New partnership helps small businesses in the UK

Small businesses in the UK are going to get a helping hand, or rather a pair of them, as Lloyd’s Banking Group and the SSE (School for Social Entrepreneurs) team up to provide financial, educational and practical support for new businesses that focus on the community.

The initiative is designed to promote the social entrepreneur, defined as someone who comes up with a viable commercial approach to a particular social problem or need. That might be in the voluntary sector, or ethical businesses, social enterprises or the government or public sectors; the idea is they will be helping to improve the quality of life whilst creating jobs in local communities.

The SSE was founded in 1997 by Michael Young, a social activist from Manchester who was also a co-founder of Open University, Which? And the Consumers Association. According to an evaluation by thinktank New Philanthropy Capital, and based on the results of previous SSE programmes, the new partnership has the potential to create 2,500 new jobs and £11m in local income and revenues.

Lloyds Banking Group Social Entrepreneurs programme is set to commence in April 2012, with the goal of helping around 500 new businesses to start up and get running successfully. This will be accomplished with a combination of bank financing in the form of grants from £4,000 to £25,000 and SSE’s innovative business courses.

Since 1997, the SSE has recorded a survival rate 20% higher for new businesses supported by its programmes than have been seen in traditional start-ups. SSE is geared towards entrepreneurs who are attempting to address issues within their own communities with the businesses they create, and that is the path to economic recovery. Alastair Wilson, CEO of the School for Social Entrepreneurs, says that “. . .growth . . . will come from people working locally”; and it seems to be working.

The commitment from Lloyds Banking Group will be a great asset to these young enterprises, and Paul Turner, Community and Sustainable Business director for Lloyds, said, “SSE’s track record made them a partner of choice and we are incredibly proud to be able to support them in this way.”

The NPC evaluation reported that businesses started up by SSE fellows, on average, hired two employees full time plus three part-time workers. Those operations, as a whole, are benefiting around 80,000 people in a range from young children to the elderly and those physically and/or otherwise disadvantaged.

Over the next five years, Lloyds Banking Group Social Entrepreneurs will be supporting businesses like the SOS Gangs Project started up by Junior Smart, a former criminal. His business is now an award-winning organisation that helps young offenders to get their lives back on track.

Another example is The Brink, founded by SSE participant Jacquie Johnston Lynch, who said that SSE offered a crucial boost to the enterprise. The Brink is a non-alcoholic bar in Liverpool that in turn offers help to people recovering from alcohol and drug addictions. This business, like hundreds of others, will positively affect the lives of a wide range of people in a variety of ways.