ICE Campus helps social enterprises launch and secure funding

An after-work programme designed to support people in starting social enterprises has enabled 18 businesses to launch, as well as helping some secure almost £20,000 in funding.

The 5 to 9 Club in partnership with the UK Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs - UnLtd supported 36 people, through a version of the course specifically designed to support social entrepreneurs start up their own social ventures, with 18 of those going on to found a business and begin trading so far. 

Businesses that had completed the programme were then invited to pitch for up to £5,000 each in funding from UnLtd, through their Try It and Do It Awards. 

Eight businesses were successful in their pitches securing £20,000 between them. In addition to this, another seven 5 to 9 Club alumni also secured funding with UnLtd, bringing the grand total of money awarded by UnLtd to 5-9 Club participants to £39,750 to date.

These successful enterprises range from cafes and food initiatives, through to mental health and wellbeing support for veterans, and all are based across the South Wales Valleys

The 5 to 9 Club is a key part of the Welsh Innovation Centre for Enterprise’s (ICE) outreach programme, as it looks to connect with potential business founders across south east Wales.

The programme aims to support individuals with an idea and help them turn it into a fully-fledged business by equipping them with the skills and knowledge they will need to launch and grow. 

The eight-week course, which in this cohort was only open to those looking to start a social enterprise, was held once a week from 5 pm to 9 pm; to allow those who work full-time to gain the experience and support needed to grow their business idea without taking the risk of giving up full-time employment.

Each week was hosted by a different expert who guides participants through aspects of starting a business, culminating in a pitch night, where participants presented their ideas to their fellow founders, talking through their business plan and their next steps. Social entrepreneur role models also inspired attendees each week.

Outreach Engagement Manager at Welsh ICE, Lesley Williams said: “We are thrilled to announce that so many of the businesses we have supported through our 5 to 9 club have gone on to secure vital funding. For many, founding a business is not just about building something of their own and taking charge of their incomes - it’s about doing something they are passionate about, that makes a difference to the lives of others. 

"Welsh ICE is itself a social enterprise, as we aim to invest half of our profit back into social causes and the community. So when the chance came to work with UnLtd to host a focussed 5 to 9 club, it was a no brainer.

“We’re incredibly proud to have helped so many ethically minded businesses to launch and are excited to see the difference they will go on to make, both to the lives of the founders, but also to the communities they will support. ”

UnLtd Social Entrepreneur Support Manager for Wales, Jane Ryall said: “We’d like to congratulate everyone who took part in the 5 to 9 Club, especially those who went on to apply for funding through our Awards schemes.

We recognise many people are now developing businesses to make a social difference. UnLtd Awards support individuals across the UK who have the most impactful ventures and are ready to take their next steps. Our work in the Valleys with the 5-9 Club has been focussed on how people can make a difference in their local place and build more resilient communities. It has been heartening to see how much energy and commitment there has been for this here from social entrepreneurs and our partners. We would like to also thank People’s Postcode Lottery who have kindly part-funded this programme”. 

One of the founders that launched her social enterprise through the 5 to 9 Club is Kelly Farr, from YourNorth Veteran Support.

YourNorth Veteran Support aims to provide mental health and wellbeing training and support to veterans and their families and secured £4,000 of funding through UnLtd’s Do It Awards.

Kelly said: “The UnLtd 5 to 9 club was such a wonderful experience! Spending nine weeks with so many other social entrepreneurs and having the opportunity to listen to the inspiring guest speakers was incredible. Listening and learning from people that have been through similar challenges and overcame them is incredibly valuable.”

Welsh ICE is one of five regional enterprise hubs across Wales, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government. The hubs will see over £4m invested to provide supportive spaces and mentoring for new and growing businesses, with the ICE Campus supporting the South East Wales Valleys region.