Highlands and Islands’ residents with a business idea that will benefit their local community or environment are set to gain access to a new programme of support.
Known as the Social Start-Up School, the programme will be delivering four locally focused initiatives. The first, in Sutherland, is open for applications, while others will be based in the Outer Hebrides, Wester and Easter Ross.
It is open to anyone with a “social” business idea, regardless of age, education or employment. The scheme will support individuals to develop their idea, providing them with the business knowledge, skills and confidence to take it forward.
The Start-Up School is part of the Support Network for Social Entrepreneurs, an Interreg North West Europe partnership project. The school is funded by Interreg North West Europe, run by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and delivered by the Social Enterprise Academy.
Helen Lavery, senior project manager at HIE, said: "Social businesses are a really progressive model. They trade like any other business, but at their core they have a social purpose, trading for social, community and environmental benefits.
"Our Start-Up School is all about taking support to our rural communities, harnessing and supporting enterprising activity, it will be really exciting to see the range of business ideas that develop over the project.
"A programme like this is beneficial to not just the individuals taking part, but also to the wider community."
An existing social entrepreneur, who is at the forefront of community driven economic activity is Sam Harrison. He founded The Shieling Project in Struy near Beauly in 2013.
He said: "Social businesses are a great model that allow you to contribute to your community while also operating a business. It gives you a strong sense of purpose and is truly rewarding when you see how your community benefits from your work. Often social entrepreneurs begin with a real passion but are less clear on the business elements."