Scots social ventures receive £1m boost from Big Issue initiative

The social investment arm of The Big Issue has injected nearly £1 million into Scottish social ventures, a report published today has revealed.

Projekt42 said the support from the Power Up Scotland programme has been "invaluable". Picture: contributed.

Big Issue Invest’s Power Up programme, a lending scheme offering investment, support and mentorship to early-stage social ventures across Scotland, has revealed in its 2020 Impact Report that it has supported 19 such businesses to date with a total of £870,000.

It added that recipients were consequently able to respond to the Covid-19 crisis by providing meals to high-risk individuals, supporting disabled people and helping those experiencing homelessness into accommodation and providing online counselling.

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Alongside Big Issue Invest, programme partners the Scottish government, the University of Edinburgh, Aberdeen Standard Investments, Places for People, Experian and Brodies delivered pro-bono support exceeding 3,500 hours. The estimated monetary value of help from such partners was equivalent to more than £384,000.

Scran Academy works to improve the lives of disadvantaged young people through a cooking school. Picture: Deborah Mullen.

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One of the social enterprises that completed the three-month Power Up Scotland Programme in 2020 was The Blankfaces – which describes itself as the UK’s first fashion label aimed at eradicating homelessness.

Designs for its clothing range are inspired or created by a homeless person, and a percentage of every product sold goes directly back to the participant who has shared their story, while 100 per cent of profits go towards ending homelessness.

Founder Gerard McKenzie-Govan said: “We have had a long-standing relationship with Big Issue Invest, working closely with their team and even sharing an office space in their Glasgow premises. Their help with Power Up Scotland pre-Covid and during lockdown meant we could keep growing as a business and even open our first shop at 427 Great Western Road.”

Other social enterprises supported by the programme include Projekt42, which says it is the UK’s first wellness centre to combine personal training, group fitness, yoga and mental health services, and Scran Academy, which works to improve the lives of disadvantaged young people through a cooking school. Both ventures are based in Edinburgh.

Sara Hawkins, director at Projekt42, said: “The Power Up Scotland programme provided a range of support from marketing through to legal advice, which has been invaluable to [us]. Two years on, we are still benefiting from the support networks the programme enabled us to put into place.”


John Loughton, director at Scran Academy, said: “After going through the programme ourselves, we merged with Power Up Scotland alumnus Prep Table during Covid. The core partnership helped pioneer a citywide food operation... that has so far produced and delivered around 150,000 meals to around 3,500 residents across Edinburgh supported by 250 keyworker volunteers. ”

Danyal Sattar, chief executive of Big Issue Invest, said: “We have been inspired by these 19 organisations we have supported with both the investment and the business development expertise that they needed in order to make an even greater difference within their communities.”

Also commenting was Amanda Young, global head of responsible investment at Aberdeen Standard Investments, who said: “The most powerful thing about being involved in Power Up Scotland was seeing social entrepreneurialism in action.”

The Power Up Scotland programme is open to early stage social ventures across Scotland, and those looking for investment can apply for the next intake in 2021.

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