Supporting social entrepreneurs through tough times

ViewsApril 20th, 2020

Jane Ryall, Wales Manager for social enterprise charity  UnLtd, discusses the impact of the Coronavirus on social entrepreneurs

It’s heart breaking to see the hard work of many emerging social entrepreneurs dashed overnight by Covid-19. Others before this were also hard hit by the storms of Ciara and Dennis. Many new and emerging social entrepreneurs we support are now set back by months, forced to pause their operations in the short term. Of the 80 or so individuals UnLtd has supported in Wales over the last four years, we estimate 20% will access emergency funding to enable their social ventures to survive the coming months.

Our conversations with these social entrepreneurs indicate common impacts of Covid-19 on their business: movement restrictions; limited service/sales outlets; zero cashflow; staff retention and general wellbeing. It will take economic and personal resilience – and crucially, direct support, to ensure that everyone makes it through this crisis.

In response, UnLtd is committed to stepping up our efforts to support social entrepreneurs during this time. Across the UK, we will be devoting £2m of financial and non-financial support to current and past award winners who are in need, or providing exceptional benefit, during this critical period. We are working to identify those whose businesses are put at risk due to Covid-19, and for whom this support will make a real difference. These entrepreneurs are being invited to apply for additional funding via a new rapid turn-around process so we can support them as quickly as possible. This should help them to survive the emergency, as well as begin working towards a strong recovery. We will then see how we can accelerate our practical support to our community so that they are at the heart of the UK’s renewal.

We understand that social entrepreneurs may both want and need to do things differently as they adapt to a new reality, so we’re flexing how we deliver support to make this possible, whilst continuing to provide one-to-one coaching, mentorship and training.  We have therefore chosen to close our portal for new applications for now, so we can focus our attention on those currently delivering impact. In the meantime, we are hosting regular virtual check-ins for our Welsh award winners and alumni to meet and learn from fellow minds.We maintain regular contact with our sector partners in Wales to ensure we are aware of all new support coming through for social entrepreneurs and we are actively lobbying for any gaps in provision to counter the current emergency.

Despite the circumstances, social entrepreneurs continue to demonstrate how vital their work is, and the incredible role they play in transforming our world for the better, as they adapt to this new reality. Sophie Bolton of  Cardiff Salad Garden has transformed her business model overnight. The garden in central Cardiff grows high quality salad whilst giving vulnerable people valuable work, training and therapeutic activities. Normally the salad is sold to restaurants and cafes, but now Sophie and her team are running a direct delivery service via bicycle to people’s homes. At the same time she is maintaining a vital link between the vulnerable people she supports to look after their wellbeing. Within days, Sophie developed new ordering systems to enable her venture to survive and grow. Cathy Boardman of Your Trusted Friend continues to provide essential companionship and shopping/prescription services for people in need in Wrexham and Flintshire and Janis Werrett of Cynon Valley Organic Adventures is determined to support the more vulnerable in her community despite the setbacks of Storm Dennis damaging her wonderful therapeutic garden. She is now co-ordinating regular food deliveries with an army of local volunteers, supplying over 100 households a week.

We have also produced business guidance for social entrepreneurs on our site. Of particular importance to our Welsh entrepreneurs are:

  • WCVA Voluntary Services Emergency Fund– access to grants (£10,000-£100,000) for not-for-profit organisations to enable them to maintain or increase activities that are providing support to vulnerable people during this crisis. The fund is now open and accepting applications here.
  • WCVA Third Sector Resilience Fund – access to funding (grants and loans) for not-for-profit organisations which need financial support to survive the present situation. It also complements other schemes already announced, acting as a funder of last resort.
  • Government hub for advice for Welsh businesses, which offers a range of support packages for more established social enterprises depending on their nature and scope.

Despite the circumstances, social entrepreneurs continue to demonstrate how vital their work is, and the incredible role they play in transforming our world for the better, as they adapt to this new reality:

If you would like to tell us more about how UnLtd can help you during this challenging time, or how you can support our social entrepreneurs in Wales, complete our survey about the impact of Covid-19, or get in touch directly [email protected]

UnLtd finds, funds and supports social entrepreneurs across the UK – enterprising people with solutions that change our society for the better, see

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