New scheme is offering grants of up to £25,000 for social enterprises and growing businesses

 3 mins | By Gill Oliver

A new scheme aimed at boosting social enterprises and businesses looking to scale-up, has launched in Oxfordshire.

The eScalate programme includes one-to-one support, workshops, and grants of up to £25,000.

Targeted at two main categories – social enterprises and growing businesses – it will be run by Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership Business and funded by the EU’s European Regional Development Fund.

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Grant Hayward of OSEP, which helps local social entrepreneurs, said eScalate will support socially conscious enterprises through a network of six community hubs.

Three are in Oxford, with the others in the north, west and south of the county.

For businesses looking to scale-up, OxLEP chief executive Nigel Tipple explained: “Our other target is to provide a boost to fast-growing businesses to help them succeed.

“These enterprises have the greatest potential to generate employment and wealth, but they experience specific challenges to achieve their potential.”

The eScalate programme was launched at Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Pic: Rod Macrae

The eScalate programme was officially launched yesterday evening, at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

The event also included an awards ceremony, recognising small and medium-sized businesses from OxLEP Business’s Elevate scheme.

The Museum also hosted the Elevate awards. Pic: Rod Macrae

The gong for Best socially minded business went to Generation Medics, a not-for-profit organisation in Oxford, which helps people from a wide range of backgrounds access medical careers.

Most impactful new product or service was awarded to Oxford eco-friendly laundry service OxWash, while Watlington-based Orange Bakery, run by teenager Kitty Tait, was named Social media star.

Best new employer went to Wantage-based Global CTS Recruitment, and Best use of grant funding was scooped by Priory Cast Products in Chipping Norton.

Dr Simon Biltcliffe of Webmart. Pic: Rod Macrae

Guest speakers included Dr Simon Biltcliffe, founder and chief executive of Webmart, which offers creative and print management services.

The firm, which has its head offices in Bicester, has a turnover of £25m and employs 40 people.

Pointing to the dinosaur skeletons in the Natural History Museum, Dr Biltcliffe warned businesses unable to adapt to change, were likely to find themselves ‘extinct’.

Since he set up Webmart in 1996, the company has evolved “massively”, he said.

Recalling his first customer Blockbuster Video, he pointed out: “They were very progressive at the time, but they didn’t evolve fast enough.

“The only way you can future-proof is by horizon scanning, because you don’t know where your next competitor is coming from.”

He added: “Blockbuster had never even heard of Netflix.”

Dr Biltcliffe also said the concept of “fat cats at the top making loads of money” no longer resonated with millennials.

Rather than forcing recruits to fit into a role, he said company policy was to “wrap the job role around the person”.

He explained: “If you give people a role where they are the best they can be, they enjoy it. And if people are doing a really good job and enjoying it, people want to trade with you.”

For more information about the new eScalate scheme, click here.

About the Author

Gill Oliver

Gill Oliver is a professionally trained journalist who’s written for The New Statesman, The Bureau for Investigative Journalism, The Daily Mail’s business section This is Money, The Press Association, The Huffington Post plus a host of national magazines, news agencies and trade and industry journals. She’s also spent nine years reporting on the Oxfordshire business and tech scene for The Oxford Times and The Oxford Mail.

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