Dorset Community Foundation SWEF enterprise grants are helping young people’s businesses take off

By Sam Pither [email protected]

Published: February 8, 2024 | Updated: 9th February 2024

Enterprise grants from Dorset Community Foundation are helping young people turn dreams into thriving businesses, and they’ve now put a call out for more applications.

Dorset Community Foundation logo

The foundation is awarding grants of up to £2,000 through its SWEF Enterprise and Business Fund to young people who are developing a business idea, or have been running a business for less than two years.

Since launching in 2021, the initiative has awarded more than £45,000 to nearly 50 young people aged between 18 and 30 to help with rent, equipment and other bills.

The businesses funded so far range from market gardening to making furniture, clothing to camping vans and recycling to remote bookkeeping.

Some of them had already taken their first steps before the funding gave them stability, while others were unable to get beyond their development phase through lack of funding.

Dorset Community Foundation grants manager Ellie Maguire said: “We want to fund young people who are in the first stages of getting their business going.

“They might have just sold a few items or have done some work for friends or family and they know they have a viable proposition but they don’t have the capital to really get up and running.”

One of those to have received help through the scheme is yoga teacher Amy Morgan, who was awarded a £1,500 grant to help her stretch herself and run innovative classes aimed at men at her Kaiako studio in Ashley Road, Poole.

Amy Morgan

The 28-year-old applied for the grant after being told about it by a friend and realising she needed to buy a laptop, microphones and more yoga mats and blocks. “Getting the grant was amazing, it allowed me to start making good content for Instagram and that’s where all of my audience is pretty much from,” she said.

“The grant has been a great help and opened a whole world out there for me and it’s forced me into networking a bit more, understanding what business is about a little bit more. I’m obviously still learning a hell of a lot but it’s been really, really good.”

Applicants fill out a form detailing their business plan and then take part in a video call with a grant panel to discuss their idea. Amy said the form and the interview helped her shape her business ideas. “I think it’s really easy when you get into something like this to be rolling with what you’re physically doing and not really be thinking about the business side of things,” she said. “I think applying for the grants did make me think about things differently.”

Successful applicants are invited to be part of a Zoom network with their peers so they can share experiences and encourage one another.
Dorset Community Foundation chief executive Grant Robson said the grants are a good way for any young person with a business idea to find funding.

“The idea of the fund is not just about supporting some genius with an idea that will change the world, it’s for ordinary, hard-working people who just want to utilise their skills, energy and courage to change their future but don’t have parents who can afford to fund them or savings in the bank,” he said.

“No matter what the business, whether it is capable of growing to employ 20 people or a self-employed worker providing a brilliant service to their community, we see the value in it. We’ve loved working with the SWEF team and it has been truly inspiring to see young people making the most of the opportunity. Now as we go into 2024 we want to see more.”

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