I’ve been involved with social enterprises for as long as I can remember: my father used to run a charity that helped the homeless and those with drug problems. That’s what I grew up with and I, in effect, inherited the family business.
But as I spent more time with charities, I realised that there was so much I could learn from others about running an organisation well and growing it responsibly. It was also clear to me that there were lots of very talented entrepreneurs and business people out there who were really keen to help.
In 1995 I was running the Kaleidoscope project, which was an innovative drug treatment project. I came together with two other social entrepreneurs to create an event in London called “ The Great Banquet”; this collaboration worked so well that three years later we formed the Community Action Network which aimed to promote social enterprise and create a better understanding of the concept.
A few years later, I was introduced to Damon Buffini who was running one of the country’s most successful private equity companies, Permira. He also shared my passion for social enterprise and for the benefits that the private sector could bring. We formed Breakthrough in 2005 to provide investment and business support to social enterprises.
This went so well that Damon and I decided to use the Breakthrough model to create something larger and more sustainable. We wanted to be able to contribute a wide range of support and advice for social enterprises and so we put together a grouping of six firms who could offer different skills and experiences: Ernst & Young, Bain & Co., Credit Suisse, Clifford Chance, Thomson Reuters and, of course, Permira.
And so, in late 2010, the Social Business Trust was formed. What we can now offer is the extraordinary expertise to be found in our partners businesses who have advised literally thousands of clients over the years. We make that available to social enterprises who want grow and scale up their operations, alongside financial investment.
We at the Trust will look at a social enterprise and assess the obstacles to growth it faces and establish the best possible support from our partners. We will then manage the investment and relationship between the social enterprise we are supporting and our partner organisations.
We believe that there has never been a more important time for social enterprises to exist and to thrive. But they will only do so if they have a robust business model and a desire to grow. By working with us, we can help them achieve their ambitions and, thereby, help many more of the UK’s most disadvantaged people.
Chief Executive, Social Business Trust