Social enterprise accelerator gears up for next intake

LaunchMe, which describes itself as Scotland’s social enterprise accelerator with alumni including homelessness-focused Social Bite, has opened its sixth round of applications.

Brave, Strong, Beautiful has been founded by Kerry Anderson to help disadvantaged young people. Picture: contributed.

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 whom have gone on to raise more than £1 million of private investment. It is again looking for innovative social enterprises with the ambition to grow and achieve social impact at scale, to foster what it says is a crucial sector to help tackle the impact of Covid-19.

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It said it comes as 97 per cent of Scottish social enterprises have reported negative impacts of the pandemic whilst experiencing a marked increase in the demand for their services.

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”, said LaunchMe.

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One LaunchMe participant ready to step up to the challenge is Brave, Strong, Beautiful, CIC (BSB). Founded by Edinburgh-based Kerry Anderson, it says 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 plans to open two more salons in the next 12 months to provide training, employment and mental health support.

Ms Anderson said: “I set up [BSB] because I became aware that some young people were being overlooked by society. 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 scalable 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.”

Margaret McSporran, head of social enterprise development at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), 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.”

LaunchMe was originally an initiative of the Big Lottery Fund, the programme is primarily funded by the Scottish Government as well as HIE and supported by lender Barclays. Applications for LaunchMe close on December 14.

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