Sec­tor has all of the key in­gre­di­ents for suc­cess

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Small Business Can - By­mark Par­sons Mark Par­sons is head of com­mu­nity fi­nance and so­cial en­ter­prise at Ul­ster Univer­sity

Whether you’re on a bus, in a leisure cen­tre or even eat­ing choco­late, you could be sup­port­ing a so­cial en­ter­prise. So­cial en­ter­prises are busi­nesses that ex­ist to ful­fil a so­cial mis­sion. That mis­sion might be to make the lo­cal com­mu­nity a bet­ter place to live and work, or it might be to pro­vide work to those who may oth­er­wise be ex­cluded from the job mar­ket.

For in­stance, there are many so­cial en­ter­prises cre­at­ing em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, those with­out homes or those who have been out of the work­place for a sus­tained pe­riod.

The sec­tor is grow­ing across the UK and glob­ally as con­sumers take an ever-deeper in­ter­est in the prod­ucts they buy and the com­pa­nies they sup­port.

To give you an ex­am­ple; there’s some re­search to sug­gest that so­cial en­ter­prises in the UK were grow­ing at an av­er­age of 60% per year and con­tribut­ing £24bn to the econ­omy — and be­cause they are so­cial en­ter­prises, much of the prof­its are ploughed back into lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

This is an im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity for North­ern Ire­land. Many lo­cally-based en­ter­prises such as Bryson Char­i­ta­ble Group are among the UK’S largest and most dy­namic, rapidly chang­ing to meet the needs of their ser­vice users.

Lo­cally, the sec­tor has many of the key in­gre­di­ents for fu­ture suc­cess.

When I spoke ear­lier in the year at the So­cial En­ter­prise North­ern Ire­land (SENI) con­fer­ence in Belfast, it was clear that the sec­tor had broad sup­port.

Govern­ment, coun­cils, cor­po­rates, small busi­ness, ad­vi­sors, bankers, ac­coun­tants, re­cruiters and law firms were out in force.

Like us they want to help busi­nesses that are do­ing good and do­ing well.

Ul­ster Bank has a long her­itage in sup­port­ing the so­cial en­ter­prise sec­tor.

We’re pleased to have re­cently agreed a part­ner­ship with So­cial En­ter­prise North­ern Ire­land to help sup­port the de­vel­op­ment of th­ese lo­cal busi­nesses.

As well as a pres­ence at the SENI awards and the an­nual con­fer­ence, we’ll be run­ning a free event at the Belfast En­tre­pre­neur­ial Spark hub on Novem­ber 7 to help so­cial en­ter­prises address some of the chal­lenges they face, in­clud­ing im­pact mea­sure­ment, gov­er­nance and ac­cess to fi­nance.

We’ll also be in­tro­duc­ing So­cial & Com­mu­nity Cap­i­tal, the bank’s arms-length lend­ing char­ity, to North­ern Ire­land to help so­cial en­ter­prises here to ac­cess loans, even if they’ve been turned down for main­stream bank fund­ing.

We’ve al­ready sup­ported our first lo­cal cus­tomer and we look for­ward to help­ing many more with the fund­ing they need to grow.

We be­lieve there is a lot of po­ten­tial here in North­ern Ire­land and we look for­ward to play­ing our part, pro­vid­ing mean­ing­ful help for the sec­tor.

Vin­cent Quinn from Bryson En­ergy car­ries out re­pairs at a home in Belfast

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