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How can I expand my social enterprise?

John:

I’m a musician and a painter.  Last year I set up a musical therapy service as a business.  Several local residential care homes and nursing homes have been paying me fees to go in and play the piano, and more recently I’ve been running art therapy classes.  The residents – some of them have dementia – really enjoy the sessions, particularly as they’re able to create something or to sing songs they remember from their youth.  The homes praise what I do, the word is spreading and more of them are getting in touch to ask me to do sessions for their own residents.  People tell me I’m really running a social enterprise, so I’ve decided to set up my business as a Community Interest Company with me as the Director.

My worry is I don’t think I can keep this up; I’m run off my feet; and I have my normal job to consider (I work part time).  The therapy work started off as a sideline, however, now I‘d like to work on this full time, and maybe employ somebody to share the workload and expand into more homes, but I can’t afford to take the risk.

Response:

This looks to be a great venture! You’ve demonstrated there’s a demand for your services and you can evidence a track record and clear benefits for the residents in terms of their happiness and well-being.  Your problem of how to get to the next stage is something that many start up entrepreneurs face.

Business set up information and advice is available from government bodies – see https://www.gov.uk/browse/business, and your local authority or local enterprise support services. There are grants available to help businesses to start up or develop. Wages of apprentices are also subsidised http://www.apprenticeships.gov.uk/.

What is less known is that as a Community Interest Company (CIC) you may be eligible to apply for grants from trusts, foundations and bodies such as the Big Lottery Fund.  This may help you increase your CIC’s capacity, perhaps allowing you to employ staff (or perhaps even enable you to receive a salary), fund research or a conference, have a promotional film produced, or pay for someone to write a marketing plan.  There are many different things that can be funded which would help you take your venture to the next stage.  To be considered, though, your CIC must comprise of at least three unrelated Directors, so you’ll need to recruit at least 2 more people, and there must be two unrelated bank signatories.

Good luck! The Recipes for Success below may help, but if you’d like further help do get in touch.