Firstport reveals inaugural cohort for pioneering business programme

Published: 5 Sep 2014 09:30

THE first successful applicants to LaunchMe, Scotland’s first social enterprise accelerator programme, were unveiled in Edinburgh last night. (Thursday 4 September)

Seven ambitious social enterprises - ranging from a community bakery in the Borders to a go karting racetrack in the Highlands – went through a rigorous three-month selection process, including pitches to a high-profile expert panel, to take part in the unique £825,000 programme.

Designed and delivered by Firstport, LaunchMe is an initiative of the Big Lottery Fund and Social Investment Scotland, which aims to grow the social investment market in Scotland. Firstport aims to identify the 15 most ambitious, early stage social enterprises in Scotland and connect them with investors looking for social as well as financial returns.

Karen McGregor, chief executive of Firstport, said: “We are delighted to reveal the first participants in the LaunchMe programme. It is a completely new approach to supporting ambitious early stage social enterprises that can achieve rapid scale, bringing about more social and economic benefits to communities across Scotland.

“We know from our research that the interest for new types of finance is there and we look forward to working with our partners, Heriot-Watt University’s Converge Challenge and Imani Financial Solutions, to support these driven and innovative social entrepreneurs and match them with social investors.”

Jock Millican, chair of the LaunchMe expert panel and LINC Scotland said:“We were really impressed with the quality of the applicants. The panel was looking for a business model that was eventually sustainable but it wasn’t purely about profit – the businesses also had to demonstrate a social impact that benefits the community.

“LaunchMe will prepare the Cohort for the rigours of business. They will be taken through an intensive tailored programme of business support, investment readiness, investment brokerage and mentoring. Participants will also get the opportunity to apply for seed funding and additional funding of up to £100,000 to match any investment they secure.”

The inaugural Cohort was revealed at a celebration dinner in Edinburgh’s Ghillie Dhu, attended by over 100 representatives from the private, public and voluntary sectors. Speakers included Merryn Somerset Webb, editor-in-chief of Money Week, and TV presenter Carol Smillie who recently founded her own business Diary Doll.The Cohort are:

· Allie Cherry – Sew Can Do Manufacturing, Edinburgh

· Anthony Gerrard - Bad Idea, Glasgow

· Bruce Gunn – Delivered Next Day Personally, East Kilbride

· Corrin Henderson – Inverness Kart Raceway, Inverness

· Debra Riddell – Breadshare, West Linton

· Desmond Bernie and Sarah Frood - Citizen Bank, Scottish wide

· Susan Aktemel - Homes for Good, Glasgow

Carol Smillie said: “I am so impressed by the diverse range of businesses selected and how they are making a difference to society. I have experienced first-hand the challenges of scaling up a new business and know the importance of getting the right support and advice.”

More information about the programme and information on how to apply for the next Cohort are available at

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