Month: November 2018

Equal Care Co-op are Crowdfunding! – a new co-operative owned by care workers and the people they support

SME Funding

This is such a great story we had to share it – Ambitious and ethical start-up, Equal Care Co-op are crowdfunding to change the balance on of power in the provision of care services. Based at the University Business Centre in Halifax, this start-up is one to watch.

Read on to discover why……..

Imagine if Uber was owned by its drivers. Imagine if taskers got to make decisions about how TaskRabbit was run. This is exactly what Equal Care proposes to bring to social care with its exciting and radical new business model.

Equal Care Co-op is the UK’s first social care platform co-operative. The team are setting out to change the traditional homecare industry, refocusing the power, choice, and control onto the most important people involved: the people receiving the care and the people providing it – be they paid or unpaid, a family member or a professional carer.

This is a real gig economy alternative that pays equal attention to the rights of workers and the rights of those they support.

The gig economy has received a great deal of publicity in recent years – not all of it good. The formula has – inevitably – extended to the world of care work and there are now some established platforms offering a vetted labour pool and easy process for booking care workers of your choice.

However, the existing gig-economy platforms are vulnerable to the same criticisms levelled at nearly all companies operating such a business model. The worst-offending companies tell care workers that they have to offer a flat rate, that any bad review will knock them straight off the platform (one strike and you’re out) and that too many rejections of work opportunities will also push them off the platform.

On the other hand, some of the better platforms have gone on to become care providers in their right. Others remain as introductory agencies, avoiding the regulatory requirements involved in care provision, maintaining their status as technology services companies rather than providers of care.

All of these platforms are privately owned, and all of them retain a value-extraction based business model which charges a commission on every hour of care given. In most cases, these companies are angling for an exit from the market and a windfall for the founders and early-stage investors.

Equal Care Co-op has a different focus. By changing the balance of power that currently exists in services, some magical things can happen: people choose who supports them, workers get paid a decent wage, the huge levels of turnover in care services can stop. And people being supported get a chance to help others too.

Big ideals do not map well onto big profits, so Equal Care Co-op’s start-up route is a grant-dependent, CrowdFunder-led one. It will be making use of Community Shares – a recent investment vehicle only open to co-operative and community benefit societies. However, the equity-loaded finance that drives most ventures of this type is closed to them.

Founder Emma Back said: “We’re looking at strawberry patch principles, sociocracy based growth models and federated structures. There are many possibilities for growth that don’t entail becoming enormous and monolithic, but where you can still be large enough to offer a real alternative to the private companies taking UK care contracts.”

Equal Care Co-op recently participated in the world’s first platform co-operative accelerator, designed by Co-operatives UK and funded by the Co-operative Bank.

Ed Mayo, Secretary-General of Co-operatives UK, observed: In Equal Care we have a viable, alternative and pioneering model for social care as well as platform co-ops, and we’re incredibly excited to see what the future holds. Co-operatives UK has been delighted to support Equal Care in its development – through UnFound, an accelerator for platform co-op, and through The Hive, our support programme for co-operatives in partnership with The Co-operative Bank”

Fran Watson, Founder Member of Equal Care and an independent care worker herself, says: “The biggest issue for me was having the reassurance of getting enough work and having the right amount. It’s finding the work that takes the time and effort. I know of no independent care workers who do 15-minute slots. You just can’t do it. The options are either to go with an agency or go it alone.”

Equal Care has now launched the invitation-only, first iteration of their platform. They are a co-operative that prioritises power, money and decision-making truly sitting on the front line, thus offering potential for community-led scale.

Equal Care aren’t rolling in venture capital, they are bootstrapping with the best of them, but they need help. They have just released their Christmas CrowdFunder and are looking for support to help get the vision flying. Please visit https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/equal-care-co-op and help change social care.

BLOG SPOT – THERE’S NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO START A BUSINESS

SME grants

It often takes people years to make the decision to start a company and even then, there is a lot of planning and preparation to make it a viable and profitable enterprise, however this shouldn’t put prospective business owners off, as there has never been a better time to start-up.

Focusing on the Leeds City Region, there is an abundance of support available to start-ups and young businesses including workshops, training sessions and seminars and many of them are free of charge!

Long gone are the days when people had to worry about how they would learn about finance, marketing, business planning and the necessary administrative skills that come with owning a business, a quick internet search will give you a lengthy list of professionals that you can turn to.

Practical help and advice from those that have a proven track record is incredibly useful when you start out and knowing that these sessions are often facilitated through universities or public sector funded bodies provides further credibility by association.

Launching a business should be exciting but it can often be surprisingly isolating too when you are working all of the hours to get your idea off the ground. Building on the practical support that is available locally, there are also strong networks which can be a real lifeline.

There are many networking groups throughout the Leeds City Region and so it is worthwhile trying them all at least once to see which suits you the best. There is no need to go along to something you don’t enjoy when you have an abundance to choose from, so consider your objectives and find the group that you feel will be of most use to you.

As well as accessing suppliers and possible customers, these organised gatherings can also give you the chance to meet with people that will become life-long friends, supporters and advocates of your business and this really can be invaluable.

Having the chance to develop trusted relationships and to speak to others that are likely to be in the same – or a similar position – will give you a platform to share your concerns, which can then be addressed in a group setting providing reassurance and advice.

Interestingly, in addition to practical support and strong networks, throughout the Leeds City Region there is also the opportunity to apply for grant funding. This can give young companies the chance to take their longer-term ideas and make them happen.

As well as focusing on short term goals, we all know it’s important to have a three or five-year plan in place and that is where grants can really come into play. Putting targets in place of what you hope to achieve is the first step and asking for funds to bring those forward is the next.

Some of the funding programmes that are available can be found in a previous article from Yorkshire Powerhouse here.

There is absolutely no reason why a business should struggle when there are programmes available that can offer professional support, networking and grants, it makes no sense what-so-ever. Taking advantage of the opportunities that are available will not only benefit your business but it’s what they are there for and the more people that use them, the more likely they are to continue.

If you want to make the most of the infrastructure that the Leeds City Region has to offer simply follow the suggestions below:

  1. Take five minutes to do a quick search on the internet to find local organisations that can provide you with practical support, for example AD:VENTURE is perfect for start ups with a growth focus!
  2. Think about the skills you are lacking and choose the course, sessions and seminars that will give you access to professionals that can help
  3. Look into networking groups and make it a priority to visit one a month – don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do too much, it will be counter productive
  4. Write down what your short and longer-term plans are – if you haven’t already – and consider what you could achieve if funding was available
  5. Pick up the phone and speak to a dedicated business advisor about how you can get the best from the programmes in your local area

It is important to remember that unlike traditional businesses many of the organisations that are delivering support actually work together rather than competing so it’s fine to ask them if there are any other opportunities that you can capitalise upon.

They will put you in touch with other programmes that could take your business from standing start to success story.

So……what are you waiting for?

Inspiring Business 2018 – Extended Deadline and Increased Prize Package for Yorkshire & Humber Firms!

small business events

James Legal is appealing for businesses in the Yorkshire & Humber region to ‘be inspired’ to enter its competition for more than £24,000 worth of support.

The ‘InspiringBusiness2018’ initiative offers support to help businesses grow to the next level. The programme is led by a series of inspiring seminars delivered by businesspeople who have ‘been there, done that’ and made those mistakes, and culminating in a competition to find the inspiring business of 2018.

The campaign is aimed at giving the region’s substrata of businesses that underpin the local economy acknowledgement and support.

This year, working with partners in complementary fields like banking, business support, finance and marketing, the funder will be offering a focused mixture of assistance to one ‘creative and driven’ business, worth over £24,000.

The partners’ contributions to the prize fund include, for example:

A year’s free legal support worth £5,000 from James Legal, including a review and re-write of policies and contracts, and access to our business legal advice service.Tender and bid-writing support from The Marketplace worth up to £6,000, starting with a detailed procurement and supply chain assessment, and, potentially, a 12-month supply of tender reports and help with identifying, completing and submitting one grant funding application.A free website design or online marketing support, worth £5,000 for Mobius Media.

Businesses in Yorkshire and the Humber that have gained some traction already, perhaps with a successful track record or on the cusp of success are eligible.

From sole traders to firms employing hundreds of people, the provider wishes to find and help companies that excel in what they do, and can demonstrate qualities such as drive, innovation, vision and creativity.

The deadline for applications to be received has been extended by two months; to 31 December 2018 APPLY HERE

BLOG SPOT: Digital Shift – Transforming Calderdale’s digital and creative landscape

start-up advice3

By Deborah Hetherington, Business Engagement Manager at Leeds Beckett University

The Ad:Venture programme aims to help businesses within the Leeds City Region reach their full potential. There are several partners involved in the project, each of whom offer their own set of specialist skills in order to assist startup and scaleup companies to grow.

Here at Leeds Beckett, we concentrate on the support we can offer to digital businesses. This can be made up of academic support in the areas of digital marketing, business planning, pitching techniques, the art of selling and so on. We also offer student research projects, access to our app studio, a wide range of masterclasses, events, funding, incubation space, and a variety of other business support. We have branded this arm of the Ad:venture project as ‘Digital Shift’.

When I was brought on to the project, I was tasked with increasing awareness of Ad:Venture specifically within Calderdale.

Leeds Beckett’s aim in Calderdale is two-fold; we want to play a valuable part in growing the expanding digital eco-system, and we want to have an impact on local startups’ bottom lines. We want to see more startups becoming scaleups and we believe our Digital Shift offering has a genuine and credible role to play in that journey. Within my first few months in Calderdale I have managed to meet with collaborators from local public, private and third sector partners who all share the same vision. We have a great relationship with the council and it’s rewarding to work with such a forward facing, innovative organisation.

I have been pleasantly surprised at just how much activity is already taking place throughout the Valley. There is a growing digital community made up of some fantastic co-working spaces filled with successful digital companies, a range of networking activities and strong local business support.

“We want to have a tangible impact on business outputs and productivity.”

Leeds Beckett wants to add to that business support by offering our vast range of academic and industry business knowledge and expertise to digital SMEs within the region. We want to have a tangible impact on business outputs and productivity. Through meeting with a range of startups already, the feedback we are getting around the programme is very positive. The spectrum of businesses I personally engage with is incredibly broad, ranging from a chatbot specialist whose company is one month old through to an e-commerce business who already have an impressive turnover and are looking to hire a management position imminently.

The type of guidance and support we give is bespoke to the company; from basic business planning and funding, right through to the more advanced industry coaching and assistance through the scaleup process. Andy Banks, Founder of Venture Forge, an e-commerce consultancy Firm, says about the Ad:venture programme: “The programme provides a good balance of knowing where I would need value input and equally where I don’t. It gives me confidence that the support we will receive will be right for us and not some kind of one size fits all approach.”

Andy goes on to comment on Calderdale’s potential as a digital centre: “We’ve got massive potential. Calderdale is full of great businesses looking to grow digitally. With the recruitment of digital people always being challenging, being located halfway between Leeds and Manchester puts Calderdale right in the middle of two pools of amazing digital talent.”

UBC mainThe University Business Centre, that officially opened at the end of September and already has an impressive array of tenants, is proving to be a successful catalyst for engagement.

We have started running monthly digital breakfast mornings allowing the digital community to come together and network whilst simultaneously providing knowledge transfer seminars from local industry experts on a plethora of sector specific topics. We are holding full day workshops specific to taking businesses to the next step of productivity, and not to forget the three-day Digital Shift Summit we held at the end of September.

The Summit saw a range of industry experts from the likes of marketing agency Woven, through to BJSS and Sky Betting and Gaming offering their expertise and knowledge to 40+ eligible businesses. The range of workshops from the event included ‘Practical Business Planning’, ‘Mentoring to Hire’, ‘Accessing Finance’ and ‘The Future of Video’ to name a few.

Feedback from the event was entirely positive, some of the delegates commented on the business planning workshop:

“The workshop was challenging but in a really good way.
Excellent and interactive, very useful exercises.”

“Really interesting, good session, highlighted gaps in what I’m doing and where I need to spend more time.”

As a university, we are very excited to play our part in growing the digital eco-system in Calderdale and we encourage all eligible businesses and intermediary organisations to get in touch to see if we can add value to your company and business relationships.

You can read more about how you can benefit from the project here. 

start-up advice1

Event for small businesses to boost their online brand

small business events

New and growing digital businesses in West Yorkshire are invited to attend a free event in Halifax around the importance of creating a strong online brand identity.

The networking event takes place on Friday 30 November at Leeds Beckett’s University Business Centre at Piece Mill in Halifax, from 8.30 to 10.30am. For more information, and to book a place, please visit www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/eiahub/events/digi-breakfast-seminar/

The event forms part of the University Business Centre’s monthly Digi Breakfast Seminar series. Speaking at this month’s breakfast will be LinkedIn trainer Nigel Cliffe, Principal Consultant at Value Exchange.

The Digi Breakfast Seminar series aims to provide a space for businesses to gain new knowledge and skills and network with other people working in the sector.

The series is delivered as part of the Digital Shift programme, within the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)-funded AD:VENTURE project, which supports young and growing businesses in the Leeds City Region, and delivered by Leeds Beckett University and Calderdale Council. The programme aims to promote the Calderdale region as a location to start and grow innovative digital and creative businesses in the UK.

Many of the activities are delivered from the University Business Centre at Piece Mill in Halifax. The Centre provides virtual office, co-working and private offices along with access to training, events and advice.

Katie Rigarlsford, Leeds Beckett University’s Business Centre and Regional Business Development Manager, said: “Since the opening of our Halifax University Business Centre we have seen a growing interest from digital and tech start-ups who are now choosing Halifax over more traditional locations such as Leeds or Manchester due to its great connectivity, transport links and the support available to help them achieve growth.”

An added benefit for businesses choosing to base themselves at the Centre is the installation of one of the fastest internet connections available in the Yorkshire region. ‘DarkLight’, provided by partners Exa Networks, is an ultrafast internet connectivity (multi-gigabit capable) which supports businesses to achieve high-level digital engagement, from video streaming to Cloud services through to large-scale data processing all along the Calderdale valley.

Exa Director, Mark Cowgill, said: “We’re proud to be at the forefront of developing the UK’s first ‘Gigabit Valley’ and to be working with Leeds Beckett University to help lay the groundwork for the next generation of digitally engaged businesses.”

 

CANDLE DIGITAL BURNS BRIGHT WITH INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS

Start-up Support

Candle Digital, the organisation that gives companies the opportunity to sell their services online by turning their expertise into digital products, has moved to new premises at the University Business Centre in Halifax and announced that it has secured international clients in the US and China.

Just eighteen months after launching, Andy Jack and Mark Langdale, have used their experience from the online learning industry to create a company that gives SMEs the chance to scale their business using digital tools to sell their expertise, rather than just their time.

Taking the opportunity to access support from AD:VENTURE, the ERDF funded programme providing practical and match-funded support for SMEs, and Leeds Beckett University, the business has been able to put in place processes and plans that have seen it expand far quicker than was first intended.

Andy comments: ““Working with AD:VENTURE and Leeds Beckett University has given us the space and time to grow faster and in a more sustainable way. It wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support that we have received. We have a stronger understanding of who we are, why we’re doing this and who we should target. Rather than holding us back, the systems and processes that we now have in place have been a real catalyst for growth.

“Moving to our new offices and securing international clients is a huge step forward for us and we are looking forward to what the future holds.”

start-up support

Andy Jack and Mark Langdale, at Candle Digital, Leeds Beckett University Business Centre, Piece Mill, Halifax

In addition to the offices and customers that the company has secured, it was also invited to take part in a recent trip to Copenhagen, as part of the Interreg scheme, supported by Leeds Beckett University.

Making further connections and contacts, the company now has more ideas and the opportunity to showcase its products to a much wider audience.

Jesse Stott, Business Centre Co-ordinator for the University of Halifax Business Centre, comments: “Candle Digital is a great example of an organisation that has recognised the value in the collaborative approach we adopt across our region and how this can impact on growth. We really do hope that more start-up and young businesses will do the same and rely on our professional network to sign-post them so that they get the help they need to reach their potential sooner.”

The Leader of Calderdale Council, Cllr Tim Swift, said: “Just over a month from its official launch, it’s great that the Leeds Beckett University Business Centre in Halifax is attracting ambitious local businesses.

“The support available at the Centre as part of AD:VENTURE’s Digital Shift programme is helping start-up and growing businesses to flourish, establishing Calderdale as the place to develop digital and creative business.”

For further details about Candle Digital and the products and services it offers please visit www.candle.digital and for more information about Leeds Beckett University AD:VENTURE options and business support, please call (0113) 812 4860 or visit www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/business-services.