6 Oct 2021
In June 2021, CAF Venturesome opened its place-based SE-Assist Fund for applications for blended finance from early-stage social enterprises in Wales that have started since the pandemic in response to local community or environmental needs.
An annual pitch day was held at the beginning of September; for the first time on Zoom, which approved nine applications. This is the fifth round of social investments in Wales where £570k has already been lent, with an overall capital commitment of £1m across all regions of the SE-Assist fund. In 2021, the SE-Assist Fund has been able to offer blended finance (part loan / part grant) with thanks to Legal & General, the CAF Resilience Fund and a private philanthropist.
Because of the pandemic CAF Venturesome had to look for another way of delivering the much-needed capital this year and adapted its way of working in Wales. Instead of its investment officers travelling to Wales to get to know the applicants, and offer face-to-face workshops, they worked with a local partner, the Wales Co-operative Centre’s Social Business Wales New Start team. WCC already know most of the social enterprises in Wales and have been able to support new start-ups as their business advisors understand the issues the social enterprises are facing. From an initial 39 applications, nine pitched to the social investment committee on 7th September.
One of the main issues facing social enterprises as they start up is access to affordable, flexible finance with unrestricted grants where possible from a finance provider that believes in them. There has been and, to some extent, still is a nervousness to take on high levels of debt due to the uncertainty of launching a social business in a post COVID world. Many of the social enterprises have had to go back to the drawing board to adapt their business model to make allowances for changes in their delivery and financial model, which could be affected by consumer habits. The social enterprise sector has shown resilience and an energy to innovate as we emerge from the pandemic and CAF Venturesome is proud to support that.
The SE-Assist Fund helps social organisations with a clear social or environmental impact that have an annual turnover of less than £500,000 and are working towards a sustainable business model. The Fund offers interest free loans of up to £30,000 (interest bearing up to £60,000) repayable over 3-5 years, with a grant layer alongside, to help social organisations with cashflow to build long-term sustainability or development finance to help them grow. CAF Venturesome and WCC offer ongoing support for the life of the loan. The investment decisions are made by a locally based Social Investment Committee ensuring support is responsive to needs in the community. SE-Assist is privileged to have representatives from Business in the Community Cymru, Institute of Directors Wales, Wales Co-operative Centre, Welsh Government alongside, its founding partner and majority funder, Legal & General as members of our Social Investment Committee.
Holger Westphely, CAF Venturesome: “We are delighted to be able to offer blended finance to support start-up social enterprises in Wales this year with unrestricted funding to allow them to grow. We are humbled by their plans to make a difference to their communities and the environment, and we are looking forward to watching them grow in the coming years.
Social investment can be an attractive source of finance as you can take advantage of it quickly to fund a project to support your beneficiaries, the environment, or your community. The need to repay the loan instils financial discipline and focuses the organisation’s minds on its business.
We are very grateful to our funders and partners for supporting our work in Wales.”
Lynne Sheehy, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Legal and General: “We’re proud to support the fifth round of SE Assist Wales which continues to provide finance to some truly innovative and inspirational business across Wales.
We know the need to support these businesses is greater than ever and we recognise the value, positive impact, and the tremendous spirit these small businesses have in the heart of our communities supporting those who need extra help, particularly throughout the pandemic. We also know that social businesses will play a huge role in future efforts to build back our economy and communities in a way that is sustainable and fair.”
A selection of the social organisations supported this year include:
Family Pathway provides academic coaching for children and young people, as well as coaching for parents, with the aim to positively impact and empower families who are experiencing conflict and tension in the home with their child, or in their relationship with their child’s school.
Mothers Matter a perinatal and wellbeing project providing counselling, one 2 one support and workshops. They have just opened a wellbeing hub in Wales where women can feel safe and meet others.
Mubo provides training and support for mums that want to start a business. As a result, more women can find a way to remain financially independent, alongside raising young children.
Qualia Law a social enterprise providing expert safeguarding, financial management support and free legal advice to people who are vulnerable or have lost mental capacity. They help the most vulnerable in society to safeguard their assets and live as independently as possible. It was established in July 2021, and it is based in Cardiff with services provided across Wales.
“The funding Qualia Law CIC will receive from SE-Assist Wales will directly facilitate the provision of free legal advice and support to the most vulnerable members of society. CAF’s funding will enable Qualia Law to engage in community outreach programmes in which experienced solicitors will provide free drop-in clinics in care homes, community centres or directly to neurodiverse individuals.” Tom, Founder
Siop Sero, a not-for-profit zero waste shop based in Rhiwbina, Cardiff. Selling refillable foods and non-foods, ethical, local products and promoting sustainability.
The Bike Lock which will be based in Cardiff City centre, supporting active travel within the city, providing Cardiff’s first and only indoor bike storage unit, including showers, lockers, workspaces, and great coffee.
Up-Grade, a social enterprise established in September 2020 based in North Wales, provides a range of services in improving the academic outcomes for people aged 18+ who have been deprived of opportunity. Up-Grade intends to support people from areas of multiple deprivation, those who are classed as Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET), individuals with disabilities and/ or neurodiversity and those from minority backgrounds.
“Thank you for your support throughout this process and to the panel for seeing potential in our organisation. I’m thrilled as well with the feedback from the panel — it’s fantastic.” Benjamin, Founder
Yellow The Social Enterprise a new responsible retail shopping, working, and dining experience in Cardiff.
YourNorth Veteran Support, a veteran support community interest company providing effective mental wellbeing training and signposting for the veteran community in Wales to improve wellbeing, reduce loneliness, improve quality of life, and establish an understanding community.
“We are absolutely over the moon and eternally grateful to have been successful with this bid. This will enable us to support countless veterans and their families to improve their mental wellbeing and thrive within their community.” Kelly and Jamie, Founders
Notes to editors
Charities Aid Foundation, CAF, exists to make giving go further, so together we can transform more lives and communities around the world. We are a charity, a bank, and a champion for better giving, and for over 90 years we’ve been helping donors, companies, charities, and social organisations make a bigger impact.
CAF Venturesome is the pioneering Social Investment Team at CAF. We are proud to be a part of CAF; a charity helping other charities and social enterprises. Since 2002, we have made approx. 690 social investments totalling £60m+.
We are CAF and we make giving count.
Established in 1836, Legal & General is one of the UK's leading financial services groups and a major global investor, with over £1.4 trillion in total assets under management* of which a third is international. We also provide powerful asset origination capabilities. Together, these underpin our leading retirement and protection solutions: we are a leading international player in pension risk transfer, in UK and US life insurance, and in UK workplace pensions and retirement income. Through inclusive capitalism, we aim to build a better society by investing in long-term assets that benefit everyone.
* at 9 March 2022