UnLtd entrepreneurs recognised in parliament  

On Tuesday 4th Feb, UnLtd, social entrepreneurs, programme partners and guests celebrated the end of 6 months on Thrive, at Portcullis House. 

Thrive: Access to Employment, is our social accelerator, where we support ambitious social ventures who are creating jobs and training opportunities, and closing the disability employment gap. At the end of each cohort we celebrate their success and showcase these talented change-makers to the world.  

In this day and age who you are as a business and having value at your heart truly matters. The recognition of this was shown in the incredible turnout, prestigious venue, and guest speakers we had for the night.   

It was particularly exciting, and appropriate, to see the political commitment to social entrepreneurship made clear at this celebration.  

Image of Justin Tomlinson MP speaking at a podium

Addressing the national impact that social entrepreneurs have on employment, the Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work, Justin Tomlinson MP, gave our keynote. UnLtd recently facilitated visits to two UnLtd award winners past and present, Mail Out and Harry Specters for the Minister. In his speech, Justin Tomlinson shared the impression these ministerial visits have left on him. 

"I am a huge supporter of what I've seen...they're not asking for a favour, they're asking for an opportunity to showcase their talent" 

He had heard directly from social entrepreneurs that it is not just the financial help that matters, it is comprehensive wrap-around support that gives additional opportunities, 

"My commitment, as the government, is to work with you and turbo-charge what you're doing"  
Last July the Minister approved our 10 recommendations, with Scope, to support disabled people back into work. These spanned five key areas - data, funding, support, procurement and recognition. It is not enough just to support our fantastic social ventures and break down the barriers to growth that they face; we also need to create the right enabling environment for them and those they serve.  

We were also honoured to be hosted in Parliament by Alex Sobel MP, chair of the All Parliamentary Group on social enterprise – and previous UnLtd employee. He spoke about his genuine passion for social enterprise and his time working as an Award Manager with us. “this was my life for so long”. He then continued to share his vision for a UK where social business can flourish, “I'd like to see the O2 arena full of social entrepreneurs."  
It was crucial that the social entrepreneurs themselves took to the stage – each of them giving an intense 30 second pitch on what they do, and how the audience can support them.  

During the last 6 months, these ventures increased their turnover by £80,000 on average. They secured over £340k in investment, including £200k directly from us and our partners.  

The impact headline is the numbers of jobs and training opportunities for disabled people. Whilst this does not reflect the changes to someone’s quality of life or indeed the duration of the impact, it is a great start. Across 21 of our early stage and Thrive support with Scope, these ventures created 1,580 training opportunities and 280 jobs for disabled people. Our 18 Thrive ventures supported over 5,800 beneficiaries in 2018/19.  

Despite all these numbers we do not aim for growth for its own sake - it is growing impact. Maths and economics tell a story of impact, but we know the impact on lives can't be shown in those alone. 

Three people engaging in dynamic conversation, gesturing and smiling at an event

To close the event, we spoke to alumnis of Thrive, social champions: Josh Babarinde, founder, of CrackedIT; Sam Everard, founder of SAMEE; and Pranav Chopra Co-founder of Nemi Teas. 

They all shared how, a year on, they are employing more people, expanding to new counties, meeting with decision-makers and having a bigger impact on many levels. They are continuing to receive post-investment support, and feel very much part of the UnLtd community.

Beyond the evening’s engagement, what we ask of you is: 
-If you are an investor, back these social ventures affordably flexibly and patiently 
-If you are a policy maker, weave social ventures into your commissioning, your procurement and your -employment practice 
-If you are a company, work with social ventures to become as inclusive an employer as you can – the value to you, your talent and the economy is compelling 
-And if you are a social entrepreneur, well keep on doing your thing and evidencing that amazing impact 

Social entrepreneurs have distinctive, highly effective and sustainable ways of generating impact. These ventures are an amazing group to procure from and commission, and we hope that other businesses will bring them into supply chains. 

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