The “First Book” that turns into a reader

What makes a social enterprise sustainable over time and successful in terms of impact on its beneficiaries? What are the skills needed in order to reach success in the social sphere?

The story of “First Book” helps us have a better picture of the skills needed to create a successful social enterprise over time. In an interview with Wharton University (Pennsylvania), the CEO Kyle Zimmer speaks about their almost 30-years experience.

“First Book” aims at providing books and educational resources for schools and educational centres in disadvantaged areas of the US. The innovative side of the company is that they try to stay away from the charity approach and, rather than providing the books for free, they apply a low fee for shipping the books. This allows teachers, educators, but also single users to afford the cost and buy the books, but it also allows the company to cover costs and break-even expenses. The resources distributed come from direct donations, but they are also in touch with publishers who might be interested in approaching the market portion they cater for and provide books for them at a competitive rate.

Ms Zimmer has also an important advice for young people willing to start social enterprises, besides having an accurate business plan, she thinks that they should be able to network and ask for the right advice in order to stay focused and appreciate the economic dimension of their business.

Kopin is actively working in the promotion of social enterprises and sustainable economy in Malta. The project SUSY – Sustainability and Solidarity in Economy has the aim of raising awareness on social economy initiatives available in Malta, but also to advocate within the Maltese decision makers to shape the legal framework that can promote and empower social entrepreneurs. Moreover the broad European network of partners in the project allows simultaneous advocacy actions all over Europe, with the aim of pushing on European decision makers to re-consider the system and try to shape a more sustainable economy for the Union.

Kopin is also involved in the project EntrInno, which aims at the creation of an online gaming platform for young people to test and improve their entrepreneurial skills. The main aim of the game will be to set up a social enterprise, with all the reflections and planning that this entails. The game will soon be ready and presented not only in Malta but also in the other partner countries (Cyprus, Italy, UK and others – check the EntrInno session on this website!), in order to raise awareness among youngsters that social enterprises might be the future in order to ensure that the economic systems leaves no one behind.

Entrepreneurial skills are what make social businesses successful and sustainable over time. Focus on cost effectiveness, efficiency and profit will not only allow the enterprises to pay back their costs, but will also contribute actively to the empowerment of the beneficiaries, who will not feel to have received something out of charity but will feel  like they earned that good or service.


Enjoy the whole interview to Kyle Zimmer:

More info on “First Book”:


Article by our very own Maria Di Domenico