Social entrepreneurs got together in Edinburgh this week to celebrate a £600,000 investment by Big Issue Invest (BII) into a dozen Scottish social enterprises.
The event, held at Playfair Library Hall, Old College in Edinburgh, marked BII’s Power Up programme – a lending scheme offering investment and support to early stage social ventures. It has given a boost to 18 social businesses since its launch in November 2017, with investments totalling nearly £1m.
Invisible Cities was one of 12 social ventures that successfully completed the three month Power Up programme in 2019. The organisation trains local people who have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides of their own cities. Until the investment from BII, Invisible Cities was completely volunteer-led. Now they have a team of two full-time and two part-time staff and a team of 12 guides across Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Manchester – with York and Cardiff on board as two franchise cities.
Invisible Cities founder and Big Issue Changemaker Zakia Moulaoui said: “By taking part in the Big Issue Invest programme, Invisible Cities has grown from a small Edinburgh based team to a multi-location social enterprise with a plan! The support and mentoring was invaluable, with results we see every day in our work, plus connections we could have never made on our own.
“As a leader it has made me really dig into the reasons why we do what we do and be very clear on what we want to achieve in the future.”
Also benefiting from the Power Up programme is Blankfaces, a fashion brand tackling homelessness, Social Stories Club, which creates socially-conscious gift hampers and Eat Sleep Ride, a social enterprise offering horse riding as therapy.
Social Stories Club director Karis Gill said: “Power Up has been amazing for us, as it has pushed us to the next stage. We’ve been paired up with mentors and had the most phenomenal expertise and insight into the corporate market. For a small business, this has been truly invaluable.”
Power Up is funded by partners, Aberdeen Standard Investments, University of Edinburgh, Experian, Places for People and the Scottish Government with legal support from Brodies LLP.
Danyal Sattar, CEO of Big Issue Invest, said: “It has been a fantastic day. We are so pleased, working in partnership with Aberdeen Standard Investments, University of Edinburgh, Experian, Places For People and the Scottish Government and Brodies LLP, to be able to have been inspired by and to have supported these 12 organisations with the investment and business development expertise that they need in order to make an even greater difference within their communities.”
“This unique partnership has brought creativity, technical skills and mentoring to early stage social ventures, which adds value beyond the funding they receive.”
There are currently around 2,000 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
Power Up is open to organisations across Scotland. The funding available is to enable organisations to build on the good work they currently do within their communities – whether it’s buying equipment, hiring new talent, or progressing with business development plans. Successful applicants will also receive mentoring and business development support for the two year period.