Some people call us a "social enterprise" and Beam is a member of Social Enterprise UK. We also use the term "social impact business".
So, what is a "social enterprise"?
We define a "social enterprise" as an enterprise that seeks to become sustainable by finding revenue streams that are rooted in creating positive social impact.
Many charities and businesses create positive social impact as a by-product of their operations. But we aspire to be an organisation with a business model that is based on solving social problems.
In the case of Beam, the positive social impact we are creating and scaling is to help a growing number of disadvantaged people including homeless people to gain new skills and attain and sustain employment.
Can a social enterprise raise investment?
We believe a well-run social enterprise should use every lever it can to grow its social impact, including many that conventional businesses employ like raising different kinds of finance and issuing stock options to employees.
But a social enterprise needs a very different investor base to a conventional business, comprised of individuals and institutions that understand that the sole objective of the social enterprise is to grow its social impact.
This means judicious selection of investors and preventing shareholders from ever leading the social enterprise away from its social purpose through the use of a variety of legal mechanisms.
Beam will always ensure that it uses the right mechanisms to safeguard its social impact. Today, Beam has a "mission lock" in its articles:
"The company's objects are for the public benefit, to support disadvantaged, isolated individuals in such ways as may be thought fit, including raising money, awareness or support through an online platform or platforms."
Objects Clause, Beam Up Ltd Articles of Association
For many years to come, if Beam is successful in growing its social impact and revenues, it will reinvest revenues in growing its social impact. Even further into the future, Beam could decide to return funds to investors - if doing so would attract new funding to solve an expensive, chronically underfunded problem like homelessness.
Is it wrong for a social venture to try and make money?
For some, there is an inherent contradiction between positive social impact and making money - and that making revenues in the case of homelessness must be wrong. But just as a charity needs to maintain and grow its donations, we seek to become sustainable by generating innovative revenue streams.
Beam does not make money from homeless people and will never charge our members to join Beam. It rather hopes to make revenues by serving this group as a more empowering and effective solution than currently exists while addressing a problem that is already costing UK taxpayers over £1bn a year.
The future of social enterprises
Charities will always need to exist and must exist: many social, environmental and other problems cannot be solved through a business model. But it is the job of the "social entrepreneur" to search out business models that can solve such problems.
We believe that Beam can be one of a crop of important new social enterprises and social impact businesses that in the next decade will reach global scale for the first time, benefitting hundreds of millions of disadvantaged people through their work.