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I want to set up a social enterprise



I’ve got a great idea and you just know it’s going to be of huge benefit to people recovering from mental illness. It’s all I can think about and I’ve already bored everyone I know to tears talking about it. But I haven’t got the money to get started, and I can’t afford to give up my day job.



Welcome to the growing band of social entrepreneurs! OK you haven’t started yet, but perhaps you could begin cautiously on a small scale and see how things progress, while you continue with your day job?  If this is possible the first thing is to draw up a business plan on that basis, so get in touch with us to see how we can help. It will mean much of your free time will be taken up in the early years, but hopefully it will be worth it in the end.

The important thing to think about is where you want to be in three years’ time.  So many businesses (social or not) underestimate what they can achieve in that time frame and fail to decide on priorities so soon lose their sense of direction.

Regarding early finance, most banks and social lenders are risk averse and want to see a proven model, preferably profitable, that has the potential to offer them a good return on their investment.  And that’s probably not you.  Not yet.  So make that your focus – getting to that stage at all costs – ensuring that the significant amounts of social finance out there right now can be yours once you’ve proven your model and are ready to scale up and grow. Take for example the recent launch of the Government-backed Big Society Capital, the world’s first social investment bank, which has an initial £600million available to help finance and grow the UK’s social enterprise sector.

There are grants out there to help you start up. Your local council, or a Local Enterprise Partnership in your area, may invite applications for small grants.  National organisations such as UnLtd  have a program for finance and support to social entrepreneurs in the UK, ranging from small grants to the larger scale  Big Venture Challenge.  As well as small business grants you may be eligible for project grants from the same sources as charities, such as Big Lottery or grant making trusts and foundations, to help your venture develop a track record, even allowing you to receive an income to grow the business.

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

To plan your start up:

To find initial funds: