participants at the online Retail Academy

Welsh social enterprises aim for top of the class

Published : 30/07/21 | Categories: Funding | News | Training & events |

We speak to some of the Welsh social businesses who were among those to benefit from Social Investment Scotland’s (SIS) masterclass academy for those operating in a growing and exciting marketplace for good.

SIS’ Retail Academy programme is now in its fifth year, the result of partnering with Asda and the Scottish Government to provide social enterprises access to world-famous industry experts and speakers. Previous attendees have gone onto to supply multiple supermarkets and grow their products, all the while fulfilling a mission of doing social good.

It’s not only for Scottish organisations however – five Welsh organisations also signed up to attend this year’s Retail Academy. Arts Factory, Awesome Wales, Resource Renew, Vison 21 and Fed 4 Good all contacted WCVA’s Social Investment Cymru team to get the chance to spend five days learning from experts in the retail business world and to hear first-hand from some  inspirational leaders of purpose driven businesses.

Here’s what some of our Welsh ‘pupils’ said they got out of the academy.


Vision 21 supports life-changing opportunities for people with learning disabilities to realise their potential through; catering, growing, creating, learning and making initiatives. Chris Bowsher told us why they decided to apply:

‘We’re developing and diversifying our retail activity and we’re always keen to learn as much as we can to achieve our aims and deliver quality. We launched our new V21 brand and website in Summer 2020, and phase 2 of our plan was always to develop selling online.’

‘Coronavirus and everything that has come with it only heightened the need for this. Looking at the speaker list for the SiS Retail Academy 2021, there were key themes on the agenda that will be central to our growth and development: digital marketing, sustainable social enterprise, and online selling.’


Resource Renew repair, refurbish and sell furniture, and were looking to make the most of their selling abilities without compromising their main mission. Calvin Davies said:

‘In truth for us as an organisation, retailing to generate income is secondary consideration and we consider our primary function as being a health and social care provider for adults with learning difficulties.’

‘However, we recognise we need additional support to help frame and promote our retail offering, and if we clarify our product positioning and professionalise our retail capacity, we can continue to generate income and support our beneficiaries independently of any subsidy.’


Alexis Kirsten works at Arts Factory in the Rhondda, where they work with marginalized people from wide ranging walks of life on various arts and graphic design related endeavours to help them contribute something positive to their communities.

‘As a social enterprise that has been running for over 20 years, we were already making a measurable impact in our communities and, as a Graphic Design studio, we certainly knew our way around a marketing strategy! We’ve made great inroads into becoming 100% self-sufficient and that focus continues, however, we needed advice on scaling our vision and growing sustainably as an extremely lean team.’

‘Our experience of the SIS Retail Academy course was extremely positive. The guidance, advice and insights shared by experienced guest speakers were enlightening and the content contained many ‘golden nuggets’ that we have been applying and will continue to do so going forward.’

‘We felt that it would give us useful insights into some of the challenges faced by fellow social enterprises for whom we produce marketing communications, and that was certainly the case. It gave us updates on the latest retail trends and insights into the corporate sector, which we then applied to the creative communications we produce for other clients.’

‘We directly gained one new valued client and indications from them so far are that they are very happy with the high standard of work we have been producing.’


The outcomes weren’t all just numbers on a spreadsheet however – Arts Factory also gained an understanding of how to work better, and how they engaged with their customers, as well as making much valued human connections.

‘We experienced a priceless sense of camaraderie with the other social enterprises on the course and enjoyed connecting with our ‘soc ent tribe’ after such a challenging year of isolation. Being reminded that we are part of a far bigger social movement is invaluable and makes all the difference in the world.’


Social Investment Cymru (SIC) financially supports social enterprises in Wales with a range of grants and loans.

They invest in organisations that want to generate more income or expand their range of services, and organisations that have previously struggled to attract grant funding for new projects.

If you’ve got ideas you’d like to discuss with the team or if you are interested in getting involved in the Retail Academy, please email them on or phone 0300 111 0124.

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