UnLtd's social investment scheme comes to an end

A pioneering social investment scheme that has helped scale 120 social ventures in the last four years has come to an end. The foundation for social entrepreneurs UnLtd marked the occasion with an event at the Royal Society of Medicine last week.

UnLtd's Big Venture Challenge (BVC) programme, started in 2013, was launched in response to the "missing middle" identified in social investment, that being amounts of between £50,000 and £250,000. The investment came with business support.

Those accepted onto the scheme were supported to raise capital which UnLtd then matched. The scheme has attracted 170 new social investors since its inception.

BVC can be considered a success in terms of growning sustainable social enterprises – 93% of those social enterprises are still in operation.  CEO of UnLtd Mark Norbury (pictured above) told event attendees that the failure rate of SMEs is approximately 40% within the first five years.

In terms of the scheme's impact, the results were also positive. As the money and business support supported social ventures to scale, the average number of beneficiaries increased seven fold from 114 to 798.

Although the four year programme has come to an end, Norbury hinted at continuing support going forward: “We’re going to try and set up four accelerators and two fund partnerships – might be a loan fund, might be an equity fund.”

He also said that the Ventures arm of UnLtd, which works to find, support and invest in social ventures looking to scale, was in the process of putting an advisory board together that would include the spectrum of people needed to make that scale happen.

“Policy makers, investors, our alumni of course, donors, partners – together is the only way we can do this. How do we change the system? It’s only by bringing the different parts of the system together that you make that lasting change happen,” he concluded.

Onwards and upwards for homelessness social enterprise

Some of the social entrepreneurs who had benefitted from BVC took turns to describe their growth, as well as take advantage of the audience’s network to let them know what help they were looking for going forward.

SE100 Trailblazing Newcomer award winner Cemal Ezel of Change Please let the audience know of yet more success for the organisation, which trains homeless people as baristas, who then sell coffee from street coffee carts.

Ezel told the audience that Bank of New York Mellon were installing five Change Please coffee outlets in its offices in Manchester, London and Poole. The Change Please outlets will take the place of Starbucks and Costa cafes that have been there previously. The food giant Kraft Heinz and publisher Time Inc will also install concessions. 

From July, UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s will also be selling Change Please coffee in 500 stores. Ezel also has plans to have street baristas operating in New York and San Francisco.