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$25k grants for surging social enterprise sector

Friday, 10 February 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

Social enterprise start-ups in Melbourne can now apply for the latest round of grants from the City of Melbourne, including funding and mentoring, to the tune of $25,000.

 

The City of Melbourne is offering grants of up to $25,000 to businesses that create or expand employment and self-employment opportunities for disadvantaged people.

 

This includes enterprises and businesses providing opportunities for people who are indigenous, disabled, homeless or former refugees, and the long-term unemployed.

 

The program is designed to accelerate the start-up or expansion of financially viable businesses by assisting with expenditure such as fit-out of premises and specialised equipment.

 

There are four grant sub-categories: social enterprise start-up, social enterprise expansion, micro business owner/operator start-up and micro business owner/operator expansion.

 

Under the social enterprise start-up category, applicants will be expected to have the majority of their funds from other sources, in addition to the social enterprise grant.

 

Applications open on Monday, February 13 and close on Tuesday, March 13.

 

Meanwhile, applications have closed for the 2012 School for Social Entrepreneurs Incubator Program, held in Sydney and Melbourne.

 

The nine-month, part-time program is open to entrepreneurs across the country who have an idea or business that has a social or environmental benefit.

 

Students gain practical business and life skills that they can apply directly to their ventures. The program includes group study sessions, individual coaching and facilitated action-learning sets.

 

According to program and outreach manager Nick Wallberg, this year’s program attracted a record number of applicants, highlighting the growth of the social enterprise sector.

 

“I would say there’s more of an understanding of social enterprises but there’s also an increase in people having a stab at it,” Wallberg says.

 

“If I just look at the applications we’re getting, there are quite a lot around food sustainability. Mental health has also been a big one.”

 

Wallberg says starting up a social enterprise is certainly not the best way to get rich quick.

 

“If you look at the commercial benefits for a person who starts something, in the beginning it will be tough. It’s like any entrepreneurial business really,” he says.

 

“However, I think the idea is that social entrepreneurs can see the positive outcome faster and that’s really what drives them.”

 

“The social benefit – that’s really the standout. That’s why they’re doing this to begin with.”

 

According to Wallberg, the best thing to do before starting a social enterprise is to see what other social entrepreneurs are doing, not only in Australia but throughout the world.

 

“Similar ideas tend to start at the same time in different places around the world, so do your research. Then you need to give it a crack. Do a pilot and test your idea,” Wallberg says.

 

Wallberg says while social enterprises aren’t known for making the most amount money, the survival rate is greater than for business start-ups.

 

“This has to do with the passion and the drive that people have for their idea. It’s not just for the money,” he says.