People with a passion for making positive change in their communities are being encouraged to take advantage of free support to set up or grow social enterprises in Sunderland.
Organisers or would-be founders of community projects like soup kitchens and skills swaps, community shops and gardens, kids’ clothing and toy banks are being encouraged to seek free expert support now from the North East BIC.
Support is available for new and existing social enterprises. Applicants need have no experience in business – just a great idea for making a difference in their community.
The BIC’s programme is helping local entrepreneurs and has received £523,399 from the Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund and the Sunderland Community Led Local Development Programme (CLLD), a five-year programme to deliver local jobs and economic growth, supported with funding from the European Structural Investment Fund.
Chris Nicholas, founder of Sunderland-based Iceguys CIC, a social enterprise which organises weekly sea swimming sessions for men as a means of boosting their mental and physical health, said: “The support of the BIC has been brilliant for us.
“We’d been going for a year before someone suggested we talk to the BIC about becoming a social enterprise. I had no idea what a social enterprise even was at the time, and now, thanks to BIC’s support, we’ve been able to access funding to grow, setting up more swimming groups and adding other activities including running and walking. This means more men can access our activities and enjoy the physical and mental health benefits they bring.”
Like traditional businesses, social enterprises aim to make a profit, but they re-invest or donate those profits to create social change. Social enterprises exist in all sectors, operating cafes and cinemas, mental health services, community banks and gyms, school uniform hubs and community gardens. They tackle social problems, improve local people’s life chances, provide training and employment opportunities, or take on environmental issues.
Now in its 28th year, the BIC is itself one of the region’s longest-established social enterprises and known for its expert support for people setting up or expanding enterprises.
To qualify for free support from its experts you need only live in Sunderland, have an idea for a new enterprise which will have a positive social impact, or have plans to expand an existing social enterprise in the city.
Heads Up, a social enterprise which works with schools, communities, and families in helping children and young people to develop emotional wellbeing, benefited from BIC support recently. Co-founder Katy Hannon said: “It’s so refreshing to have someone at your side who believes in you and gives you the confidence to grow. The expertise, experience and networking the BIC offers is amazing.
“We’ve had amazing support recently to help us grow and develop our educational products and to get the word out about what we do, all of which means we can help more children and families.”
Katrina Brown runs Fit Kat Coaching, a community gym for women and girls in Hendon. It aims to make exercise and fitness accessible to all women and girls, regardless of their circumstances.
“The support I’ve had from the BIC has been invaluable,” said Katrina. “At the end of last year, we were ready to grow further to reach more people. Our adviser at the BIC has been amazing in helping us to achieve that and in providing on-going mentoring tailored to us.
“They can help with things like business planning, funding bids, financial forecasting and the like, and the ongoing mentoring I get from them is tailored to what I need. I’m so pleased to have their support – they make everything possible. We’ve been able to bring women from the Bangladeshi community into the gym, and we’re looking to offer our services for men-only classes also, all thanks to the BIC.”
Inspired? The BIC’s experts nurture socialpreneurs as they start their journey and at every step along the way.