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Scotland’s social enterprise accelerator gears up for sixth intake of applications

Posted: 28th October 2020

LaunchMe, Scotland’s social enterprise accelerator has opened its sixth round of applications, looking for innovative social enterprises with the ambition to grow and achieve social impact at scale.

Delivered by social enterprise agency Firstport, LaunchMe supports social enterprises to grow by providing a comprehensive business support package, seed funding to get them investment ready and direct access to investor networks. Since 2014, the programme has helped 37 social enterprises to scale and increase their impact, 13 of them have gone on to raise over £1m of private investment.

Social enterprises, like most businesses, have suffered as a result of the pandemic. In Scotland, 97% of them reported negative impacts whilst experiencing a marked increase in the demand for their services at the same time. This is hardly surprising given that social enterprises operate in areas including mental health, social care, employability, and homelessness.

From providing emergency food aid and childcare to vulnerable children to mental health support and more, social enterprises have played a key role supporting the emergency and recovery efforts of the last six months.  While the future remains uncertain and a recession looms, backing social enterprises with the potential to scale seems more critical than ever before.

One LaunchMe participant that is ready to step up to the challenge is Brave, Strong, Beautiful, CIC (BSB). Founded by Edinburgh-based Kerry Anderson, it is the only hair and beauty salon in Scotland providing training and employment opportunities for disadvantaged young people. Despite being forced to close during the national lockdown, BSB is now ready to scale and plans to open two more salons in the next 12 months to provide training, employment and mental health support to disadvantaged and vulnerable young people living in areas of deprivation. With the unemployment rate at its highest level in three years and young people being particularly affected by this, social enterprises such as BSB are needed to tackle the challenges ahead.

Kerry Anderson

Kerry Anderson, founder of Brave, Strong, Beautiful, CIC, said: “I set up Brave Strong Beautiful because I became aware that some young people were being overlooked by society. I realised that the most vulnerable were struggling to find training and gain employment whilst dealing with difficult home lives. Coming from a challenging background myself, I understand first-hand the difficulties young people face. This is why I decided to use my skills as a hairdresser, employment development worker and counsellor to offer opportunities for young people to gain a trade skill in hairdressing, whilst also offering a support package so we can ensure they achieve success.”

Josiah Lockhart, Chief Executive of Firstport, said: “LaunchMe has a well-established track record of supporting scaleable social enterprises to grow and increase their social impact. As the effects of the pandemic and lockdown measures continue to take hold, we need strong, adaptable, and resilient social enterprises to rise to the challenge and create social impact at scale. Whilst the future is uncertain, LaunchMe is well placed to provide the support that social enterprises need right now to pursue and achieve their growth plans in the future.”

Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government Aileen Campbell said: “The Scottish Government is delighted to continue to support the LaunchMe accelerator programme. The Scottish social enterprise sector has seen consistent growth over the past decade and we continue our partnership with Firstport. At a time of unparalleled challenges across society, the social enterprise sector remains at the forefront as we move forward towards recovery, and LaunchMe is well placed to support social entrepreneurs and social enterprises.”

Margaret McSporran, Head of Social Enterprise Development, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “The additional challenges we have faced this year have shown just how vital social enterprises are to the Highlands and Islands economy and to community resilience, particularly in some of our most rural areas. We very much welcome this latest round of applications for LaunchMe and would encourage innovative and ambitious social enterprises to consider applying.”

Applications for LaunchMe are now open and close on Monday 14 December. More information is available on the Firstport website.

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