A £1 million programme to help social enterprises has been launched in the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP) area.
Devon County Council, which is leading on the “Enhance Social Enterprise” project, has received over £1,050,000 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in order to increase the number of social enterprise start-ups and to support the growth of existing ones.
Existing social enterprises will be supported to develop and launch new products and services as well as entering new markets. There will also be support for voluntary and community sector groups that want to transition into trading social enterprises, as well as budding social entrepreneurs in need of help to develop their ideas to start trading.
The programme involves a minimum of 12 hours of tailored business support. After identifying challenges and potential barriers to growth which may face the enterprise, a bespoke plan will be provided to support the entrepreneur or organisation in developing business strategies to address them.
As part of the scheme, the School for Social Entrepreneurs Dartington will offer learning programmes, with the aim of creating a group of social entrepreneurs that have the opportunity to apply for grants of up to £3,000. Digital business support is being delivered by Cosmic on specific themes including leadership and Intellectual Property. RIO (Real Ideas Organisation) will provide general business support and will lead on social impact frameworks with Plymouth-based Iridescent Ideas. Devon Community Foundation and Somerset Community Foundation will work with social enterprises to develop financial sustainability action plans with an aspiration to get each enterprise to the point of accessing investment.
A HotSW social enterprise survey last year found that the sector is growing in the region. There are over 1,000 social enterprises in the LEP area with a combined turnover estimated at around £1.5 billion. The number of people employed in the social enterprise sector in the HotSW LEP area is estimated to be 32,700 with at least as many volunteers also active.
While 80% of social enterprises plan to develop new products or services and 66% plan to increase their turnover by exploiting new markets, they have identified a number of support needs, including developing and introducing new products and services, measuring social value, and marketing and communications.
Councillor Dave Downie, Plymouth City Council Cabinet Member for Safer and Stronger Communities, said: “We have a buzzing social enterprise sector here in Plymouth and through our own Social Enterprise Investment Fund, have invested in businesses and organisations, leading to more jobs as well as buildings and land being brought back into use. Social enterprise marries business with social value and we are delighted to see this project offer more support to organisations here in the South West to help them succeed.”Councillor Stuart Barker, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Enterprise and Skills, said: “The Heart of the South West area is a hotspot for social enterprise start ups, with 37% of social enterprises less than three years old. However, there are gaps in provision in North Devon, Torridge and Somerset where the social enterprise sector is less well developed and the availability of support is more fragmented. This programme will aim to increase capacity across the whole of the LEP area to transform the lives of some of the most deprived people in our area.”
Councillor David Hall, Cabinet Member for Resources and Economic Development at Somerset County Council, said: “We are delighted this £1million funding is available for Social Enterprises across our region. A strong Social Enterprise sector will lead to many social and economic benefits for Somerset including increased employment and business growth.
“We work closely with Somerset Community Foundation and have made a significant investment to the Enhance Social Enterprise Programme. This has enabled further funding to be drawn down from central Government to support and strengthen existing Social Enterprises, as well as targeting the existing VCS/charitable sector that wish to transition to become trading organisations. I urge existing Social Enterprises and those considering becoming one to tap into this fund and take advantage of the expert business support and advice available.”
Stuart Emmerson, Regional Director of Social Enterprise UK, said: “Social Enterprise is playing an increasing role in building a fairer, more inclusive economy. Programmes such as Enhance Social Enterprise will not only inspire new entrepreneurs but will also support existing organisations to prosper and achieve their growth plans.”Elected Mayor for Torbay, Gordon Oliver, said: “We are delighted this fund is available to social enterprises that are based in Torbay. They are making such a difference to the community and the lives of our residents, and this programme will help these social entrepreneurs make an even bigger difference.”
In order to register for the programme visit: