Scaling your Social Enterprise

Are you an ambitious social enterprise looking to scale? FirstPort’s LaunchMe accelerator programme could be just the ticket. Read on for more details.

Social enterprises are businesses that trade to tackle social problems, improve communities, people’s life chances, or the environment. Just like any other business, social enterprises make their money from selling goods and services in the open market, but they reinvest their profits back into the social aims of the business or the local community.

Firstport is Scotland’s social enterprise start-up agency, it provides start-up funding and advice to individuals who are looking to set up, and develop their social enterprises. It also runs a number of programmes of support, including LaunchMe, an accelerator programme that aims to help social enterprises looking to scale, either in the area they are already operating in, nationally, or in some cases internationally.

According to the recent Social Enterprise in Scotland Census 2017, there are 5,600 social enterprises in Scotland, with 599 being formed in last two years. Evidently they’re growing in popularity, but also in scale! LaunchMe supports ambitious social enterprises to achieve scale, by getting them investment ready and directly connecting them with investors looking for social as well as financial returns. In addition to initial seed funding, selected participants have the opportunity to apply for grant funding as co-investment to match any private investment they secure during the programme.

LaunchMe and Converge share an alumnus: Robbie Norval, founder of Lingo Flamingo. Robbie, who drew on his experience as a student advisor when he began his social enterprise journey, now runs workshops to reduce isolation among older citizens whilst also giving vulnerable people a safe haven where they can feel welcomed, enjoy themselves and learn a new skill all at the same time. The workshops improve the communication, cognitive development and inter-personal skills of older adults and makes learning foreign languages more accessible for adults with disabilities. Lingo Flamingo also offers the chance for linguists to volunteer and donate their skills to help develop their social impact.

Generating an income through his language school ‘The Language Nest’, Robbie invests the profits into providing accessible workshops. Alongside this Robbie, and Lingo Flamingo are working closely with Edinburgh University to continue research into the effects of delaying dementia amongst the elderly population.  

“It is a misconception that people later in life cannot learn a new language; our aim is to empower older people to fight against brain ageing. Getting onto LaunchMe provided us with much-needed business support and advice and funding to create a marketing post, specifically aimed at preparing and planning for growth into new and different markets.”

Firstport have recently announced the latest intake of social enterprises who are looking to increase their impact. Social entrepreneurs require not only a good strong business model/mind but a real ambition to create lasting and measurable social change. All of the entrepreneurs on our LaunchMe have proven themselves to be dedicated and successful in what they do, their new challenge is to do more of it!

This year’s cohort is comprised of a diverse range of social causes and business ideas, all just as inspirational as each other. The cohort is excited to draw on each other’s expertise and experiences to help each other grow and develop their social impact. Introducing:

Chris Gray founder of Well-Fed Scotland, a community café based in Glasgow. Generating profit through his takeaway, delivery service and corporate catering Chris tackles issues such as food poverty and social isolation in Glasgow’s most deprived communities.

Zakia Moulaoui is the brains behind Invisible Cities, which is based in Edinburgh but also operates in Glasgow, and Manchester. Invisible Cities is a guide tour company which trains people affected by homelessness to become walking tour guides of their own city.

Becky Duncan, founder of The Open Aye agency, based in Glasgow. Becky began her visual communication agency to provide positive, visual, storytelling services for social change.

Next up is Breege Smyth of Ardchattan Community Centre, based in Argyll and Bute. Aiming to develop a new and vibrant centre to promote the history and heritage of the local area and inspire people of all ages to move to and live in the area.

David Stewart, from Falkirk Cleaning Academy, which is a new social enterprise coming out of Falkirk Football Community Foundation, aims to provide vital employability skills and experience in the local area.

The only product based social enterprise in the cohort, Mbikudi Ltd founded by Hermine Mankangu-Kinkela. Set up with original, ethical and high quality skin and haircare products, Hermine uses her profits to build confidence and skills of women facing language barriers in the Glasgow region.

Last but not least, Jason Lang founder of Hunter Community Enterprises, from East Kilbride. This social enterprise offers garden maintenance, horticultural and landscaping services in order to develop employability for those facing barriers to employment.

You can find out more about the new cohort and the LaunchMe programme on our website. We will be running a fifth round of LaunchMe later in 2019. If you run a social enterprise and are looking to scale and generate more social impact, then we’d encourage you to get in touch and see if it can help you to grow as well!