I am writing this post a week after attending the fantastic Student Eats Scale Up residential, and I can safely say the storm of ideas, inspiration and motivation is only just settling down in my brain! As you may know, SCRAN of UCLan was selected to be one of nine lucky social enterprises awarded scale up funding from the NUS and Our Bright Future. This scale-up included an all expenses paid trip to Leeds for an intensive series of workshops, mentoring and networking sessions. Oh, and of course some fabulous food (obligatory pictures included throughout)…
First of all, credit to Tilly, Odette and team for putting together such a packed and well-organised couple of days, the venues selected and the speakers invited were spot on. After a journey over to Leeds from Preston, the SCRAN team (founder Naomi, star volunteer Mason, Hannah of UCLan SU and myself) arrived in Headingley, before taking the short walk over to the HEART centre for an evening of introductions and delicious vegan curry with all the trimmings. A relaxed evening was much needed, and granted we had not undertaken the journey of other groups, including Penryn Produce (8 hours I believe??). It was fantastic to have so many inspiring young people in the room, and to hear how diverse the different scale-up projects are, both in enterprise aims and geographical setting.
The next morning we set off bright and early to Leeds University SU for a packed day of talks and business planning workshops. We were lucky enough to be joined by great speakers, including Nathan of Our Bright Future, who spoke about scaling up and his experience of working in social enterprises and cooperatives, Jackie Cooper who made a scary topic like accounting and bookkeeping accessible to newbies, and Ashley of Brighton SU who gave enlightening advice on securing and maintaining a successful volunteer base.
In the afternoon we had chance to begin piecing together our ‘business model canvas’ as introduced by Tilly. This exercise proved to be invaluable, as we were finally able to put all our ideas down on paper, and with the help of the mentoring slots, allow our plans to begin taking shape. Throughout the Tuesday we were hit with several ‘ahah!’ moments, as it dawned on the team where we really wanted to go with SCRAN, and where our strengths lie.
I feel I speak for most of the room when I say everyone was a bit wiped out by the end of the day, so a trip for more amazing food was much appreciated! This time we took taxis over to Harehills, to the Shine Collective. I feel I am unable to do justice to the wonderful talk given by the MD, so I implore anyone who wasn’t on the residential to visit their website to see more about the fantastic work they do.
The final day came around ridiculously quickly and provided more talks from guest speakers including Rachel of the NUS, speaking about Impact Measurement, a case study of supply chains and supplier relationship building and a session on food safety from the Soil Association. Once again, ideas were pinging around the room for all the enterprises and mentors. In the final session we got the opportunity to finalise our business canvas and to present our work to the group. To hear how everyone had developed over the three days and ask each other questions rounded the residential off perfectly.
The residential was a great opportunity to flesh out our plans for the next year and to voice any problems we had faced in a room of like-minded people. Several elements particularly stood out though…
Three personal highlights
- The business canvas model – allowed us to throw our many ideas onto the table (literally) and map them out in a way that created a solid plan of action.
- Meeting the other enterprises – everyone was so enthusiastic and open to discussing the ups and downs of creating a new social enterprise.
- Uninterrupted and focused time spent with the SCRAN team on developing ideas.
Three main takeaway points
- The talk on scaling up by Nathan of Our Bright Future gave us much to consider, especially regarding not losing your initial vision, just because the enterprise is expanding and making profit.
- The need to cross communicate with other enterprises, especially groups within the same region.
- Volunteer recruitment and succession – Ashley provided great advice on creating a strong volunteer reward scheme and how to ensure time investment in the enterprise.