Social Enterprise Cooking on Gas

27 March 2018

An enterprising community centre is celebrating after securing an exciting new opportunity for their popular café. Exeter based St Sidwell’s Community Centre, affectionately known as St Sid’s, has been awarded the contract to provide canteen services for LiveWest’s (formerly Devon and Cornwall Housing) new Headquarters at Exeter’s Skypark development.

From April, the expanding social enterprise will offer healthy, delicious and affordable food to over 300 LiveWest staff, coinciding with the Housing Association’s merger with Knightstone and relaunch as LiveWest

Jake Rowley, Project Manager at LiveWest said choosing to work with a local social enterprise rather than a national provider was an easy decision: “There was a real desire to work with a local charity or social enterprise from the outset of the project and when St Sid’s expressed an interest in providing the service we were really excited about the possibilities. This relationship will be beneficial for our employees, who will get a great value service, St Sid’s who will be able to offer more volunteering and work experiences places, and also for our local customers who are already taking advantage of the opportunities offered by St Sid’s.”

The impact of this collaboration is wide-ranging, enabling St Sid’s to take the next step as a growing social enterprise, whilst continuing to strengthen and develop the skills and aspirations of local people by offering both paid and volunteer positions within the community.

Over the next year, 12 additional work-experience placements will be created for people facing barriers to employment, to supplement experience gained at St Sid’s Cafe. Working in the canteen will help build the individual’s confidence, provide new vocational and life skills whilst moving them closer to employability.

To help make the most of this opportunity the Centre knew they needed a bit of extra support and that’s where Devon Community Foundation stepped in, with a loan of £35,000 from their Devon Social Investment Fund.

Richard Taylor, Social Investment Fund Manager at Devon Community Foundation said: “It has been such a joy to award the Investment Fund’s first ever loan to St Sid’s and give them this vital boost on their exciting new journey. Like many charities, St Sid’s historically ran largely on grants and generous donations; this loan will help improve their sustainability and ensure their ongoing social impact.”  

St Sid's has also been assisted by the Enhance Social Enterprise Programme (supported by the European Regional Development Fund) which offers free, tailored business support to social enterprises looking to grow their businesses and develop their social impact.

Dave Wright, Manager at St Sid’s said: "At St Sid's we're all very excited about our new venture. It's a big step for a small charity but it opens up a world of opportunities and shows what can be achieved through working in partnership. We're already enjoying, and benefiting, from working closely with LiveWest, and the support and guidance that we've received from the Devon Community Foundation team has been fantastic."

Social enterprises or mission led organisations across Devon should get in touch with Devon Community Foundation, who can offer both advice and support on becoming investment ready as well as access to tailored and flexible loans covering a number of areas from buying or improving premises, to hiring new talent or developing new products or services. Find out more about the Devon Social Investment Fund and its supporters here: http://devoncf.com/about-us/social-enterprise-support/ Find out more about the Enhance Social Enterprise Programme here: https://new.devon.gov.uk/economy/business-support/enhance-social-enterprise