Monday, 21 December 2009

2010, the Year of the Social Enterprise

I had a meeting with Doug Richard today.  Doug has over 20 years' experience in the development and leadership of technology and software ventures and featured in the first two series of the BBC's Dragon's Den. He is an active angel investor, the Founder of School for Startups, Chairman of the Conservative Party Small Business Task Force, and non-executive director of Pearl Software, Urbanties & Scooters and Beats Digi.  But more to the point he seems like a really good bloke.

Obstensibly the meeting was to look at how SEL and his latest venture, the School for Startups, can work together, but we soon found that common ground surrounded us.  Doug and I both want to see more quality advice on offer to social enterprise, something SfS can help provide, we want to see social enterprises deliver more in the public sector and we both want greater investment to be made available to see this and other markets open up for social enterprise.  The difference between us is Doug actually has the money, which he wants to invest, which is how he came to setting up what is esentially an investment ready business; The School for Startups.

We all know how tough 2010 is going to be. Whilst all the major parties talk eloquently about social enterprise, the reality is that many of the local authorities and regional development agencies social enterprises deal with are facing cuts of up to 30% across the board; unprecedented. I predict that more social enterprises than we have seen so far will hit difficulties, but that many will do very well indeed. Much will depend on their game plan and the quality of advice they get. My advice; get out there and look for good advice, network for Britain and develop plans that are ambitious but flexible enough to adapt in the short term to austerity. Having people like Doug enter our community is very good news indeed, and I think an indicator for growth in our fortunes once the squeeze has subsided.

Being able to adapt is something working women know all about. My day started at 4am when I awoke in horror realising that I had left the 200 sausage rolls my husband and I made yesterday outside the backdoor. Why 200? Every year we have all the neighbours in just before Christmas.  Not because we have the time, we don't, but because we want to live in a world where you know your neighbours on more than nodding terms, even if some of them are bankers. I think that is what Christmas is for, family, friends and community.

So having to sack the au pair at 8am this morning was certainly not what I had in mind to generate festive cheer. However, it had to be done; not just because she turned up late, nor because of the wine and blood stains on the carpet, the burnt saucepans, the wrecked laundry, the broken crockery, not picking up my youngest from school last week (again) or leaving my mother outside the house on Wednesday, or being daft enough to try to buy a twenty-six year old Porche 911 from an auction website in Glasgow, but because I can't cope with any more surprises. Enough is enough. Sweet girl, but no sensible person would put Walter Mitty in charge of their children, so I am now in the market for a new au pair if you know of anyone. Lovely family, own room and bathroom, 35 hours a week; Mother can somtimes be found in the garden at 4am.

So if I don't get a chance to blog again, have a Happy Christmas and great New Year! I am told the Guardian Online is featuring one of my blogs this week about our problems with Unite.  If they do I'll give you a link. By the way, I'm loving everyone's comments on the blog - keep them coming, all feedback is very useful! In the meantime here is a shot of my Christmas Tree to get you in the mood.

The tree

Its the panto tonight, Jane Asher as the Wicked Queen in Snow White, should be the laugh we could all do with. 2010 is going to be the Year of the Tiger, or is it the Year of the Dragon? Either way I predict it will be the Year of the Social Enterprise.

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