From bedroom to boardroom

Audrey Mutongi started her business in June 2015. Her social enterprise, Be-Friend, is a befriending service for older people in West Dunbartonshire. After receiving support from the Ditto programme, she has gone from strength to strength. She has just moved into her first office and is launching a new series of events in May. 

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Half of all older people in the UK consider the television as their main form of company. With her services, Audrey offers the possibility for a more human type of company to the 18000 of people who are over 65 in West Dunbartonshire.

Be-Friend provides one to one support to elderly people. All of Be-Friend’s clients also receive personal care support from local authority but this care is usually a quick visit and there is no time to chat. Audrey visits her clients weekly and sits down with them for a cup of tea, takes them out to lunch or simply takes the time to listen and talk to them. A couple of weeks ago, she helped a man she regularly visits organise his antique collection. He had been meaning to do it for a long time but having someone with him brought the motivation he needed. Before she left, he declared “You have brought sunshine to my day!”.

audrey and brianAudrey and Brian, our business advisor, at our February "Start Up and Fine Tune your Social Enterprise" event

Starting out with Ditto
Audrey started her business with help from the Ditto programme. She used the “home help service” business model, one of the 12 tried and tested business models that Ditto uses to help individuals set up their social enterprise. The Ditto programme is delivered by Scotland’s social enterprise agency Firstport thanks to funding from Resilient Scotland. Audrey received expert business support, resources and £5,000 funding as part of the programme. When Audrey was accepted on the programme, she said

I'd always wanted to start a business that is meaningful to both me and those I serve. The funds and support I receive will help me help others and excel into the person I'd always wanted to be in my community.

Audrey now has one part time volunteer working with her, Yvonne Blakely. Yvonne coordinates “Friend Indeed”, which is the volunteering arm of Be-Friend.

Audrey Mutongi and Ditto manualAudrey and her "Home Help Service" business guide

Moving into the Bruach
Audrey moved into her new and first offices in January 2016 at the The Bruach in Dalmuir. The Bruach is a social enterprise centre and training hub set up by the Link Group, an established registered social landlord and social enterprise. Eddie Wilkinson, Ditto programme manager, explains “When I heard about the Bruach through a contact at Link Group, I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity for Audrey to get affordable office space”. Audrey comments “I immediately knew it was somewhere I wanted to be because of Link Group’s ethos”. In addition to providing affordable housing, the Link Group has a scheme that supports elderly people to stay in their own home.

Audrey used to work from home and having an official office space has made a huge difference. She says

Having an office gives us structure and a physical place to identify our business. We also have meeting rooms we can use for volunteer training... It opens up conversation that wouldn’t have happened in the home.

Audrey MutongiAudrey in her new office at the Bruach

New events for the elderly community
Be-Friend will provide social lunches for elderly people, starting in May. The first lunch will be at the Cabin Restaurant in Whiteinch, on the 6th of May. Cabin is situated at 998 Dumbarton Rd, Glasgow G14 9UJ.

Audrey has teamed up with the chef who also does meals for the community to provide a social lunch. The restaurant is an intimate venue with wooden floors, home cooked meals, and live music!

If you are inspired by Audrey's story and are thinking about starting a social enterprise, book your free place for our May Edinburgh event covering what a social enterprise is, what funding is available to start one and how the Ditto programme can help you.