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Josiah Lockhart, chief executive of Firstport, says good business advice is vital 

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21st February 2018 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

When people ask me what is a social enterprise, I like to give a simple definition: it is a business that makes profit and reinvests it into its social mission. That can look many ways, including a charity that hires out a hall and reinvests that income into its other work, a business that reinvests its profits into its workforce providing opportunities for those far from the workforce, or even a one for one business that donates one product for every one purchased.

The core of each of those is that that they are a viable business that has a social mission at its heart.

Josiah Lockart

Josiah Lockart

But the daunting question for most people, is where do I start? Social Enterprises are often set up because someone sees a need, and has an idea of how to address it. But when people start to find out how to make that a reality, they discover all of these other things they need to know (VAT, legal structures, cashflow forecasting, employment law, marketing, etc) and stop before they ever get started.

The good news is there is a fantastic eco-system to help those ideas, and the people attached to them, through the process of realising that no-one is capable of knowing all of that information. At Firstport, our key role is to find ways of unlocking those ideas and helping people set up and grow them in order to sustainably create a greater impact on their communities across Scotland.

Our key role is to find ways of unlocking ideas and help people grow them

Personally, I think there are four key areas where support helps, translating an idea into a viable business model (you have to make money in order to re-invest it), testing the idea, making the transition into full time employment to take your idea forward, and growing the idea. Working the breadth of Scotland, Firstport has programmes to help at each of those stages.

This includes working in localities to stimulate entrepreneurial thinking, administering the Social Entrepreneurs Fund that gives out grants of up to £25k, and running our launch me programme that supports the most ambitious social enterprises scale and/or replicate their idea through intense support and social investment from the angel investor community.

All of that is to say that the support is out there and as a sector who wants to make a big social impact, we shouldn’t be scared of all the things we don’t know. I’ve been leading the re-development of Scottish charities and social business for over 10 years now and at every step I relied heavily on the support of others.

My time at both Gorgie City Farm and the Grassmarket Community Project would not have been successes if not for the wider support given to me by organisations like Firstport and peer support from the Social Enterprise Networks.

Do you have a good idea? Start something good today.