Social enterprises on the launch pad to success

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The cohort at the launch night

Social enterprise development agency Firstport launches £825,000 programme to connect investors and businesses

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5th September 2014 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

The first successful applicants to LaunchMe, Scotland’s first social enterprise accelerator programme, were unveiled in Edinburgh last night.

Seven ambitious social enterprises - ranging from a community bakery in the Borders to a go karting racetrack in the Highlands – went through a rigorous three-month selection process, including pitches in front of a high-profile expert panel, to take part in the unique £825,000 programme.

Designed and delivered by Firstport, LaunchMe is an initiative of the Big Lottery Fund and Social Investment Scotland, which aims to grow the social investment market in Scotland.

The first group was revealed at a celebration dinner in Edinburgh’s Ghillie Dhu, attended by over 100 representatives from the private, public and voluntary sectors.

Speakers included Merryn Somerset Webb, editor-in-chief of Money Week, who gave advice on both ethical and social investment, and TV presenter Carol Smillie who recently founded her own business Diary Doll whose product is manufactured by social enterprise Haven.

The initial group was also in attendance and was given the invaluable chance to network and connect with potential investors and mentors.

As part of the programme, participants will also get the opportunity to apply for seed funding and additional cash of up to £100,000 to match any investment they secure.

Karen McGregor, chief executive of Firstport, said: “We are delighted to reveal the first participants in the LaunchMe programme. It is a completely new approach to supporting ambitious early stage social enterprises that can achieve rapid scale, bringing about more social and economic benefits to communities across Scotland.

“We know from our research that the interest for new types of finance is there and we look forward to working with our partners, Heriot-Watt University’s Converge Challenge and Imani Financial Solutions, to support these driven and innovative social entrepreneurs and match them with social investors.”

Jock Millican, chair of the LaunchMe expert panel and LINC Scotland, said: “We were really impressed with the quality of the applicants. The panel was looking for a business model that was eventually sustainable but it wasn’t purely about profit – the businesses also had to demonstrate a social impact that benefits the community.  

“LaunchMe will prepare the cohort for the rigours of business. They will be taken through an intensive tailored programme of business support, investment readiness, investment brokerage and mentoring.

More information about the programme is available at www.launchmescotland.org.uk.