Firstport reveals 2015 intake to pioneering business programme

Deputy First Minister John Swinney praised the contribution of social enterprise to the Scottish economy as the entrepreneurs chosen for innovative accelerator programme LaunchMe 2015 were revealed at a recent event in Edinburgh.

Seven Scottish social enterprises, ranging from a community shop in the Western Isles to soccer training and health education for children, went through a rigorous selection process to join the unique £825,000 business accelerator programme delivered by social enterprise development agency Firstport.

LaunchMe, a Big Lottery Fund initiative, aims to grow the social investment market in Scotland. Firstport identifies the most ambitious, early stage social enterprises in Scotland, provides one-to-one business support and connects them with investors looking for social as well as financial returns. The 2014 intake has already attracted almost £200,000 in investment from Scottish business angels, taken on new staff and expanded to bigger premises.
Firstport chief executive Karen McGregor said: “We are delighted to reveal our exciting new LaunchMe 2015 businesses. They are a diverse group of social enterprises including a chain of sandwich shops supporting homeless people, superheroine underwear which fund empowerment workshops for disadvantaged young women and an island community shop selling local produce We look forward to working with these inspiring enterprises over the next 18 months to help them find and secure the right investor who can help them rapidly scale up their social and economic impact.
“Over the last year it’s been great watching the LaunchMe 2014 businesses grow in ambition, self-belief and confidence. Scotland has one of the strongest business angel communities in the world and a strong track record in helping start-up and early stage businesses achieve their ambitions. We are greatly encouraged by the number of these angels who are willing to support social enterprises.”
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Social enterprises do tremendous work to help boost skills, confidence and innovation amongst our entrepreneurial businesses.

“The Scottish Government recognises the critical role the third sector plays in addressing issues of inequality and the needs of disadvantaged communities, and the contribution that the sector makes to Scotland’s economy.   We also firmly believe in a values-based approach to business where diverse business models, including co-operatives and social enterprise, contribute to increased productivity and wellbeing.
“Since 2014 we have seen LaunchMe encourage and support ambitious early stage social enterprises to attract new investors who will help them rapidly scale and grow their social and economic input.”  
The businesses were revealed at a celebration event in Edinburgh on 27 May. They received a total of £130,000 in funding, as follows: Sylvia Douglas, MsMissMrs, Glasgow (£20,000); Josee Scott, Freedom Unlimited, Edinburgh (£20,000); Josh Littlejohn, Social Bite, Edinburgh/Glasgow (£20,000); Rachel DuBois, Hostel Hub, Alyth, Perthshire (£18,000); Dominic McNally, Future Soccer Stars, Stirling (£17,500); Reuben Chesters, Locavore, Glasgow (£17,500); Sarah MacLean, Buth Bharraigh, Barra (£17,000).
Sarah MacLean, director of Buth Bharraigh, said: “Getting onto LaunchMe will help us achieve our ambition by giving us access to excellent business and peer support. Living where we do it is easy to feel isolated and out of the loop. For us gaining access to support and training is costly and not easy.
“This opportunity will give us the support and confidence to move forward with our expansion plans. We want to provide our island with opportunities: a local produce hub that will inspire and have a positive effect on island sustainability.”