As mentioned in our first blog on Social Enterprise this week, we’re talking to Emma Carter who manages the commissioning side of all things enterprise at Adult Social Care.
How would you describe your role as Commissioning Manager for Enterprise?
The focus for my role is delivering ‘Better Lives through Enterprise’ – one of the three priorities Adult Social Care has adopted to tackle some of the challenges we are facing. Better Lives through Enterprise is about making sure that there are a range of services available, delivered by different types of organisations (including social enterprises), so that people with care and support needs, and their carers, have a wealth of different care options available to them.
What does the word ‘enterprise’ mean for you in an Adult Social Care context?
What we mean by ‘Enterprise’ is about doing things in a different way, with the ultimate aim that people needing support have a wealth of options, delivered by a range of different types of organisations that know their local communities well.
We are doing this in three main ways:
- Developing a more diverse care market;
- Developing corporate social responsibility; and
- Building community capacity.
Why is social enterprise becoming increasingly popular and important?
Social enterprises have been around for a long time and come in all shapes and sizes. I’m not sure whether it’s that social enterprises are becoming more popular or whether there has just been a greater recognition about what they can contribute – both economically and socially. For example, a recent report showed that social enterprises have been growing strongly despite the recession.
I also think it’s important to be clear that not every idea can develop as a social enterprise. Social enterprises are businesses with social aims so they have to be able to generate enough income to pay the bills. Social enterprises also aim not to be reliant on grants or donations.
What are the main challenges for people wanting to start a social enterprise?
There are many challenges to starting up a social enterprise – like with any business starting up there will be a period of time where the enterprise does not have enough income to cover its outgoings. There is some financial assistance and business support available for social enterprises in Leeds but this might not cover everything so entrepreneurs need to plan for this.
Also, have you/your fellow entrepreneurs got the right skills to take the idea forward and if not how can you get help and support in these areas? You’re not expected to be an expert in all areas but if you’re not great at finance then you need to think about how you’ll address this – for example can you get someone with these skills on board?
Finally, marketing, marketing, marketing – the days of blanket e-mailing a leaflet to all of your contacts has long gone (junk folder anyone?). You really need to think about the different ways in which you can get your message out to the right people at the right time – this doesn’t always require a big budget but it does require time, effort and a bit of research.
How can they overcome such challenges
In Leeds we have a number of organisations which social entrepreneurs (both new and old) can turn to for help, advice and investment.
For example, Leeds Community Foundation runs two programmes which social enterprises can get both investment and business support from. The Yorkshire Philanthropy Fund (open to social enterprises working across all sectors) and the Ideas that Change Lives fund (supported by Adult Social Care) are specifically for social enterprises working in the health and social care field.
Social Enterprise Yorkshire and Humber is a regional body that represents and promotes the sector and is a good way of networking with other social entrepreneurs – they also run a series of useful workshops, conferences and seminars for the sector.
The Leeds City Region Partnership also has a list of useful support organisations on their website – http://business.leedscityregion.gov.uk/support/social-enterprise/
If you were on Dragon’s Den, what would someone looking for investment need to prove for you to invest?
First and foremost passion and drive – if you’re not passionate about your business idea and can’t convey this to a potential investor, why should anyone else be excited about it?
Then of course you need to make sure that you have done your homework – for example, have you done your research into whether people or organisations want to buy your service or product and what would they be willing to pay for it? If what people are willing to pay doesn’t cover your costs then your idea won’t work.
Social enterprises aim to generate a profit or surplus so that it can reinvest them to help achieve the organisation’s social aims – if you can’t balance the books then you’re not likely to be able to achieve those aims.
What sort of social enterprises have really made a lasting impression on you and why?
We have some great social enterprises here in Leeds. For example, the Heart Centre in Headingley – which is owned and run by local residents and provides work space, meeting rooms, a range of community events and activities for all ages and a great café. I’m probably biased as I live in the area but it is a place that I visit a lot for both work and pleasure ( http://www.heartcentre.org.uk ). There are also other similar centres in Leeds for example, Shine in Headingley and Hillside in Beeston.
Bramley Baths Community Ltd is a new community led social enterprise that took over the management of the historic grade II listed building through an asset transfer from Leeds City Council in 2013. It’s early days for the enterprise but it is an example of how local residents can be engaged in running a community venue – they aim to provide affordable health and fitness facilities, whilst also maintaining a historic landmark (http://bramleybaths.com ).
Our thanks go to Emma for taking the time to give a little more clarity on social enterprises.