Social business support marked on Europe Day

Today is Europe Day and at the Wales Co-operative Centre we wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate and share with you the impact Europe’s support has had on social businesses here in Wales.

Last year we launched our new Welsh Government and European Regional Development Funded operation, Social Business Wales. We chose the Digital Accessibility Centre, known as DAC, in Neath for the launch as it’s an example of the ambition and innovation that social businesses can offer. DAC offers accessibility services to a range of blue chip clients across the world, whilst providing employment opportunities for disabled people.  Its clients include Fujitsu, Channel 4, Santander and the National Assembly for Wales.

Thanks to the Social Business Wales project, we have been honoured to have had the opportunity to play a part in the development of DAC and some of the most exciting businesses in Wales over the last year – businesses like Vi-Ability, our UK and Welsh Social Enterprise of the Year, which was developed to address the problems of unstable sports clubs and economic inactivity amongst young people. Thanks to the support it has received from the Social Business Wales project, Vi-Ability has increased income by over 70%, grown capacity from 3 to 16 full time members of staff and expanded into London in partnership with Nesta and the UK Cabinet Office. But we shouldn’t forget, its growth has enabled it to transform sports clubs, change thousands of young lives and helped to build stronger more sustainable communities across the world.

Social businesses offer more than jobs, training and money. They offer, hope, confidence and the bedrock for stronger communities.

Take the Wild Women Enterprise in Mid Wales. Thanks to the guidance it has received from Social Business Wales with structuring and funding, the Wild Women Enterprise opened the Menter Berllan Enterprise Hub within ten months of company formation, offering a creative and collaborative space for women running their own businesses to meet, share, support, learn and earn together. To date it has recruited 12 volunteers, helped a number of clients to grow their business and encouraged entrepreneurship as a realistic alternative career option for women in Wales.

The Social Business Wales project is unique because we don’t just work with social enterprises but make it our business to help smaller private sector companies grow in their marketplace through consortia working. Thanks to EU and Welsh Government funds, we have been able to create a valuable opportunity for three local construction companies in Caerphilly to grow their businesses as individuals by combining complimentary skills and resources in order to compete with much larger construction companies. Allied Construction Consortium has already reaped the rewards of this collaborative approach with an external refurbishments contract in New Tredegar worth £1.2m being delivered by the consortium this year.

The sector in Wales is confident about the future, with the majority of social businesses expecting to increase turnover in the next few years. The Wales Co-operative Centre is proud to be supporting these businesses on their journey towards future growth but we wouldn’t be in this enviable position if it wasn’t for the valuable funds we continue to receive from the ERDF and Welsh Government.

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