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Social entrepreneurs helped to get ideas off the ground

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A life changing programme funded by Devon County Council and delivered by School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) Dartington culminated in an online celebration.

The programme brought together 18 Devon residents who have had their employment negatively impacted by Covid 19 and gave them expert training, mentoring, and support in order to give them the skills and confidence they need to start their own social enterprise and create stronger, kinder and more resilient communities across the county. In the space of the 10-day support programme some participants have gone from a germ of an idea to registered businesses with premises from which to start their project.

From dog training, a community bakery and sustainable interiors on Dartmoor to product design solutions and heritage interpretation in Totnes, the range of ideas coming from the programme is astounding. When you look at the inventive and inspiring ideas the participants have had to solve societal and local problems, the benefit of empowering people to create their own solutions locally though social enterprise is clear.

Beth, who will be challenging throwaway culture by opening a pre-loved toy shop and running upcycling workshops in her local town, said: “The programme has been amazing. I’ve been energised and inspired by fellow participants in a way I wasn’t expecting…it’s allowed me to find a way forward that I’m really excited about!”

Jane is starting an enterprise to help rebuild the local flower growing community and to put native flowers back on the window ledges of homes across Devon. She told us that the course helped her to really hone her idea and break the project up into achievable chunks, “I was encouraged to take up space, trust my instincts and realise dreams. It was wonderful!”

Emma plans to create a herbal medicine garden which will support people in her community. Her ambition is to create a range of products to sell while running community workshops to support people with mental and physical health challenges to feel better connected to the world around them and their local community. She said the course created a bridge to help her realise her idea, opening doors by giving her a better understanding of how businesses really work on a day-to-day basis.

On the day of the online celebration, the panel decided to award five entrepreneurs cash prizes totalling over £2,000. SSE has been proud to partner with Devon County Council in this bold venture to support the regrowth of Devon’s economy post Covid.

Director of SSE Dartington Dirk Rohwedder said: “Throughout this crisis, social entrepreneurs have shown again and again that supporting individuals and communities can go hand in hand with protecting livelihoods and building businesses. We need more of these pioneers and I am pleased that so many Devon people faced with unemployment want to take this route and not only build a better future for themselves, but also work for their communities.”

The Devon Start Up Programme for Social Entrepreneurs is part of Team Devon’s programme of recovery.

The economic downturn across Devon caused by the Covid 19 pandemic has impacted jobs and employment opportunities across the county.

Devon has a dynamic and entrepreneurial business community, and the ambition for the recovery of the county is to create a stronger, more inclusive and sustainable economy.

Devon County Council and its partners are focused on supporting Devon’s economy to recover successfully. Team Devon is similarly determined to ensure that no individual is left behind, with a clear focus on supporting the county’s young people to learn and work; assist employees who have lost their job or wish to do more to find a new opportunity; and support businesses to retain staff, apprentices and suppliers. As part of this work Devon County Council has funded SSE Dartington to deliver this dedicated social entrepreneurs Start-Up programme.