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New venture

One stop hub launches to help social enterprises

Partners: the new hub’s first users (pic: contributed)

A hub for social entrepreneurs, start-ups, charities and SMEs is aiming to help boost growth in the sector.

The Montgomery Street Lane venture, based in Edinburgh, is a collaboration between support agencies, Firstport, Challenges Group, Project Scotland and Volunteering Matters.

The founders said the initiative will provide a “one-stop shop” for ambitious social businesses and charities while also acting as a focal point for impact investors targeting enterprises that are addressing social challenges. 

“The vision for Montgomery Street Lane is a bold one,” said Josiah Lockhart, Firstport’s chief executive. “We’re building an enterprise support network for social entrepreneurs and impact investors, for start-ups and SMEs looking to grow, expand and export. We’re focused on making it a place of optimism, opportunity and outcomes.”

Mr Lockhart added: “We’re offering these individuals a place where key support services are in one location, and where each of the Lane residents can collaborate on offering a joined-up and partnership approach to business development and growth.”

The four organisations work across a range of fields including business consultancy, management training, exports, seed funding, impact investment, business support services, volunteering , international development, marketing and communications, and project management. Between them, they have about 40 staff and volunteers working out from the refurbished 19th-century mews houses just off Elm Row.

Mr Lockhart added: “We’ve seen the model operating successfully and impactfully in other countries, such as in Sweden, but this is the first of its type in Scotland.”

Alexandra Baker, director of challenges, said: “Montgomery Street Lane is where an entrepreneur can come and have their business idea scrutinised, supported, and turned into a viable strategic plan that can then grow into a sustainable business. 

“Together, Challenges, Firstport, ProjectScotland and Volunteering Matters bring a range of business options, such as management training, internships, volunteering opportunities, project management, and of course export and international market linkages.”

Paul Reddish, Chief Executive of Volunteering Matters and ProjectScotland, said: “The collaborative culture here at Montgomery Street Lane has significant advantages and, quite simply, means our combined offering is far greater than the sum of its parts.

“But it is also greatly benefits the residents here. It means, for example, the residents can partner on joint programmes, and we’re already seeing the fruits of that.” 

Montgomery Street Lane, said the founders, would give start-up entrepreneurs and people from other businesses and agencies access to a fully serviced drop-in hotdesking service where they would be able to network and get advice from a range of experts, while partner agencies would be able to use the various spaces for workshops, conferences and other events.

A partnership with the city’s iconic Valvona & Crolla deli next door brings access to V&C’s theatre space, as well as discounts on their coffee and catering. “It’s these unique extras that add up to create a rich and well-rounded offering for social entrepreneurs and change-makers,” Mr Reddish added.

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