Social enterprises benefit from innovative investment fund

Plymouth is cementing its status as a social enterprise city through a £500,000 innovative investment fund that will create jobs.

Plymouth City Council is believed to be the first in the country to have a Social Enterprise investment fund and it has this week awarded £300,000 to six social enterprises. The funds have the potential to lead to 30 new jobs across organisations.

Bikespace, a ‘community interest company’ is a not-for-profit vocational training centre based in Devonport and plans to use its fund to open a shop to sell refurbished and electric bikes.  The organisation already employs those who have had a rough start in life, teaching them how to fix and recondition bikes.

Bikespace wants to go into parcel delivery using ‘Cargo bikes’, which have big boxes on the front of the bike and the organisation has been given £100,000 through a mixture of business support, capital and a loan to get their idea off the ground.

Spokesman Gareth Thomas said: “It’s brilliant news and we will be able to carry on expanding. We already run a fleet of electric bikes and think that is a growing area. We want to expand our sales and servicing, providing jobs for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

The Social Enterprise Investment Fund comes from the Council’s ‘Building for Jobs’ Investment Fund – one of the Council’s 19 ‘Plan for Jobs’ projects aimed at unlocking stalled developments, creating new jobs and levering additional public and private sector finance.

Council leader Tudor Evans said: “These organisations exist to put something into our community and help Plymouth residents who need that little bit extra support. 

“As one of the country’s first social enterprise cities, we need to show we are backing their efforts all the way – for the good of the people who live here. These schemes are really exciting and have the potential to change lives.”

Councillor Chris Penberthy, Cabinet member for Co-operatives, Housing and Community Safety added: “This is fantastic news and if everything goes to plan, it will create 30 jobs – that will  make a difference not just to the person with the job, but the wider community of Plymouth.”

Other schemes include:

  • A dementia hub – Memory Matters South West Community Interest Company want to turn an empty shop into advice and activity centre. As well as clubs and training, there will also be a nostalgia café and treatment/therapy rooms for visiting therapists. The project will create jobs, apprenticeships, work placements and could help increase diagnosis rates, improve quality of life for families, carers and those living with dementia. They will receive £9,995
  • Four Greens Community Trust want to convert an empty care home in Whitleigh into a HQ hub and incubator businesses. They received £90,000.
  • Radiant – A former empty shop, converted into anexhibition space has opened as a tearoom, Rumpuscosy. Funding will enable the venue to have more staff, more food production and an improved venue. It aims to create further job opportunities and involve vulnerable children and young people. They will receive £19,000
  • Column Bakehouse want to create a baking school that offers skills, training and vocational opportunities in a working environment. £80,000 loan will be spent on equipment and changing the layout of funds.
  • Social Enterprise City Making a Splash – a mobile app and paper guide to raise the profile of social enterprise in Plymouth, encourage people and businesses to ‘buy social’ and support the city’s social enterprises. They will receive £8450

The funding is a combination of business support, grant funding and loans.