My professional background is in social work. I wanted to make a difference to the lives of young people. Community is at the heart of what we do. The social enterprise model fits perfectly with our ethos. I had reached a point in my career where it felt as if it was a natural progression. I want to end my career to being able to develop and shape a service that I knew would meet needs rather than families having to climb over obstacles to get the provision they needed for their children. Social enterprise puts impact and people first as a concept I really embrace this idea.
Our move away from grant funding
We had been fortunate and secured three years of funding to start and develop our service. However, we were grant dependent and grant funding was declining. We knew we had to change our model and develop revenue generating income streams. As we worked with local authorities more, we found a customer of our services and gradually moved away form grant dependency to a mixed income model.
Taking on social investment
We decided to investigate social investment as we needed flexible funding to help transition away from grant to trading income. I had heard a lot of negative things about social investment and we were not sure if it was right for us. However, we found some local support and started on our journey.
Working with a social investor
We approached Big Issue Invest which worked out well for us. They visited us early on and got to know the organisation and our people. They asked a lot of questions. In truth we found the process difficult because we had limited capacity. It was much better than our experience of applying for grants because the team at BII met with us and communicated throughout the process. What was really encouraging is that they always stressed that they wanted to support us. This gave us confidence in the process. The relationship we have with BII is very constructive. They challenge us and treat us like valued customers. They provide a service for us and we pay them back each month. It works well, as they do not burden us with unnecessary paperwork or requests.
Advice for other Social Entrepreneurs
Despite all the challenges we face in Redcar setting up a social enterprise has been incredible. We never take anything for granted. Our impact reach 750 families per year. To anyone running a social enterprise I always say never take no for an answer. Keep, your social mission at the heart of what you do. Build partnerships and look for sustainable revenue streams to keep you going. Never be afraid to ask for help!
Find out more about the Link Redcar
Keep an eye out for more female investee stories this month!