Sean Kerr and Stephen McQueen from Sustainable Thinking Scotland (STS)

Left to right: Sean Kerr and Stephen McQueen from Sustainable Thinking Scotland (STS).

Eight social enterprises from across Scotland have been announced as the latest participants in LaunchMe, Scotland’s social enterprise accelerator.

The startups selected include:

  • a farming academy
  • a gym and wellbeing service for parents
  • a zero-waste retailer and wholesaler
  • a riding school supporting hard to reach groups
  • a support and training programme for women starting businesses
  • a community permaculture farm in Arran
  • a hair salon providing training and employment opportunities to young people
  • an environmental consultancy delivering waste management, recycling and food production services

Delivered by Firstport, Scotland’s social enterprise start-up agency, LaunchMe supports ambitious social enterprises to achieve scale by getting them investment ready and directly connecting them with investors looking for social as well as financial returns.

In addition to initial seed funding, selected participants have the opportunity to apply for grant funding as co-investment to match any private investment they secure during the programme. 

LaunchMe is supported by the Scottish Government, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and Barclays bank. Previous participants include well-known social enterprises such as Locavore, Scotland’s first social enterprise supermarket, retailer the Scottish Design Exchange, tour company Invisible Cities and sandwich-shop chain Social Bite.

Josiah Lockhart, Chief Executive of Firstport, said: “This is the fifth intake into LaunchMe and, as with every previous round, we have been impressed and excited by the quality and ambition of the social enterprises that have applied. In the coming months, we will support these eight exciting propositions to get investment ready and connect them with our pool of social investors, so they can secure the capital they need to achieve their plans.

"LaunchMe participants from previous rounds have raised over £1m from private investment along with £1m of institutional and grant co-investment. We cannot wait to see what these participants go on to achieve!”

Sustainable Thinking Scotland CIC (STS) is an environmental social enterprise based in the Falkirk area. It delivers projects that encourage local sustainable food production, provides community-scale green waste recycling, and creates learning opportunities for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the area.

STS' Founders Sean Kerr and Stephen McQueen applied to LaunchMe after realising the potential to develop biochar as part of the Kinneil Recycling project. Biochar is a highly porous form of carbon obtained from baking wood within an oxygen-depleted environment and has the unique ability to draw and lock in nutrients and toxins from its environment.

Stephen McQueen, said: “We are ecstatic to have been selected onto LaunchMe. The programme will provide much-needed seed funding that will allow us to develop scientifically proven production and application methods, as well as getting ourselves investment-ready.”

Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, said: “Social enterprises are a vital part of our community and economy. They have a distinctive character and often play a role in preserving vital services such as community shops and transport, and creating employment opportunities.

"The Scottish Government is delighted to continue our support to Firstport, and the LaunchMe programme. These eight exciting, innovative schemes will work across a range of social issues and areas of business, across the country. I look forward to seeing them grow and thrive.”

Margaret McSporran, Head of Social Enterprise Development at HIE, said: “It is fantastic that social enterprises from the region have been selected to participate in LaunchMe. With 1,270 social enterprises in the Highlands and Islands and continuing to grow, they all have an important role in shaping rural communities including those facing population decline. We look forward to seeing how LaunchMe investment helps them develop projects and deliver a range of benefits for their rural community.”

Stuart Brown, Head of SME Scotland at Barclays, said: “Social enterprises are an increasingly important part of the economy, and they are bringing unique benefits to local communities right across the country. Barclays is passionate about supporting their growth, and we’re pleased to be working with Firstport and the LaunchMe programme to build on its continued success.”

To find out more about the participants and the programme, visit the Firstport website or watch this video. The next round of LaunchMe will open for applications later on this year.

Related campaign: 

The UK Social Entrepreneur Index is a celebration of social entrepreneurship across the UK. 

Open to social entrepreneurs tackling a social or environmental issue at any scale, entrants will act as beacons of inspiration for others to encompass positive social impact.

For more info visit

Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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