Social entrepreneurship has gained substantial traction in recent years, yet research is still in a preparadigmatic state (Nicholls, 2010). Few studies have examined how a social enterprise emerges and gains legitimacy, or the institutional and organizational factors that make it work (Dacin, Dacin & Matear, 2010; Gras, Mosakowski & Lumpkin, 2011; Hill, Kothari & Shea, 2010).

A social enterprise features multiple “bottom lines”, each driven by a different set of institutional logics, which can generate substantial tension (Battilana & Dorado, 2010). The successful emergence and growth of a social enterprise may lie in its ability to embrace, leverage, and integrate competing logics, which may be resources as well as constraints. We investigate the mechanisms, structures and practices by which a social enterprise uses and benefits from divergent logics during their emergence and growth through a historical case study of the Seikatsu Club, an internationally recognized social enterprise of middle-class housewives in Japan with $1 billion US in annual sales.