Community businesses boosted by £1.45m project

Budding entrepreneurs looking to launch a business with a social or environmental focus in Hampshire and Surrey can benefit from a major international project.

Help is at hand from Inspiring Enterprise, a two-year programme backed through £1.45 million of funding from the National Lottery, via the Big Lottery Fund, and the European Social Fund.

RECYCLING HELP: Sue Cooper, who runs the not-for-profit, community interest company The Project in Wickham, which is helping people across the region by saving supermarket food and products which would otherwise be sent to landfill and distributing them at a recycling hub

The project will support unemployed people, young people not in education, employment or training, lone parents, older workers, people with disabilities and people in minority groups to make a difference to their communities.

Project manager Henriette Reinders said: “Running a social enterprise ­– from one man bands to multi-million pound operations is not much different from a conventional business – all need a business, sales and marketing plan and to make money to pay the bills.

“At Inspiring Enterprise we can offer free expert help, advice and support to unemployed people with an idea for a business with a social or environmental element through taster sessions, interactive workshops, mentoring, training sessions and networking opportunities.”

“There are 80,000 autonomous businesses with a social or environmental mission in the UK, contributing £24 billion to the economy and employing nearly one million people.

“They are changing the world for the better as well as aiming to make a living – by reinvesting profits locally to create positive social change, providing employment and life-enhancing opportunities and caring about the environment.”

Inspiring Enterprise, part of the Building Better Opportunities programme, is administered by not-for-profit business support organisation WSX Enterprise and partnered by Action Hampshire, Surrey Community Action, Fredericks Foundation and the University of Winchester.

Inspiring Enterprise aims to help at least 500 unemployed people take steps to set up a business or improve their work readiness.

To be eligible for help through Inspiring Enterprise people must live within the M3 corridor and be currently unemployed.

The M3 corridor runs from the New Forest to the M25 and includes Winchester, Andover, Alton, Farnham, Basingstoke, Farnborough, Camberley, Woking, Bracknell and everywhere in between.

Anyone interested in finding out more about Inspiring Enterprise should visit the web site or call 0800 140 4537.

Alternatively, call Action Hampshire on 01962 854971 or email  or Call Surrey Community Action on 01483 447140 or email


Sue Cooper, pictured above, set up The Project in Wickham and the not-for-profit community interest company is now thriving and continuing to expand. Sue and her team of volunteers collect and recycle food and products – which otherwise would be sent to landfill – from major supermarkets with permission

Goods are then laid out on Monday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons at Wickham Community Centre and can be picked up by anyone in return for a cash donation, a skill swap or simply the giving of time.  More than 60 people, a real cross-section of society from across the region, regularly attend the sessions.

Sue said: “I hate waste and today’s throwaway society drives me mad. I’m a single mum and instead looking for a job I decided to create a business which benefits our community, with help from the Inspiring Opportunities team. Many big name supermarkets and shops have come on board and now they even approach me to take part.

“We are open to anyone – the young, elderly, those on benefits, working parents who don’t have benefits and even richer folk who also hate waste and can give something back to help sustain The Project. It is also a hub for people to meet and we are creating a real community feel and helping to tackle rural isolation.”

Sue is currently receiving support from the Inspiring Enterprise project with developing a company structure, identifying financial support and implementing income streams to make the project sustainable. There are also plans for a ‘fix it’ workshop demonstrating how things can be repaired and a car care section with affordable vehicle check-ups.

SWEET SUCCESS: The Candy Care team busy working at their County Care headquarters in Addlestone, Surrey


Inspiring Enterprise project officers Erica Sandford and Claire Dawson, both with Surrey Community Action, assisted adults with learning difficulties to launch a successful business making and selling sweet bags.

They liaised with Woking-based specialist support provider County Care’s community skills project manager Sophie Foote to produce a business model for the group and help them develop business skills such as money handling, customer service and confidence.

The Candy Care group now orders stock, makes up the product and sells it in nine Addlestone High Street shops – clearing £150 in the first month alone. Claire has visited regularly to advise staff and service users and now a second business is now on the cards.

Sophie said: “I cannot praise Erica and Claire highly enough. Their support and advice has been invaluable in helping us run this programme which so encourages our participants and allows them to progress and thrive.”



  • Building Better Opportunities

The Big Lottery Fund uses money raised by National Lottery players to help communities achieve their ambitions.

From small, local projects to UK-wide initiatives, its funding brings people together to make a difference to their health, wellbeing and environment.

Since June 2004 it has awarded £8.5 billion to projects that improve the lives of millions of people.

The BBO project has received £1.45 million of funding from the Big Lottery Fund and the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.

The Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme. Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations.

For more information visit