Visit to Glasgow

haven16.JPGAt the end of January I went to Glasgow to meet with Pauline Graham of Social Firms Scotland, and to visit Haven Products, an award-winning Glasgow based Social Firm, with a branch in Inverness. Like many of our members, Haven is a busy and thriving business, with a mixture of long-term and newer contracts.The day David Whyte and Ewan Fisher showed me round, part of the workforce was engaged in making and palleting boxes for The Edrington Group. A newer, but established service, is dealing with WEEE (waste electronic and electrical equipment, mostly computers). Read more...


I went to Cardiff for a couple of days, to meet two of our members and to touch base with San Leonard of Social Firms Wales, and John Bennett of the Welsh Social Enterprise Coalition.

The last time I went to Cardiff was a couple of years ago for Voice – it does have a feel of a city that has confidence in the future, with iconic buildings and public spaces, yet manages to be of a very human scale, which is borne out by the very inter-connectedness of the four meetings that I had there. Read more...

The New CEO

 to do list.jpgMy first blog as the new CEO of Social Firms UK is about just that – being a new CEO. For many, the experience of the first few weeks in a new job is a similar one – getting to know the staff team, finding out where everything is, getting up to speed with existing projects, and most of all, the frustration of everything taking much longer than normal, as every small task involves finding information that in a previous job, was at your fingertips. And it is important to get the right balance between review, assimilation, reflection, action, as well as just keeping on top of the small and large daily decisions. Read more...

New member offer - venue booking discount

 optimized Highpoint 129.jpgNew member Highpoint is a social enterprise conference and training centre based in the Midlands.

They have given us an exclusive offer to social enterprises: 

  • 10% off their standard day delegate rate of £25 per person : includes a sandwich lunch, hot and cold drinks and equipment hire (flipchart, projector and screen)

Book now to avoid disappointment on 0116 258 0000 or visit

Discount advertising on uSWAP

uswap-logo.pnguSWAP is an online platform for swapping services and swapping items online. 

uSWAP is offering members of Social Firms UK a 30% discount to advertise their business on their website for 2010 off the usual price of £200 pa.

uSWAP are also looking for beta users to test the website.

For more information get in touch with founder Emma Dawson: ; +44 07984840376

Catering2Order New Year Offer

C2O.jpgIn a year of tough economic trading Social Firm Catering2order has bucked the trend by landing more than £5m in new contracts over the past 12 months. Due to this phenomenal success Catering2order has recently moved to new larger offices.

To celebrate and share in their success, they are offering up to 25% on all buffets during the month of January 2012.

To find out more call 03333 44 3747 Quoting SFUK2012.

NOMS CFO Announces £1.5m Consortia Building Fund

  NOMS announced on Social Enteprise Day its intention to launch a major procurement opportunity, funded through ESF technical assistance and designed to support and facilitate the development of social enterprise consortia.

This will be an extended process that hopes to help, especially, small and medium sized social enterprises to be in a better position to participate in delivering services. The full launch will follow shortly and will include a range of regional events, networking events and workshops.

Dates for these initial events are currently being planned and will be published in early December. Please register your interest by emailing and we will let you know when the dates/venue details are available.

Trading for Growth

 doughnut.jpgLast week we had our Annual General Meeting (AGM). In keeping with our Just Buy principles we sourced as much as possible from the Social Firm and social enterprise sector.

Invitation to Bid - Home Office Support and Modernisation Fund

 The Home Office support and modernisation fund has now gone live, details are available from the Home Office website and

The purpose of the fund is to provide practical support and advice to frontline voluntary, community, and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations that support Home Office objectives in preparation for the arrival of Police and Crime Commissioners in May 2012. This is not a fund for the provision of general supprt to the VCSE sector.

Business Mentoring for Social Entrepreneurs

 Business in the Community (BITC) is running a programme to provide business mentoring to social entrepreneurs at all stages of growth. The mentors are recruited from BITC's 850 member companies and are senior business leaders from a variety of backgrounds with a wide range of expertise.

Social entrepreneurs will be matched to mentors according to the skills and interests of the mentor and the objectives of the social entrepreneur. Every relationship will differ, but an overview of the kind of support a mentor will offer is:

• Business planning skills and financial projections. • Leadership skills: Support in how to best communicate organisational vision. • Advice on how best to recruit and manage employees. • Time management and opportunity management. • PR and marketing advice. • Providing constructive feedback and help setting goals

Guest blog - ClearlySo: All Shape & Sizes

clearlyso_allshapes_logo.jpgThe social business and enterprise arena is often described as the fastest growing sector of the economy. It’s a nice thought if true, but just how big is it? According to government figures there are around 62,000 companies which could be described as social businesses or social enterprises in the UK. This is the figure that’s been routinely quoted for around two years. It is an impressive enough figure in itself, but the real number could be far higher.

Coming up on 11th of October, the ClearlySo Social Business Conference will attempt to illustrate just how high. Under the theme ‘all shapes and sizes’ it aims to provide a vivid illustration of the sheer diversity of activity taking place in this arena.

Just Buy - revamped & re-launched

justbuy web(2).jpgWe re-launched theTrade Directory ( in May having invested £10,000, with a Full Social Firm (Pluss) to overhaul the functionality to help potential customers source what they need from the Social Firm sector – in line with our Just Buy Campaign.

Birmingham & beyond

 I had a great trip to Birmingham this week, visiting three Social firms:

main-img-frm1.jpgTextiles by St Annes – Where Pat Bend showed me the huge range products that they manufacture, so if you are in Harrods, look out for the Tiger Lilly range that Textiles by St Annes worked on and if you are off to any festivals this summer don’t forget to buy a “festival tail” (my son is going to be so embarrassed when I get one at the Reading festival we are going to in August!!). If you know anyone who manufactures lightweight camouflaged tent material please as they have a new project that sounds very exciting.

Some thoughts from Brussels

 eu.jpgI've spent the last 24 hours catching up with colleagues from across Europe, all of whom are members of ENSIE (European Network of Social Integration Enterprises). They work collectively to make the case for social enterprises which focus on work integration of disadvantaged individuals at a European level, and of course are all active at their own national level.

Social Firms UK Village - take two!

Optimized-Social Firms UK Village 2 042 Copy.jpgFor the second consecutive year Social Firms UK had a Village at the Guardian Procurement Show for members to exhibit their products and services.

For those who aren't familiar, every year the Guardian takes over the south side of the ExCel Centre (accounting exams take over take over the north side - no prizes guessing which side I would rather be on!) for The Public Procurement Show, SmartGov Live & Smart Healthcare Live. It is an exciting mix of exhibitions, seminars, talks and workshops for procurement professionals in the public sector.

For What it's Worth Magazine: Part 5

Why recycling must make way for re-use


Green-Works’ CEO Colin Crooks started the For What it's Worth seminar on recycling by taking off his wedding ring. Holding up the white gold band he said its production involved “extracting 33 tonnes of ore from the ground which was then soaked in cyanide to release five grammes of gold. Just a few years ago this process caused an environmental disaster when thousands of tonnes of cyanide-laden sludge flooded the Danube from a Romanian mine.”

For What it's Worth Magazine: Part 4

Market-led opportunities for social enterprise  

Combining the pace of business and the satisfaction of making a difference, social enterprise is the best of both worlds. Well that’s the idea, despite minor challenges like rescuing people and the planet while turning a profit as the economy flounders. There’s a silver lining in sight as the most dramatic shake-up of public services in living memory will create opportunities as well as casualties. The question is whether social enterprises can move fast enough, or forced to pick up the pieces the private sector just doesn’t want.

Monday - Friday of the Social Enterprise World Forum South Africa 2011

 Winners of RBS SE100 were jetted off to the Social Enterprise World Forum 2011 in South Africa as part of their prize

Alex Cosgrove, CEO, of Growth Champion Mow & Grow shares her amazing experience fof the forum and study visits...

For What it's Worth Magazine: Part 3

The need for a social currency


92276230.jpgThe struggle to understand social value has become more urgent. If local services are to cope with cuts, resources must be directed to programmes that deliver the greatest positive effect. Social enterprises will be overlooked unless they prove their value in a way that the public sector understands.

As yet there is no universal way of measuring social impact. Urged to do more with less councils must judge the merits of disparate services such as free childcare and recycling firms that employ disabled people. Forget apples and oranges; comparing fruit and poetry would be closer to the mark.

Investing in Social and Solidarity Entrepreneurship

 On the 10th March I delivered a workshop on social marketing in Athens. The conference took place at Technopolis, an old Athens Gasworks, widely known as Gazi, next to Keramikos and a couple of Metro stops from the Acropolis.