Social enterprise gets another £3m boost

Karen McGregor, Selina Hales of Refuweegee, Angela Constance, and Angela Ireland of Milk cafe

A further £3m has been provided by the Scottish Government to help fund social entrepreneurs of the future.

Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, announced the funding boost today while launching the government’s first-ever Social Enterprise Action Plan on a visit to the Milk Café in Govanhill, Glasgow.

An extra £1m over each of the next three years will be pumped into the Social Entrepeneurs Fund, doubling the amount available to social enterprise development agency Firstport.

The fund, delivered by Firstport, offers grants and business support to help people who want to set up a business with a social or environmental purpose turn their ideas into a viable venture.

Milk Café, which provides employment, training and support for ethnic minority women, was launched in 2015 by Angela Ireland and Gabby Cluness with £3900 seed capital from the fund and business support from Firstport. The cafe has been awarded a further £25,000 this month to expand and employ more staff. See our report here on Milk Cafe

Karen McGregor, chief executive of Firstport, said: “Social entrepreneurship has a proven ability to tackle problems and transform lives and communities. Firstport supports an average of three people a day to take their first steps into social enterprise and has invested in over 800 social entrepreneurs.

“We warmly welcome the action plan and are delighted that the Scottish Government is doubling its investment in the Social Entrepreneurs Fund. Combined with Firstport’s free business advice and resources, this will enable us to boost the number of social enterprises throughout Scotland even further.”

The government’s action plan follows publication of Scotland’s Social Enterprise Strategy, aimed at growing the sector over the next decade. Scotland has more than 5,000 social enterprises – businesses that reinvest profits to address important issues like homelessness, unemployment or climate change – with 200 new enterprises starting up every year.

Angela Constance said: “Scotland’s social enterprises are all about empowering communities and being a catalyst for change. They also employ more than 100,000 people and contribute around £1.86 billion to our economy each year, so they make a significant economic contribution as well.

“We are already recognised as a social enterprise world-leader, backed by Scottish Government support in 2016/17 of around £6.5 million, however I am determined we do more. That is why we have set out a three-year action plan, including doubling the Social Entrepreneurs Fund, helping encourage the next phase of social enterprise innovators.

“Businesses like the Milk Café – offering a safe space for ethnic minority women to gain work experience, improve their English skills and integrate locally – show the huge difference a social enterprise can make in their local community.”

Milk co-founder Angela Ireland said: “We are delighted how well the cafe has been welcomed and used. It also serves as a space for meetings, classes, workshops and events which have been attended by a cross section of the local community.

“Firstport have given us a lot of support in setting up our business, initially by helping us write and develop our business plan and more recently with this new funding that will allow us to employ staff. A new member of the team will ease the pressure we are under and allow us time to start working on the future development of the business."

Ms Constance also met fellow Glasgow social entrepreneurs Fiona MacNeil of Gilded Lily and Selina Hales of Refuweegee at today’s event.

Gilded Lily helps women facing barriers in life by providing them with opportunities through trading enterprises, job creation, volunteering roles and increased confidence, self-esteem and skills.

Refuweegee strives to ensure that all refugees are welcomed to the city in true Glaswegian style.  The charity provides welcome packs supplied by donations from residents and local businesses, along with a letter from a local resident extending a personal welcome.

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