Wrexham has experienced a surge in social enterprise start-ups during the Coronavirus pandemic.
More and more people have re-evaluated their futures and taken the decision to launch a business with social objectives and values, particularly those who were furloughed or at-risk of losing their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A report by Social Business Wales in 2019 revealed the sector employed 55,000 people across the country, 36% more than in 2016, and was valued at £3.1bn.
That number is still rising, and in North Wales, Wrexham Social Enterprise Network has been at the heart of developments, supporting community organisations and those considering the sustainable route to industry.
The county has more than 35 social businesses in a range of sectors, from land-based education and leisure to eco-friendly cleaning products and services helping the vulnerable and homeless.
Hayley Morgan, Business Enterprise Officer at Wrexham council, said their membership includes stakeholders, educators, charities, and ventures sharing best practice, funding information, advice and information on resources and relevant training.
They are also hoping to work more with existing companies in different arenas looking to re-evaluate their business models and give back to their communities.
“We have had so many enquiries over the last year, particularly during the first lockdown when there was a real boost in community spirit with people manufacturing PPE, delivering meals and prescriptions to vulnerable neighbours and more,” said Hayley.
“That along with the extra time people had on their hands led to a lot of reflection and enlightenment.
“As a result, there has been an increase in the number of people starting a business, notably businesses that give back to their communities and use the profits for good, which has been a trend across Wales.
“With support from Social Business Wales we are helping them to set up and the response has been so positive, there have been some real success stories already in different sectors and a lot of goodwill because social enterprises help to regenerate communities and towns, bringing social and economic value.”
Among them is Dragon Dinners Ltd, a hot meal delivery service created by Jodie Murphy and Nicola Charles-Paget last February.
Formerly Social Work Managers in adult social care, they were aware of the demand for a hot meal provision for over 55s in Wrexham.
“In our previous roles we often became frustrated with the lack of choice available to over 55s across the borough,” said Jodie.
“Many people simply required hot nutritious meals but often ended up with a formal care package and frozen microwave food.
“Motivated by our passion to make a difference we decided to take the leap and go for it. It was a risky and scary decision as we were both in secure jobs, but we felt confident we could create something wonderful for the community.”
She added: “Starting out with three customers – we now have over 50 per day – initially both Nicola and I undertook all the roles within the business but as Dragon Dinners grew, and with National Lottery Funding we were able to expand. We now employ six staff based and operate out of a commercial kitchen on the town’s industrial estate, serving Wrexham and Flintshire.
“The Network has been a great support with training and funding and given us guidance when we needed it; we plan to continue to grow our services and support for those with dementia and extra care needs, sourcing local ingredients and building our network in this region.”
Anyone wanting to follow in their footsteps should join the fully funded Exploring Social Enterprise programme delivered by Social Enterprise Academy Wales. The bite-sized online sessions will take place on Tuesday February 23 and March 2.
The Mochdre-based organisation – operated by Creating Enterprise in partnership with Wales Co-operative Centre – offers a unique learning and development opportunity focusing on peer-to-peer learning through practical, interactive, and small group sessions facilitated by local entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Regional Hub Manager Trish Thomas said: “It doesn’t matter what type of business you have you can work towards making a social impact in your community while still making a profit.
“This programme offers learners the chance to explore the social enterprise model and how it can benefit their business. It is also an opportunity to share ideas and discuss current challenges in a supportive environment, helping businesses build resilience and become more sustainable during these difficult times.”
Wrexham Social Enterprise Network has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.