Social Enterprise Case Study – from the Prowess Archive
Name: Helen Walker
Name of enterprise: Water Power Enterprises (h2ope) (CIC)
Could you explain what your enterprise is?
We are a community interest company (CIC) and our main social and environmental goal is to reduce carbon emissions by harnessing the power of hydro to produce green electricity. We develop hydro turbines in the thousands of river weirs which once powered the industrial revolution. We intend to attract Social Investors, both local and national, to help us achieve our aims.
We work very closely with the local community and encourage them to take ownership of the project. All profit is reinvested in the local community via grant schemes or used to develop hydro turbines in other areas.
We want to serve as ambassadors of social enterprise to demonstrate through our success that this is a viable and sustainable alternative to a purely profit making business.
On Friday 23 November 2007 we will be launching Torrs Hydro New Mills prospectus Come along and find out how you can become a member of the UK’s first community-owned hydro electricity project. The scheme in the Torrs in New Mills will generate enough electricity for up to 70 houses as well as money to fund grants for community environmental or regeneration projects. http://www.torrshydro.co.uk/
When did you start?
We were incorporated in Jan 2007, although my partner and I had been working part time on the business plan for about a year before that. I have worked for six years in the third sector, previously offering support and advice to other people looking to start social enterprises.
What motivated you to work in the social enterprise sector?
I come from a private industry background having worked for an internet company. The focus was purely on giving a return to shareholders. Whilst employed there I initiated a scheme of employees as shareholders and owners of the company. I read a book called Open Minds by Andy Law, which emphasises employee ownership of the company and found it very inspirational. I took a career break and then found a job supporting the development of social enterprises.
Have you used any business support?
We have worked with the West Yorkshire Social Enterprise Link. http://www.wyselink.co.uk/ and received a small grant from the European funding stream in our area Urban 2 and also from the South Yorkshire Key Fund – a community development finance association. http://www.sykeyfund.org.uk/ and Unltd – www.unltd.co.uk. We have received grants but also business support, training and contracts through these organisations.
Do you feel social enterprise is a growing sector?
It is definitely expanded internationally, for it to become a serious alternative in the UK, financing, social investors and start up grants are going to become critical.
Do you have any advice for women thinking about starting a social enterprise?
If you are passionate about something then follow this passion it is a far better way of doing business.
This article is from the Prowess archive 2003-2008