'First of its kind' social entrepreneur and charity hub launches in Edinburgh

A new business hub supporting social entrepreneurs, start-ups and charities is set to launch today in Edinburgh.

Thursday, 3rd October 2019, 1:40 pm
Updated Friday, 4th October 2019, 9:53 am
Four agencies have collaborated to launch social enterprise hub Montgomery Street Lane. Picture: Chris Watt

Montgomery Street Lane aims to provide a “one-stop shop” of support services for ambitious social businesses and charities, while also ­acting as a focal point for impact investors targeting companies that are addressing social challenges.

Billed as the first venture of its kind in Scotland, the hub will mirror an operating ­model already rolled out in countries such as Sweden.

It is a collaboration between social enterprise support group Firstport, international development consultancy Challenges Group, and volunteering agencies ProjectScotland and Volunteering Matters. The four organisations have a combined 90 years’ experience across fields including business consultancy, seed funding, impact investment, exports and marketing and communications.

Alison Wood, founder of social enterprise Lilypads, which has previously received support from Challenges Group and Firstport. Picture: Contributed

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The refurbished 19th century mews houses, located off the capital’s Elm Row, will provide a base for around 40 staff and volunteers working across the four founding resident groups and new tenant companies.

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Firstport chief executive Josiah Lockhart said: “The vision for Montgomery Street Lane is a bold one. We’re building an enterprise support network for social entrepreneurs and impact investors, for start-ups and SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] looking to grow, expand and export.

“We’ve seen the model operating successfully and impactfully in other countries, such as in Sweden, but this is the first of its type in Scotland.”

The hub will provide start-up entrepreneurs and workers from other businesses and agencies with access to a drop-in hotdesking service, which will support networking and enable them to seek advice from a range of experts.

Partner agencies will also be able to use the various spaces for workshops, conferences and other events, including the theatre space at neighbouring deli Valvona & Crolla.

Alexandra Baker, director of Challenges Group, said: “Montgomery Street Lane is where an entrepreneur can come and have their business idea scrutinised, supported, and turned into a viable strategic plan that can then grow into a sustainable business.

“Seed funding and catalysing is another offering, as is investment should a business owner be looking to scale up.”

Scottish success stories

Paul Reddish, chief executive of Volunteering Matters and ProjectScotland, added: “The collaborative culture here at Montgomery Street Lane has significant advantages and means our combined offering is far greater than the sum of its parts. It means, for example, the residents can partner on joint programmes, and we’re already seeing the fruits of that.”

Baker cited the example of Clean Water Wave, a social enterprise that has developed a water filter system to remove micro and nano-plastics as well as other toxins and pollutants from the water supply.

“Clean Water Wave were introduced to us through Firstport and, through our Scottish Government-funded Access Africa Programme, we are now working with them to explore opportunities to provide clean drinking water in Rwanda and other African countries where we have a presence.

“Giraffe Healthcare, Lilypads and Bampoo are similar examples of social businesses that have worked with our Lane partner Firstport and then joined our AAP scheme to explore export opportunities.”