Two women laughing and smiling outside social enterprise, Câr-y-Môr, they are wearing Câr-y-Môr brand clothes

WCVA funds seaweed & prom dresses to save the planet

Published : 09/01/23 | Categories: Funding | News |

The Net Zero Carbon Start-Up Grant – a pilot scheme managed by our Social Investment Cymru team – is providing a much-needed boost to budding social businesses across Wales.

The £150,000 funding pot from the Net Zero Carbon Start-Up Grant has honed in on some extraordinary, home-grown social enterprises that have turned seaweed, dog walking, recycled plastic, and even prom dresses into sustainable money-spinners.

Since being awarded the grant in March 2022, these social enterprises are already making in-roads, benefitting the local communities in which they are based, as well as the planet.

WHY SET UP THIS GRANT?

Funded by Welsh Government, the origins of the grant can be traced back to the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, and offers a flicker of hope for incorporated social businesses short on funds but dreaming big in terms of social impact and job creation.

Unfortunately, businesses of this kind often fall at the first financial hurdle. Alun Jones from the Social Investment Cymru team explains: ‘It’s difficult for social businesses to get beyond the early stages of an idea – even when it’s a really good idea – because they can’t adequately evidence the “revenue streams” to apply for mainstream repayable finance. Unless they have private investment, good ideas often fall by the wayside.’

By the end of March 2023 WCVA will have distributed up to £12,500 to 12 ‘early stage’ social businesses that are committed to achieving net zero carbon status and delivering social impact to the local community, by reinvesting their profit back into the business or local community. This financial injection is specifically used to:

  • get them ready for trading or investment
  • embed environmentally sustainable practices from day one

To prioritise the latter, each grant comes with a climate mentor. Rather than retrofitting climate friendly behaviour, which is a costly affair, the mentor measures the likely carbon emissions of an existing business plan and re-designs key operating practices to be purse and plant friendly.

The grant is run in partnership with Cwmpas and DTA Wales who are supporting organisations with climate change action.

READ ABOUT HOW THE GRANT IS CURRENTLY BEING USED

Trees for Tomorrow

Trees For Tomorrow (TFT) is a new tree nursery start-up in Nevern that, within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, specialises in nurturing and growing seedlings of native medium to large scale trees, like Oak, Rowan and Beech.

As Wales is one of the least-wooded countries in Europe, with woodlands comprising just 14% of the landscape and fewer than half as native or broadleaved trees, TFT will prove instrumental in meeting the Welsh Government’s tree planting targets and develop the new National Forest for Wales.

TFT currently employs people on a part-time basis, but once established, plans to employ more local people. The grant supports TFT to use long life growing trays, as well as build strong relationships with the local community to create volunteering opportunities.

Founder Jonathan Tiller says: ‘The grant has been fantastic in helping us establish critical and sustainable business infrastructure, such as investing in low carbon products that we would not otherwise have been able to afford. Ultimately, this grant is already making a difference by helping us reduce our carbon footprint and support our progress towards carbon neutrality.’

Close-up of two men planting tree sapling in nature

Câr-Y-Môr

Câr-Y-Môr is a community benefit society and the first community-owned regenerative ocean farm of its kind in Wales. With three pilot farms off St David’s peninsula, their business of growing seaweed and shellfish has led to the creation of 11 new jobs and radical improvements to the coastal environment.

About six months on from receiving the Grant, they have several new products on sale at a weekly market, with many more about to be distributed nationwide.

Câr-Y-Môr Funding Manager, Tracey Gilbert-Falconer explains: ‘The Grant has helped us employ Tara, a part-time food product developer, who has been creating edible products, like spaghetti, from the seaweed we grow. Without WCVA’s grant, we wouldn’t have been able to utilise the seaweed for food anywhere near as quickly.’

By the end of 2022, the business is looking to move to new multi-functional premises, including a small seafood house, a purpose-built safe space for seafood processing, and education suite to train other aspirational ocean farmers.

Two women from the social enterprise Câr-Y-Môr smiling at the camera, they are wearing Câr-Y-Môr branded clothing

  • Caption: A friendly welcome guaranteed at Câr-Y-Môr

Soaring Supersaurus

Soaring Supersaurus is an arts and sustainability company, based in Penrhys, Rhondda Cynon Taff, which recycles plastic to provide arts and sustainability activities to the local community. So far, it has kept 1,500 plastic milk bottles from landfill or incineration.

Artistic Director Paul Evans explains how much it has helped: ‘As a new social enterprise, it’s a luxury that would not normally be possible. The flexibility of the grant has enabled us to use the funds where needed in an ever-shifting environment and uncertain times. It’s allowed me to breathe. It’s given me some time to develop products properly and allow for some failed attempts to see what works.’

The grant has enabled Paul to give himself a modest salary, which means the business is in a position to launch new products and activities at the tail end of 2022.

A chair made of recycled plastic, a new design from Soaring Supersaurus

  • Caption: A new scalable design for a park bench

Ci Da Pet Care CIC

Ci Da Pet Care CIC is an inclusive, Prestatyn-based social enterprise founded in October 2021, which delivers a range of quality pet care services, including for vulnerable people who could not otherwise afford it.

Employing people who would struggle in mainstream work environments, the business is proud of its role in being able to offer free places for some pets, which sees dogs staying in their loving home and out of rescue facilities.

Their ‘Care in the Community Scheme’ is nothing short of a life-saver, providing specific support to pet owners who are new parents, hospital patients, single parents, and those living with a disability or recovering from an injury. The scheme even offers a general ‘helping hand’: bespoke support for anyone struggling to maintain the care of their pet.

Founder Annie Lloyd says the grant has massively shaped the social enterprise: ‘We have been able to provide pet care for so many people in need whilst providing employment opportunities for people with mental health problems.’

Annie from Ci Da Pet Care CIC walks, or is walked by, five dogs along a country path

  • Caption: Part of founder and dog walker Annie’s daily routine

Eco Wardrobe by Prom Ally

Prom Ally runs on a referral basis from social services, school welfare departments, charities and food banks, and offers the free loan of over 3,000 prom dresses and suits to school children, sixth form students and college students.

In April 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown, Prom Ally officially became a Community Interest Company and set about developing the ‘Eco Wardrobe’. The grant has given the project a big boost by giving founder Ally Elouise a modest salary and helping to stock up on prombridesmaidcocktailformal or even wedding dresses that can be bought or hired.

Ally Elouise explains that the £12,500 grant has allowed them to: ‘keep a full-time project manager in employment for a further six months and launch a multi-level marketing campaign! Without it we wouldn’t have managed to stay open over the past six months or offered two Duke of Edinburgh voluntary places.’

Founder Ally outside of the Prom Ally CIC shop, there are baloons and a dress in the window

  • Caption: Ally Elouise outside Prom Ally

FIND OUT MORE

Visit our Social Investment Cymru page to learn more about support that is available to social businesses.

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