Call for businesses to help the growth of local social enterprises

29 January 2014

A pioneering government-backed scheme providing support to a group of social enterprises is going national this year, it was announced today.

The scheme, Social Enterprise Assist (SE-Assist) led by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), will work with established businesses in an area to support a number of local social enterprises. Social entrepreneurs will have the chance to get their businesses off the ground with the help of the scheme, which will provide funding and support from businesses in their local communities.

The scheme currently has £330,000 in funding. £100,000 has been contributed by Legal & General, which is in addition to the £30,000 they have already invested, and £200,000 by the Coast to Capital (C2C) Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

The programme has the potential to deliver millions of pounds of investment to a wide range of start-up businesses who may currently be struggling to raise funding or lack the expertise or experience to get off the ground.

CAF and Legal & General are calling for other businesses to join the scheme and make capital and/ or their expertise and time available to help grow businesses in their local communities.

SE-Assist will open for applications from social entrepreneurs this March in Croydon after gaining the support of Croydon Council, as well as in Sussex, where the programme was piloted last year. The aim is to roll the scheme out to more cities and regions across the UK so more social enterprises may benefit.

The social entrepreneurs will be offered a unique package comprising of an interest free loan of between £10,000 and £30,000, mentoring and access to an investors network to receive expert consultancy.

In last year’s pilot, SE-Assist helped to support four social enterprises in Sussex, one of which was the ethical supermarket HiSBe which opened its doors in Brighton last month after receiving a loan and expert consultancy.

John Low, Chief Executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: “Social enterprises can bring vibrancy and social innovation to every working community, but entrepreneurs are struggling more and more to find early stage funding as grants drop away and commercial lenders take less risks.

“This is the perfect opportunity for big businesses to step forward and support innovation in their local communities, and we hope to see many follow the lead of Legal & General.

“It would be great to see such partnerships between big companies and social start-ups become commonplace, so social enterprises can expand the great work they do all over the UK.”

Graham Precey, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Legal & General said: “Building a long term sustainable business that serves the local community in this economic climate is tough. They are an important part of the local economy, creating jobs and improving the environment and society.

“Helping local businesses achieve their dream is hard work, as the employees involved who gave up their time are aware, but it is fantastic when the vision becomes reality. As well as the sense of achievement, there is the additional learning that helps to expand the knowledge and skills, for those employees that helped to make it happen.

For those employees not specifically involved, but who live locally, there is also a sense of pride in knowing that our funding helped to make that local business possible and that they benefit from the improvements that the social entrepreneurs bring to their community.

“We had no hesitation in being involved and offering further investment and ‘hands on’ support on the wider roll-out of the scheme this year, after such a successful pilot. We hope that other businesses will see the value and potential that their involvement could also bring by joining and investing in the SE-Assist scheme. It will be great to see more start-up businesses have this opportunity to be successful and for local communities to grow, across the UK.”

Cllr Vidhi Mohan, cabinet member for communities and economic development, Croydon Council, said: “SE Assist is a fantastic scheme and having seen the kind of businesses they have helped to grow in Sussex, we are delighted to welcome it to Croydon. Like all businesses, social enterprises create jobs and boost the economy, but they also strengthen communities by giving something back.

This is a real opportunity for anyone who has a business idea with a social purpose, to get some advice and backing to get their scheme off the ground. I’m really looking forward to seeing some inspirational new enterprises make a difference in our borough.”     

Ron Crank, Chief Executive, Coast to Capital LEP commented: “We are delighted to assist and support the launch of the Social Enterprise Assist Scheme in Croydon with a financial commitment of up to £100k from our Growing Places Fund.  

We are constantly looking for new ways to achieve our long-term aims of supporting the growth and development of local businesses which ultimately will deliver jobs, growth and regeneration within one of our core Coast to Capital areas.

“The investment follows a successful pilot of the scheme recently completed in Brighton which we will also be looking to support with a similar financial commitment once the next phase of the scheme gets rolled out. 

Supporting Social Enterprise in our region remains a key goal of Coast to Capital and we look forward to working with Legal & General and the Charities Aid Foundation in taking this scheme forward."

To find out more visit the SE-Assist website.

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