Help available to set up new businesses in the city

Social enterprises are to get a boost as grants become available to support entrepreneurs looking to start up a new business in Stoke-on-Trent.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council, in partnership with Voluntary Action Stoke (VAST), is offering investment grants and mentoring support, to encourage the development of social enterprises in the city.

The Growing Social Enterprise Programme aims to help new businesses flourish in the city during the next year. Based at the Dudson Centre, in Hope Street, a mentor service provides practical support in developing a business plan as well as access to business services.  Funding is also available for initial business costs for new start ups and businesses looking to develop by creating extra jobs in the city.

Councillor Mark Meredith, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for economic development, said: “Supporting and developing businesses within Stoke-on-Trent is a key priority for the city council. These grants will provide an added boost to individuals looking to set up a social enterprise which will not only benefit the city but create extra jobs for local people. The scheme worked very well last year and I would encourage people thinking of setting up a social enterprise to get in touch as help is available.”

The initiative, which is in its second year, saw more than £75,000 of investment grants awarded and 14 new jobs created in 2010.

The Community Scrap Shack, in Elsing Street, Fenton, is a social enterprise that reclaims clean and safe waste from local businesses and supplies it to local schools, pre-schools and voluntary or community groups for creative play and arts and craft activities.   Last year the social enterprise benefited from a grant and is now looking to employ an extra member of staff to help develop the business further.

Michelle Folkes, founder of the Community Scrap Shack, said: “The funding we received was invaluable in getting the Community Scrap Shack off the ground, it supported some of our initial marketing and set up costs, and after three months of trading we are fast approaching 100 members”.

T6 Elite, based in Nile Street, Burslem, benefited from support last year to fund initial costs of employing a gym manager and part time instructor. The community interest company uses boxing and martial arts as a means of education and fitness for socially excluded young people or youngsters at risk of social exclusion.

Since opening up it has helped more than 100 young people and is now looking to expand into larger premises.

Aaron Durber of T6 Elite said: “Without the funds we never would have been able to get off the ground. The grant helped to set up the business and provide the support to employ staff and get our business model right. Eight months on and we are now self sufficient and are helping local young people to use martial arts as a means of improving their self confidence and fitness.  Coming to T6 Elite helps to give local young people a purpose and a focus for their lives away from anti-social behaviour and makes a real difference to the young people involved.”

Social Enterprises are businesses that support  social objectives and operate primarily to support re-investment of profit into providing social and economic outcomes that benefit people who are disadvantaged,  produce environmental benefits, and add value to community well being.

More information about the programme and advice on setting up a social enterprise is available by calling Amanda Locke at VAST on 01782 683030 or via email on amanda.locke@vast.org.uk