Firstport welcomes £3 million funding boost for social entrepreneurs

April 12, 2017
Scotland’s social enterprise development agency Firstport has welcomed a £3 million investment by the Scottish Government into its programme to find and support social entrepreneurs.
Funding for the Social Entrepeneurs Fund will double to £1 million for each of the next three years. The fund, delivered by Firstport, offers grants and business support to help people who want to set up a business with a social or environmental purpose turn their ideas into a viable venture. 
Equalities Secretary Angela Constance announced the funding boost today (Wednesday 12 April) while launching the government’s first-ever Social Enterprise Action Plan on a visit to the MILK Café in Govanhill, Glasgow. 
The café, which provides employment, training and support for ethnic minority women in Glasgow, was launched in 2015 by Angela Ireland and Gabby Cluness with £3,900 seed capital from the Social Entrepreneurs Fund and business support from Firstport. MILK has been awarded a further £25,000 this month to expand and employ more staff. 
MILK provides a safe, supportive environment where ethnic minority women are given valuable opportunities to gain appropriate skills, work experience, confidence and resources to move on into employment. Support includes help with English language, personal development, form filling and interview skills. 
Karen McGregor, chief executive of Firstport, said: “Social entrepreneurship has a proven ability to tackle problems and transform lives and communities. Firstport supports an average of three people a day to take their first steps into social enterprise and has invested in over 800 social entrepreneurs.
“We warmly welcome the action plan and are delighted that the Scottish Government is doubling its investment in the Social Entrepreneurs Fund. Combined with Firstport’s free business advice and resources, this will enable us to boost the number of social enterprises throughout Scotland even further.”
The government’s action plan follows publication of Scotland’s Social Enterprise Strategy, aimed at growing the sector over the next decade. Scotland has more than 5,000 social enterprises – businesses that reinvest profits to address important issues like homelessness, unemployment or climate change – with 200 new enterprises starting up every year.
Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, said: “Scotland’s social enterprises are all about empowering communities and being a catalyst for change.  They also employ more than 100,000 people and contribute around £1.86 billion to our economy each year, so they make a significant economic contribution as well.
“We are already recognised as a social enterprise world-leader, backed by Scottish Government support in 2016/17 of around £6.5 million, however I am determined we do more. That is why we have set out a three-year action plan, including doubling the Social Entrepreneurs Fund, helping encourage the next phase of social enterprise innovators.
“Businesses like the Milk Café – offering a safe space for ethnic minority women to gain work experience, improve their English skills and integrate locally – show the huge difference a social enterprise can make in their local community.”
MILK co-founder Angela Ireland said: "We are delighted how well the cafe has been welcomed and used. It also serves as a space for meetings, classes, workshops and events which have been attended by a cross section of the local community.
“Firstport have given us a lot of support in setting up our business, initially by helping us write and develop our business plan and more recently with this new funding that will allow us to employ staff. A new member of the team will ease the pressure we are under and allow us time to start working on the future development of the business."
Ms Constance also met fellow Glasgow social entrepreneurs Fiona MacNeil of Gilded Lily and Selina Hales of Refuweegee at today’s event (see notes below for more information).
For further information contact:
Carol Stewart or Jess Gray, Firstport communications team
Telephone 0131 558 2724  Email or 
Notes to editors
Firstport provides free business advice and financial support to individuals who want to start a business which will help people and communities. We have made 482 awards and distributed £3.4 million across Scotland from the Scottish Government’s Social Entrepreneurs Fund. 
Firstport awards:  Start It - £2,840  awarded August 2016 for basic start-up costs including legal fees, marketing, stationery, insurance and website.
Selina studied psychology before becoming a business improvement executive at Barlinnie Prison, working on several employability/welfare to work initiatives and a role in the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. She has a passionate commitment to help improve quality of life for refugees and asylum seekers on arrival in this country.
Selina was inspired by media coverage of the refugee crisis to investigate how refugees are supported on arrival and set up Refuweegee, a community-led charity, to ensure that all refugees arriving in Glasgow are welcomed to the city in true Glaswegian style.  She came up with the idea of providing welcome packs supplied by donations from residents and local businesses.  The packs contain essential items, such as toiletries, iconic 'Glasgow' items such as Tunnocks teacakes and tartan gifts and a letter from a local resident extending a personal welcome.  The packs have been a huge success so far, inviting collaborations with other organizations, including other social enterprises.  The impact of the packs has been bolstered by a series of welcome events, for examples taking recently arrived refugee on tours of museums and city landmarks. 
Firstport awards:  Start It - £5000 (February 2015 – basic start-up costs including rent, legal fees, marketing and workshop materials);  Build It - £25,000 (staff costs)
Fiona’s determination to help women facing barriers in life led her to set up Gilded Lily which provides them with opportunities through trading enterprises, job creation, volunteering roles and increased confidence, self-esteem and skills.
Since then, she has gone on to win Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the prestigious Herald Society Awards. Fiona continues to take the company from strength to strength through developing new products and services and securing funding and investment to ensure Gilded Lily’s services remain available to all women for the foreseeable future.
The Gilded Lily team deliver training across a wide range of areas and have a team of facilitators specialising in specific industries such as sales and marketing, finance, business support, social media, creative industries, acting and drama, and employability.