Scotland’s development agency for start-up social entrepreneurs and enterprises, providing a national programme and bespoke business advice and support
Firstport is a key delivery partner in Scotland’s social economy eco-system. Proposed by the social enterprise sector and introduced by Scottish Government, it supports new social enterprises from the seed of an idea to start-up, and sustained success. This currently includes a package of support to include seed funding and business advice including investor readiness. It also connects social entrepreneurs to networks, advice, and peer support to develop and implement their business ideas and potential. Starting in 2007 as Scotland’s social enterprise development agency it is an organisation responding to needs of social entrepreneurs rather than prescribing start up services. Now operating as a social enterprise itself it distributes seed funding and accelerator support for early stage social enterprises, advice and training, innovation incentives and place-based programmes. It has 4 priority aims, key to supporting Scotland’s ambitions for an inclusive economy, by supporting and accelerating social enterepreneurship through critical early interventions. These are: 1. Embed diversity by encouraging and enhancing ideas from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and places 2. Influence innovative ideas which support local communities, villages and towns 3. Foster ambitions across the full spectrum of social entrepreneurs including those with high growth potential and aspiration 4. Promote social enterprise as a viable and socially responsible way to make profit and run businesses
There are currently 12 members of staff operating Firstport and delivering services across Scotland. Costs are £650k per year with income sources including the Scottish Government, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Impact investors, and private sector businesses
Evidence of success
In 10 years Firstport has directly invested more than £6m in start-up social enterprises, using Government-supported funds and grants from Trusts and The Big Lottery. Value acknowledged by the recipients (87%) includes access to resources and networks as well as increased confidence and personal resilience. More than 1000 enquiries a year are now fielded across its programmes. Firstport has provided investment for more than 800 social entrepreneurs. 57% of the start ups suported have been women
Potential for learning or transfer
Since 2007 Firstport has built up significant expertise and networks to facilitate the development and continued success of new social enterprises across the region. As a social enterprise in its own right it has credibility within the sector and acts as a critical conduit to other mainstream and niche support as its client base progresses into sustainable businesses looking for different expertise and guidance. Without its ability to identify potential and enable success from the early stages of idea formation many social enterprises would fail to get traction in the wider eco-system. As a strong ambassador for the model, Firstport has been instrumental in encouraging Scottish entrepreneurs to appreciate the potential and value of developing their business in this way as well as seeking and encouraging private investors to consider and engage in the social business economy. It moved towards bespoke support in recognition of the range and discrete requirements of many of its client
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