Major investment fund returns to support more South West social ventures

After a successful first year helping South West social ventures to grow and flourish, applications have now opened for an exciting new programme of Seedbed investment & support for 2016.

Now in its second year, the £1.2 million Seedbed accelerator programme is looking to recruit 25 ambitious social ventures from the region by the end of January.

Successful applicants will each have access to thousands of pounds worth of investment in the form of affordable loans, business coaching and action learning to help them expand and fulfil their potential.

Dirk Rohwedder, Seedbed director and director of the Dartington Hall Trust’s School for Social Entrepreneurs, said he was very pleased with the response to the first Seedbed programme and his team were looking forward to offer more social ventures the opportunity to share in the programme’s success: “We are delighted to be able to offer even more social ventures in the South West the chance to expand and grow their venture with Seedbed.

“We have seen some great progress made by the social ventures who have completed the first year of the programme and we’re looking forward to seeing how they progress in the New Year. Our team and the fund managers will continue to support them during this next phase in their development.”

Seedbed is one of ten projects in the UK funded by the Cabinet Office-backed Social Incubator Fund and is the only project of its kind in the South West.

Each social venture recruited will benefit from a £8,500 support package and have access to a £750,000 loan fund, providing tens of thousands of pounds in social finance loans and helping them to grow, create sustainable jobs and contribute to the local economy and community.

A series of free information sessions will take place in January 2016 when potential applicants will have chance to meet the team, learn more about the intensive support on offer and hear the experiences of social entrepreneurs signed up to the first Seedbed programme, which launched in April last year (2015).

These ventures have now progressed through the stages of the accelerator programme, accessing tailor-made one-to-one sessions and group activities to help them develop through coaching, workshops, master classes, web-based seminars and business review panels and learning from successful social entrepreneurs.

Among the existing recruits is Devon’s Family Advice Support Team (FAST), which works with families to help them manage challenges by offering respite, behavioural support and establishing routines, for example.

Its managing director, James Highet, whose background is in Local Authority children’s services, said Seedbed had helped FAST to grow by drawing on the skills and experiences of successful ventures: “Seedbed enables both facilitators and delegates to socialise together throughout the programme.

“Seedbed has helped me to gain the confidence I needed in running a business. More importantly, it has provided the tools to help measure that I’m on the right track and that will support my decisions going forward.”

Other social entrepreneurs involved in the 2015 programme have included a sustainable energy business, surf school, urban food project, arts programme, media company, employment project, pre-school, nature project and waste reduction initiative.

Alex Furness, of, a South West social venture which enables people to send e-cards on special occasions and donate the cost of giving an actual card to a good cause, said Seedbed had accelerated growth: “There are a number of paths that can be taken and having this kind of support helps clarify which routes will be beneficial. It’s also a great opportunity to meet with other businesses which have been or are currently in the same position.”

Places on the Seedbed programme are free due to joint investment by the Big Lottery’s Social Incubator Fund and project partners Dartington Hall Trust, Plymouth University and South West Investment Group.

Applications close on January 31, with the 2016 programme due to get underway on February 24.