Beyond the Finish Line is a vibrant project based in Scotland’s biggest city – Glasgow. It challenges creative young people to come up with innovative responses to challenges identified by local residents, giving new life to empty spaces around Glasgow.
After a successful launch, it took applications from hungry, young (16 – 30) social entrepreneurs and selected 15 of them, who have gone on to receive funding, mentorship and business support with the aim of helping them set them up sustainable social businesses.
The project was developed by Firstport, in partnership with icecream architecture, and looks to use the momentum of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, and the city’s increased footfall, to kick-start young entrepreneurs’ businesses and challenge them to change their local high streets for the better.
An Idea Was Born
The Beyond the Finish Line project was developed in response to research carried out by Firstport, which investigated avenues in which social enterprises can develop innovative solutions to counter High Street’s decline.
It has been easy to see the decline in Glasgow’s High Street in recent years. This decline can be attributed to a range of factors, including the rise in online shopping and the economic climate. Scotland, however, has many examples of public, private and community sectors working together, harnessing their creativity and sense of community, thus providing both social and economic benefit.
Firstport is the development agency for startup social enterprises in Scotland and they have an existing track record of supporting a vast amount of young entrepreneurs, helping them develop their ideas into sustainable businesses. From the research, Firstport also recognized that Glasgow is a thriving hub for social enterprises, with over 500 social enterprises based in the city, 42% of which are based in deprived areas.
With this information at hand, Firstport, along with icecream architecture, realized that the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 created a unique opportunity to harness the creativity and energy of young social entrepreneurs to come up with new ways to regenerate their local areas. And so was born Beyond the Finish Line.
A New Approach
Beyond the Finish Line began with the refurbishment of a vacant property near Glasgow’s east end. What was once a disused shop front now exists as a collaborative working hub and event space, where social entrepreneurs can develop their ideas in an environment filled with creativity and similarly minded people.
During the day, the project’s Challengers receive mentorship and business support from the experienced Firstport team. Icecream architecture, meanwhile, supports the Challengers in their search for a vacant property from which to launch their business.
In the evenings, Challengers often host events where they can “trial run” their enterprise ideas, showcase their products or encourage networking. The space is truly a catch-all environment which acts as a focal point for the passion and creativity of those who use it.
Meet the Challengers
Beyond the Finish Line was created to help get young creative entrepreneurs to take an initial idea and develop it into a sustainable social business. The process has ultimately produced a number of exciting initiatives.
Matt Lygate has developed his enterprise The Dream Machine to the point of sustainability. He uses light, music and sound to provide immersive sensory experiences to those without access to the arts due to poverty, disability, age or culture.
Rhory Gardiner, Chris Fowler and Charlotte Adam collectively run Hungry Window. Their venture sees them looking to regenerate a disused High Street shopfront in a way that will involve the local community, aiming to inspire them to become more creative in their daily lives through artistic expression. They also plan to advance on their idea in the future and create gallery and studio spaces.
There are many more exciting ideas flourishing into sustainable start-ups, which include fashion magazines, citizen journalism, sustainable food projects, confidence for women workshops and many more.
Looking to the Future
As the Glasgow Commonwealth Games begin in July 2014, the project aims to have the Challengers established with a property and to be moving their businesses forward. The benefits of increased footfall and community spirit provides an excellent platform for new social business to get the best start they can, allowing them to go on to make a real community driven difference on Glasgow’s city streets.
Karen is Chief Executive of Firstport and brings over 15 years experience of developing the skills, capacity and potential of the third sector. Working closely with the private sector Karen has always encouraged social enterprises to learn from commercial franchising to support the sector to achieve scale through replication. Karen is passionate about new start enterprise and encouraging young entrepreneurs to develop their own ideas. She is currently a Board Member of Social Enterprise Scotland.