avoid making the term meaningless. Many business people create positive change through social ventures in their societies, but that does not mean they are social entrepreneurs.

Social entrepreneurship is a millennial business model approach that business entrepreneurs and social enterprises use to solve environmental, cultural, and social problems in their communities.

The main difference between social and other types of entrepreneurship is developing a business around an entrepreneurial venture that addresses social issues. 

Social entrepreneurship can include profit businesses and nonprofit organizations as long as the primary objective is for a social cause. This entrepreneurship type will prioritize social needs over traditional business needs.

An example of social entrepreneurship is microfinance institutions providing financial services by disbursing loans to individuals and groups without financial help to finance their dream projects. 

A further example includes marginalized community clinics built by volunteer groups for free healthcare services to both young and old beneficiaries.

Social entrepreneurship aims to help solve social issues confronting the general well-being of marginalized communities and other minority groups, aside from making a profit. 

The Non-Profit Social Entrepreneur

Social entrepreneurs are individuals who take the risk of making positive social impacts in their community. 

For example, Tony Weaver is a social entrepreneur, CEO, and founder of Weird Enough Productions, his own social enterprise. The media company focuses on creating positive images of blacks and other minority groups.

A non-profit social entrepreneur must possess knowledge of finance to succeed in the pursuit of social change. For this reason, many accumulate wealth in the private sector and begin philanthropic movements in the long run for a better society.

You can view a social entrepreneur as someone who runs a successful social enterprise. Successful social enterprises align their products and social mission as one inseparable entity. 

Social Entrepreneurship - Anatomy of the Social Entrepreneur
Source: SketchBubble

There is a strong relationship between social entrepreneurship, socially responsible investing (SRI), and environmental, social, and governance investing (ESG). They all seek to eliminate social issues and impact the general public.

In addition, socially conscious investors tend to invest in companies that maintain their social values to their stakeholders, employers, customers, and the community.

These investors cease to invest in companies that do not appreciate the efforts of the social innovations of entrepreneurship, such as companies that sell cigarettes, and tobacco, drown social justice, and others.

Social entrepreneurship has contributed immensely to growing the economies of developing countries participating in this social business model trend as profit. 

Nonprofit entrepreneurs create jobs and allocate public funds for small businesses in the community, thereby increasing the community's economic growth.

India is home to many social entrepreneurs, including many young women. The top social entrepreneurs in India include Jeroo Billimoria, Ria Sharma, Urvashi Sahni, Karthik Naralasetty, and Hanumappa Sudarshan.

Business Entrepreneurs vs Social Entrepreneurs
Source: ResearchGate

List of the 15 Most Successful Social Entrepreneurs Examples Ever

There is an endless list of social entrepreneurs, as many have made pragmatic impacts in the social world. Here are the top successful entrepreneurs of all time.

1. Bill Drayton

Social Venture: Ashoka

Bill Drayton is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time. He is the founder and CEO of Ashoka, aimed at providing support and assistance in all ramifications to potential social entrepreneurs worldwide. 

Drayton also doubles to be the Chairman of the Board of Directors for “Get America Working, Youth Venture and Community Greens.” 

Also, during his days in College as a student, he established Yale Legislative Services to Harvard's Ashoka Table-a weekly symposium majoring on how society operates. 

When he was a fellow in the Carter Administration White EPA program, he led many reform groups such as the Emission Trading and many other movements.

Bill Drayton founded Ashoka Fellow with the funds he accrued as a MacArthur Fellow when he was elected in 1984.

Drayton receives many awards for his landmark in the world of social entrepreneurship. Some of them are Honorary Doctorates Degrees from Yale University. He is also an active member of the American Philosophical Society and a Fellow of Balliol College in Oxford. 

In addition, U.S News World Report and Harvard's Center for Public Leadership (HCPL) proclaimed him as one of America's Best Leaders. Bill is also Yale Law School's top Alumni Honor Recipient. He also got awards from the National Academy of Public Administration.

Social Change

Bill Drayton is a philanthropist that brought impeccable change to society by propounding evident structural reforms to many policies. He achieved his aim of reducing income discrimination and equality using business. 

The Ashoka encompasses many talented social entrepreneurs working together to bring improvement to societies and communities by providing financial assistance to them to achieve their cause.

He recruits promising entrepreneurs to expand the bandwidth of his support, and these feats made him the father of social entrepreneurship.

2. Rachel Brathen

Social Venture: One O Eight TV

2. Rachel Brathen - One O Eight TV
Source: TIME

Rachel Brathen is a successful social entrepreneur who uses social media platforms, especially Instagram, to organize training sessions on Yoga. Hence, she authored a book called “Yoga Girl” – a New York Times best-selling book. 

Brathen has over two million Instagram followers and teaches various positions and tips on Yoga. She aims to help people who need healing using online platforms. Rachel started the online One O Eight TV,” where she teaches Yoga, meditation, and health services.

Her only concern is making a difference in the world's status quo by using Yoga to calm, heal, and overcome anxiety in people. As a result, Rachel's online yoga community ranks as one of the largest communities in the world.

Social Change

With the help of her online platform, she gave people the opportunity to heal their minds and provided an avenue for them to share their thoughts freely and get past challenges.

Many people have seen life differently and live comfortably from Rachel's various online platforms. She is one of the many examples of social entrepreneurship examples. 

3. Shiza Shahid

Social Venture: Malala Fund

3. Shiza Shahid - Malala Fund
Source: SUNY Oswego

Shiza Shahid is a global ambassador, social activist, educator, and co-founder of the Malala Fund. She picked interest in Malala Yousafzai – a young female girl and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. 

The social activist now helps Malala pilot her business activities and other operations. She also hailed from Pakistan, like Malala.

Shiza Shahid offered a camp organized for Malala and some other Pakistani girls in 2009. Unfortunately, the Taliban attacked Malala in 2012, which made Shiza go to her because the Taliban are against sponsoring girl children to school as it is against their belief. 

But, Malala's attitude toward learning triggered her to join the awareness of advocating against gender inequality and for education to be a standoffish right of every child. 

Then, she established Malala Fund, a nonprofit foundation that promotes girl child education and empowerment, and funds scholarships. The foundation also helps fund scholarships for out-of-school youths. 

Shiza Shahid is an award-winning social entrepreneur after making Forbes' List of 30 Under 30 and People Under 30 TIME Magazine's List of people changing and impacting the world in 2013 and 2014, respectively. 

She is popularly known to be the mentor of Malala Yousafzai. Her net income is around 5 million USD. 

Social Change

Shiza Shahid has helped over 130 million girls under the umbrella of the Malala foundation to get back to class. 

The foundation supports girls by giving them access to education in Pakistan and some African nations such as Sierra Leone, Kenya, Nigeria, and others.

Shahid has lectured in many universities globally to enlighten and raise awareness about fostering female child's education and young women's empowerment. 

She also sensitizes people on their mental well-being through rehabilitation and gives them a chance to spill out their challenges. 

4. Blake Mycoskie

Social Venture: TOMS Shoes

4. Blake Mycoskie - TOMS Shoes
Source: CNBC

In 2006, Blake Mycoskie went on a voyage to Argentina, after which he founded TOMS Shoes using his accrued funds for a startup.

First, he established his social enterprise to donate an additional pair of shoes for every pair of shoes sold.

Then he named the campaign “One-For-One,” which not only dances around shoes but provides assistance with health services, birth, water, and anti-bullying programs.

Since the “One for One” program was a success, he realized that he had to expand the brand to accommodate more activities. Blake then established “The Marketplace” around 2013.

The Marketplace integrates more than thirty socially conscious brands on the platform “TOMS.com,” where these companies can climb up the ladder of success and also helps the consumer to achieve a purpose through their various purchases.

He authored a book titled “Start Something That Matters,” which became one of the New York Times best-seller books about making money. Blake is a recipient of the Secretary of State's 2009 ACE Award. 

At the Clinton Global Initiative University Plenary session, former President Clinton referred to Blake as “one of the most interesting entrepreneurs I've met” audience. 

He was featured in the “Heroes Among Us” section of People Magazine. The Bill Gates Time Magazine article “How to Fix Capitalism” featured TOMS Shoes.

In addition, he made Fortune's “40 Under 40” list as one of the world's most successful entrepreneurs. Before starting TOMS, he had five businesses, with Campus Laundromat being his first business.

Social Change

TOMS Roasting Company donates 140 liters of safe water to the needy upon purchase of every single bag of coffee. His “Start Something That Matters” book impacted society through his autobiography. 

He shared an act of giving in business for social benefits. Blake's philanthropic interventions have helped alleviate poverty globally. Blake also made the poverty index and the high rate of poor health services known to the public.

Presently, the TOMS brand has extended helping hands to 7 million people from various developing countries by donating over 75 million shoe pairs to disadvantaged people. He also provided them with safe drinking water. 

In the aspect of health, the intervention of the TOMS Eyewear program has tremendously improved and restored sight to over 760,000 people globally by providing them with recommended glasses or administering surgery depending on the complexity of the eye defect.

5. Scott Harrison

Social Venture: Charity Water

Scott Harrison is a successful global social entrepreneur who has printed his name on marble in social entrepreneurship. 

He left New York to the shores of West Africa to take up a volunteering job with Mercy Ships, a hospital ship charity. After volunteering in the hospital as a whole, he founded Charity Water in 2006. 

Charity water is a nonprofit social enterprise that took upon providing healthy and potable drinking water to over 30 countries in the world with a competitive advantage.

The organization has carried out about 90,000 successful projects in the developing world. Charity water accrued a fund of about 55.4 million USD in 2020.

Scott Harrison is the author of “Thirst,” a New York Times Best-selling book, and presently a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum. 

As part of his achievement, he was seen in Fortune Magazine's list of 40 Under 40 and Forbes' Impact 30. Harrison also secured 10th place in Fast Company's 100 Most Creative People in Business.

Social Change

Charity Water has provided clean and safe water to over 9 million people in various developing countries for domestic purposes. 

The organization also carried out over 29,000 water projects to people who donated to over 25 countries globally. Millions of people donated over 350 million USD to aid the successful running of the social projects. 

With the intervention of Harrison's Charity Water, many lives have been saved by providing them with an important necessity of life “water.”

6. Muhammad Yunus

Social Change: Grameen Bank

Muhammad Yunus is a revered Professor popularly known for making microcredit and microfinance available to all. That led to the founding of Grameen Bank in 1983.

He received the Nobel Prize for establishing the bank driven towards empowering villagers financially to lift them out of poverty.

In May 2022, Grameen Bank stated that 90 percent of its millions of borrowers are women and their loan repayment fee is at a whopping 97 percent rate, the highest recovery rate in all banking systems. 

In 2009, Professor Muhammad Yunus received the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

He also received the Congressional Gold Medal and World Food Prize Award, plus the Olympic Laurel in 2010 and 2021. Sometimes, people call the Grameen Bank the “Bank of the poor” since it is aimed at helping poor people stay out of poverty. 

Grameen Bank's borrowing money with no collateral has gotten many criticisms. However, they have proved that the path of social entrepreneurship is a way of arresting people's problems and bringing them to book.

Social Change

The provision of small loans to poor young people and adults has improved the standard of living of many without the issue of having to struggle to pay back since it is interest-free.

Grameen Bank's financial breakthrough has reached millions of people from many countries, including developing ones, to foster the alleviation of poverty in societies.

He has also helped define social entrepreneurship as a path that enhances the creation of economic and social justice from the grass root.

7. Jeffrey Hollender

Social Change: Seventh Generation

Jeffrey Hollender is an activist, public speaker, co-founder, and former CEO of the Seventh Generation. Seventh Generation is an establishment that deals with natural products. Alan Newman is also a co-founder. 

Jeffrey now holds various positions in Corporate Social Responsibility. He has authored about seven books, such as “How to Make the World a Better Place.” 

In addition, he doubles to be the co-chairman of Hollender Sustainable Brands – a business brand that makes sexual and personal health products available for sale. Examples are lubricants, sanitary pads, condoms, and others. 

He is also a visiting Professor who carries out his adjunct lectureship at New York University (NYU). American Sustainable Business also has him as the Chairman of the Board of Directors. 

Hollender is also an active member of many organizations and establishments, such as Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), Greenpeace USA, and workers' rights organization Verité. 

Also, he established a nonprofit learning exchange program, Exchange of Toronto, a program that trains people widely on many societal issues and pragmatic solutions to them in 1977.

Hollender became financially successful on returning to New York City in 1979 and then started Network for Learning, an adult training or education program. He later sold Network for Learning to Warner Publishing in 1985.

Social Change

Jeffrey Hollender has embellished many people with his lectures about social responsibilities at the Reynolds School of Social Entrepreneurship at New York University.

In addition, Hollender has contributed immensely to female sexual products for a better sexual experience using SustainNatural.com. 

8. Xavier Helgesen, Christopher “Kreece” Fuchs, and Jeff Kurtzman

Social Venture: Better World Books

The three successful global social entrepreneurs are Better World Books co-founders, an online bookstore that finances and fosters global digital literacy. They all met during their studies at Notre Dame University.

The three men coached the university's football club before they gathered unwanted and disposed of reading materials such as textbooks, books, and others to put them up for sale online. 

Xavier Helgesen is the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Off Grid Electric, presently known as ZOLA Electric. This electricity company makes renewable energy available for homes in off-grid regions.

Jeff Kurtzman was the former CEO of Aid Through Trade, which deals with distributing local produce, such as handmade items and others across the United States. He recorded about a 125 percent increase in sales. 

Kurtzman is also a co-founder of the nonprofit Incubation, which facilitates the delivery of less expensive and low-maintenance incubators to developing countries.

Social Change

With their help, locally produced handmade items and materials are made available for people at an almost free rate to balance and improve the poor people's standard of living in society. 

In addition, providing renewable energy resources for people living in off-grid areas has helped the recipients carry out their various businesses, especially those that require electricity to operate.

9. Marc Koska

Social Venture: SafePoint Trust

Marc Koska achieved huge feats in the medical world using his social enterprise. First, he made provisions for a non-reusable and less expensive syringe for use in financially handicapped medical centers. 

With that, there was a drastic decrease in the transmission of diseases transmitted through blood. 

In 2015, The Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs of the Year recognized Marc Koska for starting proficient remedies to global health problems.

Social Change

Marc Koska distributes over 4 billion safe injectables to more than 39 countries through Marc's “auto-disable” syringes.

10. Sanjit “Bunker” Roy

Social Venture: Barefoot College

10. Sanjit Bunker Roy - Barefoot College
Source: The Asian Age

Sanjit is a successful community social entrepreneur who lived a luxurious life in India, where some Indians live off stipends daily. 

But, there was a time he paid a visit to the rural regions of his country, India, and saw how many people live in sheer and chronic poverty. Having experienced that, he thought of ways to liberate poverty from society. 

So, in 1972, Sanjit established Barefoot College, a school that uses renewable energy, particularly solar power, to electrify the College for the vulnerable in society. 

According to Roy, “Barefoot College is the only College where the teacher is the learner, and the learner is the teacher.”

Social Change

His pragmatic intervention in social and economic issues has helped improve the standard of living in the poor regions and reinstated their right to education by establishing Barefoot College.

11. Jazzmine Raine

Social Venture: Hara House

11. Jazzmine Raine - Hara House
Source: F6S

Raine co-founded Hara House, India's pioneer zero-waste guest house, which is located in Rajasthan, India. As a result, 20% of the Hara House accrued education to young people to help them make sustainable environmental impacts and social missions. 

The empowerment program has students and children, which helps to facilitate the tourism hub for the continuous running of the organization.

She then established another community center known as Raine for Water. The establishment enlightened her about social innovation and rural economic progress. She is only 25 and has achieved great feats.

Social Change

Her organization makes a conscious effort to provide education and many other tools to facilitate learning for the poor and to take them off the street.

12. Manish Gupta

Social Venture: Matr Boomie

Gupta is a renowned successful social entrepreneur who founded Matr Boomie. On this platform, over 190,00 business owners from 40 different regions across India carry out business transactions, including trading goods, information, and items. 

He established the platform in 2006, and people from these regions have been trading. The bandwidth of the Matr Boomie widens and broadens as many more people have picked interest in it.

Social Change 

With the help of the trading platform, many communities have been liberated from chronic poverty and are provided with virtually everything they need to sustain a good life.

13. Alex Husted

Social Venture: Helpsy

13. Alex Husted - Helpsy
Source: Vanity Stardom 

Alex Husted is the founder and CEO of Helpsy. The intervention of Alex's Helpsy made it known to everyone that body accessories such as clothes, shoes, and others can be rebranded to become new again, more or less giving them a second chance to live. 

According to the Helpsy team's statistics, more than 85% of wear is discarded. Therefore, to be feasible, conscious consumerism must be implemented to reuse and recycle household or public materials like textiles and clothing. 

Alex also emphasized proper and efficient waste management when interviewed via podcast recording.

As a result, in 2019, the Helpsy team recovered more than 24 million pounds of wear like clothes, textiles, shoes, and others from getting discarded. 

Alex Husted is popularly known as a transformational social entrepreneur. Helpsy environmental mission was started in 2017 by Alex Husted and co-founded by his friends who had the same mindset as him. 

To create a positive change in the global poverty rate, he thought of recycling as a solution to solve an aspect of community members' plights of poor clothing.

Social Change

With Helpsy being the largest textile collection factory in the Northeastern U.S, they distributed millions of clothes, textiles, and other materials to many people globally, with the help of many other social enterprises.

14. Giselle Waters

Social Venture: Mad Fish Digital

14. Giselle Waters - Mad Fish Digital
Source: B The Change

Giselle Waters is an extremely successful social entrepreneur. She is the founder and CEO of Mad Fish Digital, a registered B Corp. marketing agency based in Portland. Through social innovation, Giselle uses her digital writing skills to improve people's lives. 

She writes beautifully to capture the attention of her audience. With her deep understanding of her audience's challenges, she has been able to proffer professional solutions to societal problems.

Social Change

Her content writing skills have answered many questions concerning people's plights and challenges through social media platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn.

15. Laura Wittig

Social Venture: Brightly

15. Laura Wittig - Brightly
Source: Spirit of 608

Laura Wittig created an online eCommerce platform, Brightly, which provides beauty and fashion brands for consumers. The platform is an incredible alternative to Amazon.com. 

She culminated the desire to create a platform for the conscious consumer to select ethical clothing and links with other consumers who desire the same.

Social Change

Laura Wittig uses her business model to provide impactful technology solutions to poor clothing. She raised awareness about other entrepreneurial ventures like digital marketing, eCommerce, and some traditional businesses.

Wittig has provided sustainable solutions to many environmental and societal challenges in unfathomable ways.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was the First Social Entrepreneur?

The first on our list, Bill Drayton, also known as the “father of social entrepreneurship,” is the first social entrepreneur. He is Ashoka's founder and CEO.

He started Ashoka in 1981. Drayton also opined that “changemaker” is a single word, not two, which the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary now uses but not Webster's Dictionary. 

Bill Drayton established Ashoka to sponsor fellows and for-profit businesses, that is, social entrepreneurs across the globe ready to intervene in societal and environmental issues.

What is a Social Entrepreneur?

A social entrepreneur is the entrepreneurship pathway by which individuals and business owners discover a societal challenge and provide pragmatic lasting solutions toward lifting the environment.

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Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.