Two-third of UK-based social enterprises are supporting people from disadvantaged groups, a recent survey by Social Enterprise UK shows, as 44% are employing them. Take, for example, the Stoneham Bakehouse, a bakery which made the 30 best bakeries in the UK.
The story goes that Simon Cobb worked as a teacher for fourteen years prior to suffer from depression but one thing it felt him better was learning to bake. He told the BBC: “Baking was definitely a big part in kind of bringing me out the dark place even though there is no fast fix in our lives.”
Mental health is a big issue in society as one in four of us have suffered from it, he goes in their crowdfunding pitch on Crowdfunder, the leading crowdfunding platform in the UK, where they managed to raise the funds to fit out their community bakery whilst sharing the therapeutic nature and experience of making bread with others.
Simon’s story is one of the pieces of a bigger jigsaw which includes projects worth over £50 million aimed to tackle some of society’s most important challenges.
Having recently launched the first crowdfunding accelerator on Facebook, Crowdfunder’s Founder and Chief Crowdfunding Officer Phil Geraghty argues in an exclusive interview with Oliver * | *InspiringChange that the most difficult part is promoting crowdfunding as an innovative fundraising tool for companies to make change happens in their communities. He says: “One of the main challenges for us is around the grant-giving market. Let’s consider, for instance, that just in London more than £2 billion is donated per year by trusts and foundations and it’s done in a very traditional way. We are trying to really disrupt that as we allow founders to fund their projects via our platform as well as partnerships where our platform give the possibility to raise part of the amount whilst the remaining part is accessible via, for instance, city councils like Birmingham we are partnering with focusing on healthcare issues.”
However, one of the main concerns of Phil is that when you talk with people from this kind of traditional background, “they are really far back about the possibilities you have to raise funds in alternative ways without spending a fortune to do that. We need to educate more on this side.”
The second problem in the market, he reckons, is the expectation of traditional investors looking for immediate return on their investment: “We are working to innovate that. For social enterprises, and more in general for start-ups, the access to finance is quite limited. They do struggle. What we hear is that when they grow there is a real gap regarding where the social investment market is investing. We are plugging in that with our reward and donation crowdfunding models as well as community shares like, for example, in the case of Glenwyvis Distillery, one of Scotland’s most historic whisky distilling towns, which raised a £2.5 million community investment from 2,400 investors from 30 different countries.”
“However, he adds, I think that to innovate the entrepreneurial finance offer there should be an additional mechanism for entrepreneurs more similar to patient capital as it prevents investors to immediately ask for return whilst giving entrepreneurs the space they need to deliver. I think that kind of solutions could work quite well in our market.”
But most important it is to stay connected with the real world, as people out there working for communities simply “are not hungry for more technology but instead look for solutions which make fundraising a simpler affair.”
Looking into the future this will continue to be their main focus, he promises: “Maybe what we call crowdfunding will be delivered in a very different way. Who knows? On our side, we will keep developing solutions for local organizations to connect with local communities. I don’t know if that will be based on blockchain or on any other emerging technology. Right now, we are still supporting entrepreneurs to use Facebook.”