UnLtd invest in pioneering social venture, ToolShed

High Wycombe based construction company ToolShed has joined the UnLtd Impact Fund, supported with investment of £80,000 to grow their operations across the region, reaching more young people looking to start a career in the construction industry.

The UnLtd Impact Fund was launched to help overcome one of the sector’s biggest barriers – addressing the ‘missing middle’ of social finance. The fund aims to bridge this gap which often prevents social ventures like ToolShed from accessing investment which is used to grow social impact.

ToolShed opened in June 2015 and has enabled more than 80 young people to start a career in construction. Over 85% of graduates have progressed into work and/or further training. From many and varied challenging backgrounds they had all left school with few or no qualifications.

Toolshed graduates receiving certificates

Graduates leave the ToolShed with positive attitudes and a drive to make their own living. This doesn’t happen by chance and is very much down to their positive reinforcement model. They focus at least 75% of their time rewarding positive behaviours vs the more traditional sector approach of punishing poor or disruptive behaviours. Young people quickly learn that they get more from the team (focus, time, praise, attention, direct help, work experience, etc) when they act and behave in a positive way.

The ToolShed social enterprise model comprises three services: training, works (maintenance) and construction. The ToolShed Works service was started in April 2016 and has completed over 500 customer projects (decorating, grass verge maintenance, carpentry, garden make overs, refurbishments, kitchen and bathroom refits, paving, etc). ToolShed Works now employs 8 colleagues and the aim is to double that number by May 2019. 

Toolshed graduates hard at work

ToolShed Construction has been under development over the past 12 months and on 10th September 2018 started to build its first zero energy passive house. This will be the first of many house building programmes in partnership with Beattie Passive; enabling the social venture to offer more unpaid and paid work placement opportunities.   

The ToolShed Social Return on Investment (as at July 2018) is calculated to be over £3 million. The training, works and construction services combine to create a 100% sustainable commercial platform. The UnLtd investment team are delighted to have such an impact-focused venture within their portfolio.

The UnLtd Impact Fund is funded through the Growth Fund, which is managed by Access – The Foundation for Social Investment with funding from the Big Lottery Fund and Big Society Capital. Expert partners for the UnLtd Impact fund include the City & Guilds Group, a leader in global skills development.

The investment fund has been designed to address the ‘missing middle’ of social finance, with a specific initial focus on helping social ventures whose primary purpose is increasing access to employment. We will invest in around 35 social ventures over the next three years.

Over a period of 3 years, social ventures will be offered access to between £50,000 and £150,000 of unsecured debt investment, which will include an element of grant funding.

Offering specialist support is at the heart of the UnLtd Impact Fund. Alongside finance, the fund will aim to develop a portfolio of successful scaling ventures tackling the challenges of training and employment. Each package of support is tailored to the requirement of the social venture. Among the help on offer is one-to-one support with a dedicated Venture Support Manager, peer-to-peer learning through sector events, and pro bono legal support.

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Author Info


Camilla Elwood Ventures Support Manager

I started my career in the not-for-profit sector working with grassroot fundraisers who wanted to raise funds and awareness for causes close to their hearts. I helped them form their charities and advised them on the day-to-day running of their organisations. I joined UnLtd in January 2018, where I now work to support the ventures on our social investment fund, The Impact Fund. I love looking at innovative ways of approaching societal issues and I enjoy working with passionate individuals to help them grow their ideas to create sustainable change.

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