A Decade of Doing Good Business: 10 social enterprises over 10 years

To mark our milestone 10th anniversary, we’ve picked a social enterprise from each of the last 10 years to see how they have grown and developed since receiving support from Firstport.

2008: Bosco Santimano, You Can Cook

Bosco You Can Cook 

Bosco Santimano was one of Firstport's first clients in 2008 with You Can Cook. He went on to receive a £20,000 award to develop the project in 2009. Their aim is to encourage and empower local communities to make informed choices about their food and health while allowing them to make these changes at their own pace.

They enable participants to engage in a social and educational activity through learning basic techniques and skills in cookery. Through their You Can Grow subsidiary they also support organisations from the Third sector, schools and community groups to plan, build, manage and run an organic edible garden in their own local areas, while supporting families and individuals grow their own food either in their garden patch, home or allotments. The You Can Cook team is full of passion and excitement about food and healthy living. Each member brings their own flavour and talents to the team. Bosco’s appetite for cooking matches his devotion to the social enterprise sector. He wants the community to thrive and is dedicated to meeting client’s needs to better health and good cooking.

"We will always be grateful to Firstport for providing us the financial support to help take our organisation to the next level. They have been helpful and supportive throughout the application process and engaged with us to fulfil our vision of establishing the first unique cookery school in Scotland."

2009: David Duke, Street Soccer Scotland

David Duke 

Street Soccer Scotland, voted Charity of the Year at the SCVO Scottish Charity Awards 2017, uses football to help create positive change in the lives of socially disadvantaged adults and young people.

Founder and Chief Executive David Duke has experienced first-hand the problems that face the people that his organisation works with, making him well placed people to inspire, deliver and advise on social inclusion programmes that use sport as a vehicle for change.

David works closely with local and national Government, sports governing bodies, mental health charities, housing associations and professional football clubs all with the aim of improving the lives of those who face some of society’s biggest challenges. David is also Global Ambassador for the Homeless World Cup and was named as The Sunday Times ‘Change Maker’ of the Year in 2012.

"We always keep that focus on impact. Sometimes that is helping to keep somebody alive, safe and happy. People need to feel they belong. If we do that the rest will follow."

2010: Gregory Chauvet, Glasgow Bike Station

Chauvet Gregory 

What started as a small recycling project has grown to become West of Scotland’s largest bicycle reuse organisation. Their aim is to reuse as many bicycles as possible, giving them a new lease of life, and they have refurbished 20,000 bikes since they started.

Gregory founded the Glasgow Bike Shed in a small premises in the Barras Market, as a volunteer run bike recycling project/shop. It then joined the Bike Station family in 2012, which included the Edinburgh Bike Station and Perth Bike Station, renaming itself as the Glasgow Bike Station.

Since then, the Glasgow Bike Station has relocated to much larger premises in Kelvingrove. This has followed on from the successful expansion of their activities and services, including a successful Climate Challenge Fund supported three-year Better Way to Work project.

Gregory has been the Institute of Directors Workplace Innovation Director of the Year 2016 and a Director of the Year Finalist 2017.

"Unlike other funders at the time, Firstport were the only ones that truly supported us to get our funding application validated. As our organisation grew, our relationship with The Bike Station brand has naturally come to an end. We decided it was time to follow our own steps and we have now rebranded to Bike for Good."

2011: Lois Cameron, Talking Mats

Talking Mats 

Lois received a Build It award from Firstport in 2011 to develop Talking Mats, an innovative social enterprise that improves the lives of people with communication difficulties, and the people close to them.

Talking Mats is a visual framework that uses mats and communication symbols that increase peoples’ capacity to communicate effectively about things that matter to them. The framework was designed by Speech and Language Therapists and originally developed through a programme of research at Stirling University. As well as the original mat with card options it is now available in digital form.

The mats are used by clinical practitioners, carers and support workers in a wide range of health, social work, residential and education settings. Talking Mats helps people with a range of communication difficulties structure their thoughts and express themselves more effectively, including children and young people, people with dementia, learning disabilities and strokes. Talking Mats now has a partnership arrangement with a company in
Australia and trades internationally.

"The support from Firstport was both instrumental and key when we were taking, what felt at the time the huge step of leaving the University and setting up independently. It allowed us to have the confidence to do this as our award enabled us to meet the initial costs of having an office and paying the staff who transferred from the university; without this we would not have been able us to get started! We will always be grateful to Firstport."

2012: Njiraini Nganga, Networks4Learning

Njiraini in front of office 

Networks4Learning is a specialist technology equipment supplier, providing jobs and computing training to vulnerable young individuals from underprivileged backgrounds in Glasgow, while also supporting education in East Africa, equipping schools and universities with innovative, high-quality technology at an affordable price.

Njiraini first came to Firstport to meet with a business advisor, attend seminars on business and operational skills and was introduced to fellow social entrepreneurs.

Networks4Learning also received two Firstport awards; a Start It award to help Njiraini turn his idea into a social enterprise, and a further Build It award allowing him to grow the business and offer more training positions.

"Firstport's business support really helped me focus and refine the idea behind Networks4Learning while the funding helped us get an office, and enabled my commitment to the business full-time. Our vision is for a future where our foundational training and mentoring programme will be a global leader in inspiring the young individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds in Glasgow to pursue rewarding and sought-after careers as computer hardware, software, and networking engineers."

2013: Alice Warren, Wild Sparks

Wild Sparks 

Inspired by a move to the Scottish countryside and aware of a lack of affordable childcare provision in the area, Alice Warren came up with the idea of Wild Sparks, which encourages children in Perthshire to learn through healthy, active and challenging experiences in nature.

A Firstport Start It Award enabled Alice to get her idea up and running and business advice helped to communicate it more clearly. A Build It Award is allowing Alice to focus on an ambitious five-year plan to scale up her existing activities, while reducing dependency on grant funding – and ultimately expanding the horizons of Wild Sparks.

Wild Sparks now offer holiday play schemes, an outdoor nursery, a programme of training and CPD course for early year, play and teaching practitioners and partnership projects with schools. Activities include woodcarving, campfire building, natural arts and crafts, den building and much more. At Wild Sparks playscheme one-to-one care is offered for children with additional support needs and discounted fees for low-income families.

"Firstport have been pivotal in Wild Sparks’ recent expansion, not just in providing essential finance but also advice, guidance and support, we couldn't have got where we are without them!"

2014: Corrin Henderson, Inverness Kart Raceway

Corrin Henderson IKR 

Inverness Kart Raceway (IKR), a state of the art indoor racing arena that supports young people onto work, is owned by Highland charity Day 1, which works with disadvantaged young people aged 14 to 17 years and is the base to deliver its Let’s Get Driven programme.

Corrin gained a place on LaunchMe, Scotland’s first accelerator programme for ambitious social enterprises delivered by Firstport, in 2014. Through LaunchMe, IKR had access to funding, as well as intensive business and investment readiness support that led Corrin to secure £100,000 investment from a private investor. That was matched by a £70,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund. The money allowed IKR to employ new staff and pursue their long-term goal of buying the raceway site, providing the enterprise further financial independence and stability.

"Performance at the track has far exceeded expectations. We secured 5 star VisitScotland status in our first inspection, have 16,000 followers on Facebook and a 4.9 rating. IKR is becoming the community asset that we hoped it would be. It is proving to be the go-to place for charities and schools who are looking to engage young people in a way that enables a quicker and greater level of connection. It provides opportunities for businesses to support kids and to link the community in unique ways, all of which ultimately benefit our local young people.

"We at Inverness Kart Raceway and Day1 were quick to appreciate the possibilities of the Firstport LaunchMe programme and of understanding the vision of encouraging the third sector to think commercially whilst enhancing our social impact. IKR is the business vehicle that will, in time, allow us to be financially self-sufficient. It has however also become our spiritual home where it appears anything is possible in terms of supporting the most vulnerable young people in our community."

2015: Audrey Mutongi, No. 1 Befriending Agency

No 1 Befriending Agency 

Audrey came up with the idea of the No.1 Befriending Agency after working as a personal carer for older people and realising that, besides personal care, what they really needed was social support and companionship.

She got things off the ground with help from a Firstport Ditto award, followed by Start It and then Build It awards. Most recently, funding through the West Dunbartonshire Challenge allowed Audrey to employ more staff including two volunteer co-ordinators, develop a volunteer strategy and grow her business in Glasgow and beyond. The business recently received the Volunteer Friendly Award for their work with volunteers.

In addition to financial support, Audrey has benefited from access to a wider network of social entrepreneurs that has enabled her to share ideas and problem solve with her peers.

Audrey now plans to extend the service throughout Scotland and offer supported social housing and befriending workshops for carers. She has recently been accepted onto Firstport’s LaunchMe programme which will help her achieve this with seed funding, business advice and peer support.

"I'd always wanted to start a business that is meaningful to both me and to my clients. We aim to create a culture of friendship in communities. We hope that our ‘cup-of-tea’ approach to befriending will develop a movement of people in communities who ‘catch’ the befriending bug and find enjoyment from becoming a friend and reducing isolation. We hope that befriending becomes second nature.

"Getting on LaunchMe will help us to extend the service to five cities in Scotland and open the No1 Social Housing Agency, a half-way house that clients can come to after they leave the hospital which offers a package of social support and activities until clients are ready to return to their own homes."

2016: Jamie McGinnis, Elite Kickboxing & Fitness Gym

Jamie McGinnis and kids in gym 

World kickboxing champion Jamie McGinnis opened Elite Kickboxing and Fitness Gym in Carfin, near Motherwell after a horrific knee injury put him temporarily out of the ring. He received a Build It award from Firstport to help start the community gym, which offers classes at all levels and Jamie is passionate about its benefits for local children.

"I had been looking to open a gym for a long time as there is nothing in the area for the kids so I wanted to get something set up for them. Firstport was the first to come and say that they believed in me. It was like a lottery win – I thought this can’t happen to me. Then I sat down and thought all my hard work and effort is starting to show, people are starting to believe in me.

"It is great to see how it can help in building confidence among some of the youngsters. A couple of children who started here were quite shy initially and didn’t even make eye contact. But now they have come out of their shells and are so much more confident. It also give kids discipline which they can carry on with them, giving them a great start and setting them up for a much better future."

2017: Jennifer Macdonald, Woodside Arran CIC

Jennifer Macdonald 

Jennifer received a Start It award in March of this year to pilot her business, Woodside Arran CIC - The Veggie Van. She runs an organic market garden and mobile shop serving the rural communities of Arran, addressing the lack of access to affordable, good quality, fresh vegetables on the island. Customers can subscribe for weekly vegetable boxes or buy direct and low income residents can exchange hours of work for free food through a work share scheme. The Veggie Van will also provide a route to market for other local food producers, supporting the local economy.

"Woodside Arran's aims are simple - we would like to establish a diverse local food network for the Island of Arran that encompasses organic growing techniques, permaculture design principles and regenerative agricultural practises. We would like to provide as many residents, tourists and local business the opportunity to buy healthy, high quality food whilst educating and supporting as many people as possible to become connected to the food they eat."