Since 1982, CASE (Co-operative and Social Enterprise Development Agency) has worked within the East Midlands to support entrepreneurs to set up socially responsible businesses such as co-operatives, social enterprises and credit unions.
CASE’s maxim of “change the way you work” has seen hundreds of co-operatives and social enterprises established in all sectors of the economy right through from martial arts to retail.
CASE has always strived to ensure that its services are freely available to all who seek it and this ethos is promoted within Leicester via the Working in Social Enterprise (WISE) project which offers free business advice and support services to all adult residents of Leicester.
WISE is offered in partnership between CASE, the University of Leicester and Voluntary Action Leicestershire and the project supports new and existing social enterprises to explore their potential and to grow and develop. The programme offers access to expert advisers as well as in depth training sessions and the opportunity for social enterprises to benefit from volunteer student placements.
Local business Leicester Community Music Project (LCMP) benefited from the WISE project through expert advice and guidance from CASE business advisers Dorothy Francis and Jane Avery. Dorothy and Jane supported the members of LCMP to write a business plan to raise finance from investors to establish their business and refurbish a community music venue.
The building that the social enterprise is based in on Charles Street in Leicester city centre had been vacant for 10 years. LCMP raised money to renovate the business and used their own labour and that of friends and supporters to transform the near derelict building. After substantial renovation LCMP’s new premises, known as the HQ, houses a recording studio, office space, an art supplies outlet and a large art gallery and is providing a valuable service to local people with the visual arts area now booked for exhibitions and events for the next six months.
Martin Keenan, company secretary, said: “The WISE project is a great help, and without their support I don’t think we could have gone ahead with opening the HQ in July 2012. We are particularly pleased with the art gallery which is designed to be a self-sufficient cost centre within the overall business that will attract more people to the building and increase awareness of our co-operative and the work we do.
“LCMP has a very strong social purpose. We help people to turn their lives around. People who have been on our courses have progressed into work that they are passionate about or have gone into full-time training or continued to work with us. The WISE programme is important to us as it supports us to support others”