Social Enterprise Conversations is not just about talking to social enterprises; it’s also about highlighting the support organisations that help social enterprises through every step of their journey. From the start-up stage right through to the more developed social businesses, there are a number of useful support organisations whose focus is to help businesses grow and ultimately strengthen the social enterprise sector.
Firstport are one such organisation, and their focus is to assist start-up social enterprises. From the early stages of the business they enable people to test, refine and grow their ideas into viable social businesses, doing so with support, funding, advice, and those all important business connections.
So with these goals in mind, Firstport offer a range of projects to help find people who want to start businesses and to support them in doing so, as detailed on their website:
Ditto spreads social enterprise ideas by using tried-and-tested business models.
Beyond the Finish Line used the imagination of young people and the momentum of the Commonwealth Games to regenerate Glasgow’s local areas.
LaunchMe is the first accelerator programme for ambitious social enterprises, pioneering new ways of financing a social return.
Vital Spark is a dynamic initiative based in Argyll and the Islands aiming to stimulate and support local people to turn their social enterprise ideas into solutions for the challenges their community faces.
Such initiatives have helped individuals create and grow some of the most inspiring social businesses that I’ve come across in quite some time. Firstport have given top quality support to enterprises such as DNDP, Treemendous, The Workshop and others, all of which they have helped grow and assist through every step of their journey. You can find the case notes for each business by clicking on the links above.
In 2009 Firstport worked with the Scottish Government to create a funding programme for budding social entrepreneurs in what eventually became the Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund. This, and the resulting work that Firstport carried out between 2009 and 2014, is reflected upon in their impact report titled ‘Start Something Good’ which you can read over here.
I sat down with Karen McGregor, Chief Executive of Firstport, in their Glasgow office on a wet and windswept morning to discuss Firstport and the work that they do.
- What drew Karen to Firstport and Social Enterprise
- The strength and vibrancy of the sector
- How Firstport’s motivation is to support those who are not just motivated by business for business sake, but also to do good
- Some of Firstport’s successful social enterprises (there are so many that there could be a podcast dedicated solely to them!)
- How social enterprises face challenges that both business and charities face
Firstport also offer a number of resources for social enterprise, everything from practical legal help to human resources guidance. Their assistance is vital to helping start up social enterprise find their feet in the sector, and alongside this they have a good frequently asked questions section which is actually a good primer to explaining what a social enterprise is and the benefits of this kind of business.
Over to You!
The importance of support networks for social enterprises cannot be overstated. Can you know some others who do similar things? If so, we’d love to know, so please do let us know in the comments below!
— Mark Fraser | KPN (@Mark_KPN) September 29, 2015