We awarded local charity Emmaus Bristol a £15,000 grant at the end of 2014, to establish a ‘business incubator’ project for fledgling entrepreneurs, aimed at helping people facing poverty and crisis to develop sound business ideas, and to support them as they put their ideas into practice.
The grant was made possible by the Comic Relief large grants programme, which we manage locally on behalf of Comic Relief. This is just one of a range of innovative projects we have supported in response to the growing homelessness crisis across the West of England. One year on from receiving their grant funding, we hear Stephen’s story…
“…on the threshold of homelessness…”
“I came to the incubator unit unemployed and on the threshold of homelessness. I had an idea for a social enterprise, which was supported by the Princes’ Trust”, says Stephen, “but struggled to find any affordable office space or further support to take it forward.”
The incubator provided both – not only a good location, but ongoing support and training. With the support of Emmaus and their business incubator project, Stephen established a Social Enterprise publishing company called ‘Arkbound’, with a focus on supporting artists from disadvantaged backgrounds by publishing their work in a magazine he developed, and he also targeted homeless and unemployed people to sell his magazines at a profit.
“Because of his past Stephen found it difficult to rent”, says Head of Innovation at Emmaus Bristol Business Incubator, Peter Gifford. “But with our encouragement he eventually found somewhere to live in Bristol.”
“…I was seen as a person…”
“It was clear that at Emmaus I was seen as a person, rather than another statistic or case study”, says Stephen. “Peter who runs the unit has lots of experience in running businesses, and with his support I have been able to grow and avoid mistakes in the process. I’ve also been assisted in making vital contacts within the publishing and media worlds.”
Having established a successful business, Stephen now hopes to create a network of ‘regional editors’ who can be supported to launch their own magazines using his model: “Now I have managed to build a publishing and media social enterprise, Arkbound, and it’s starting to make a real difference to other disadvantaged people and communities, as well as supporting grass-roots organisations in Bristol. It is an ongoing journey, one in which I continue to learn, but it would have been a lot more uncertain and risky without the support of the incubator unit.”
A new start
Through our grant funding to Emmaus, and their support and expertise offered to disadvantaged people, Stephen has been given an opportunity to restart his life, and his social enterprise is now going on to help others in the community.