Why Scotland is a world leader when it comes to social businesses

Last week’s VOOM Tour stop in Glasgow saw a panel of local experts come aboard the big red bus to debate the impact of start-ups on the Scottish economy, assessing their real value and discussing how the landscape has changed in recent years.

The expert panel was made up of Evelyn McDonald (Scottish Edge CEO), Susan Aktemel (Homes For Good founder) and Alex Feechan (Findra founder) - a trio with unbeatable knowledge of the local ecosystem.

Scottish Edge is a funding competition that has been supporting start-ups in Scotland for over 25 years and with a total prize pot of more than £2 million it’s the UK’s biggest business competition.

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Homes For Good is a social business and, according to Susan, is the first letting agency in the country to put ethics and the concerns of its tenants before profit. While Findra is an outdoor adventure and cycling brand, which in three years has grown from the kitchen table to a very profitable business, benefitting from support from the likes of Scottish Edge.

So, what did our experts have to say? Here’s three things we learnt from the discussion.

Now is the perfect time to start-up in Scotland - Evelyn McDonald

"There’s never been a better time to setup a business here, in addition to Scottish Edge there are so many other organisations out there to support you. A lot of this comes from the Scottish Government’s commitment to the Scotland Can Do agenda, which looks to position the country as an entrepreneurial nation and a centre for high-growth, innovative businesses.

"However it can be a slightly confusing and it’s a crowded landscape, so once you get in you need someone there to point you in the right direction. There are moves taking place to make it clear for people starting out - where they should go for advice, mentorship, funding and so on."

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Scotland is at the forefront of the social enterprise movement - Susan Aktemel

"Since my early twenties I’ve been committed to trying to help people in Glasgow improve their lives. My first business (Impact Arts) managed to combine having a business and having an impact in the community, I suppose we were a social enterprise before the term actually existed.

"The ecosystem now for social businesses is so strong in Scotland. If you want to start a business that’s got a social aim at its heart then there is no better place in the world than Scotland. There are so many levels of support; from a £500 grant to get your logo designed right through to £2 million of investment - it’s all there. The idea of being an entrepreneur has changed a lot over the years but so has the profile of being a social business.

"Scotland is so strong in this area as we’re a small country and we get things done. The government has backed this idea of social businesses and got it onto a global platform - Scotland has always been at the forefront of this trend."

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The sense of community in the Glasgow start-up scene is unbeatable - Alex Feechan

"There’s a genuine sense of community here. There are lots of people ready to support you and introduce you to others who will be willing to do the same, especially people within your sector. Mentoring is also very strong in Scotland, programmes like Scottish Edge will allocate you a mentor and that’s so important when you need to sound out ideas or point you in the right direction. All of this makes it easy to go out there and network with people, which everyone needs to do."

To find out more about the last leg of the tour, which takes place in Dundee on November 9th, head over to the Virgin Media Business website.

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