Running a social enterprise and want to take it to the next level? In this guest blog, Firstport’s Maria Ashley talks about their accelerator programme, LaunchMe, and how budding social entrepreneurs can apply to get seed funding and intensive support to achieve impact at scale…
‘I’m doing things that I wouldn’t even have imagined’. This quote from one of the LaunchMe participants pretty much sums up what the programme is all about – raising ambitions, giving confidence and encouraging social entrepreneurs to think big and do more, faster.
LaunchMe is the only accelerator of its kind in Scotland and is delivered by Firstport. We support budding social entrepreneurs to get their ideas off the ground by providing one-to-one business support, seed funding, connections and resources. Firstport has been working with social enterprise start-ups for over ten years and while we know that most social entrepreneurs are locally focused and come with relatively modest ambitions (at least to start with), some have the potential and desire to do much more.
Originally commissioned in 2014 as a three-year programme through National Lottery funding to grow the ambition and potential of social enterprises, LaunchMe supports start-up social enterprises to achieve scale, by getting them investment ready and directly connecting them with investors looking for social as well as financial returns. Participants receive seed funding, intensive one-to-one and group business advice to get investment ready, as well as access to grant funding as co-investment to match any private investment they secure during the programme.
In the last four years, LaunchMe has helped 22 social enterprises to grow and increase their impact. 13 of them have gone on to raise over £1m of private investment, £235,000 from Social Investment Scotland and £700,001 of grant co-investment from the Big Lottery Fund. LaunchMe alumni include Locavore, Scotland’s first social enterprise supermarket; MsMissMrs, a social enterprise supporting young girls and women in the north of Glasgow; and sandwich-shop chain Social Bite.
These figures may sound impressive, but the successes to date have only been achieved by going through a process of continuous learning and adaptation, understanding what has worked and responding to what participants need. Firstport has shared all of this learning in our publication: LaunchMe – A model for scaling up ambitious social enterprises through social investment.
It has also been down to a lot of hard work and determination from the participants – understanding management accounts, learning new skills, nailing their pitch to investors and generally raising their game! It is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
We have recently opened our fourth round of applications and with it have come some exciting changes. Most notably the eligibility has widened and is now able to support not only early-stage social enterprises but also existing organisations developing a new product or service with high-growth potential.
So, if you are reading this and are ready to take your social enterprise to the next level, why don’t you visit the Firstport website and find out more? Applications close on Monday 5th November. Go on, take a look…who knows, this time next year you could be doing things you wouldn’t have even imagined too.
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