Setting up a social enterprise

You must choose a business structure if you’re starting a business that helps people or communities (a ‘social enterprise’).

If you want to set up a business that has social, charitable or community-based objectives, you can set up as a:

If you’re setting up a small organisation like a sports club or a voluntary group and do not plan to make a profit, you can form an ‘unincorporated association’ instead of starting a business.

Community interest companies (CICs)

A CIC is a special type of limited company which exists to benefit the community rather than private shareholders.

To set up a CIC, you’ll need:

  • a ‘community interest statement’, explaining what your business plans to do
  • an ‘asset lock’- a legal promise stating that the company’s assets will only be used for its social objectives, and setting limits to the money it can pay to shareholders
  • a constitution - you can use the CIC regulator’s model constitutions
  • to get your company approved by the community interest company regulator - your application will automatically be sent to them

The CIC regulator has guidance on setting up a CIC.

Set up a CIC online

Register your CIC online with Companies House.

It costs £65.

You’ll need to create a Government Gateway user ID and password for your company. You cannot use your personal Government Gateway ID.

Set up a CIC by post

Use the forms from the CIC regulator to register a CIC by post.

Further information

Get advice and case studies from Social Enterprise UK and UnLtd or download guidance on business structures for social enterprises.

Find out about legal forms for social enterprise.

There are also opportunities to invest in local enterprise with community shares or to bid to run a local service.