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Ethical Enterprise
and Employment
(3xE) Network

Growing homeless
From practice to theory
and back again
2 Growing homeless entrepreneurs - From practice to theory and back again


Definitions........................................................................................................ 4
Different models............................................................................................... 5
Benefits of incubators...................................................................................... 5
Key development issues ................................................................................. 6
Common problems ........................................................................................ 6
Relevance of incubators for homeless entrepreneurs ....................................... 7
Case studies................................................................................................... 8
Further resources ......................................................................................... 11

3xE Network: helping the homeless sector

establish social enterprises to help homeless
people access work and skills
The Ethical Enterprise and Employment Infosheet
(3xE) Network is run by Crisis to bring This is the first in a series of infosheets that
together organisations using social enterprise 3xE is producing to capture and disseminate
and supported employment models, and learning from the Network. ‘Growing homeless
organisations working with unemployed people entrepreneurs’ is based on the learning and
who are homeless. 3xE works in partnership experience gained from a series of visits to best
with social enterprise infrastructure organisations practice incubators and a seminar held by 3xE.
throughout England to improve take up of their The overview has been produced by Adrian
services by homelessness sector organisations. Ashton, an expert on business incubators.
3xE also funds a variety of support services
specially tailored to the needs of homelessness Many homelessness sector organisations have
sector organisations to enable them to start or grappled with clients’ difficulties in getting back to
further develop social enterprises or supported work: setting up their own business is a flexible
employment schemes. The 3xE Network is option, but will they have the skills, confidence
funded by the Big Lottery Basis programme. and staying power needed? A business incubator
with support can provide just that.
4 Growing homeless entrepreneurs - From practice to theory and back again

Growing homeless entrepreneurs

From practice to theory and back again
This overview of business incubators is based on a presentation by Adrian Ashton
( at the EcoHub in Southend-on-Sea in July 2010 for 3xE.

Incubators for enterprises are defined by UKBI, the national trade association for
business incubators as:

“providing SMEs and start-ups with the ideal location to

develop and grow their businesses, offering everything
from virtual support, rent-a-desk through to state of the art
laboratories and everything in between. They provide direct
access to hands-on intensive business support, access to
finance and expertise and to other entrepreneurs and suppliers
to really help businesses and entrepreneurs to grow – faster.”

They can therefore be seen to take many forms, but ultimately an incubator offers
a physical space and facilities from which an enterprise may begin to trade, and
non-physical support services to increase the success of the start-up enterprise:
advice, training and signposting. Through these non-physical services, incubators
often also support a number of additional enterprises which are not physically
housed within them.

Different models that the distinction between work and home is

In the main, incubators are modeled in one of becoming blurred for many lifestyle entrepreneurs,
four ways: this model seeks to support entrepreneurs in a
‘whole person’ way through also supporting their
1. ‘Hub and spoke’ - a central building exists which personal need for accommodation
offers all the core services available to tenants and
other enterprises using their non-physical services, 4. ‘Piggy back’ - given the costs associated with
and is linked to a number of ‘satellite’ buildings. the development of incubator facilities, some are
These satellites will usually be unserviced, offer developed within larger facilities. Such instances
smaller rooms, but share an IT network with include universities who, through refurbishment of
the ‘hub’ through internet, phone and possibly buildings, have begun to offer incubation to their
video connections. They are most common in graduate entrepreneurs.
remote, rural areas where it is impractical to offer
a fully-serviced facility in all conurbations due to Benefits of incubators
insufficient demand in each locality. Incubator facilities offer benefits to two main
groups – the individual entrepreneurs, and the
2. ‘Hybrid’ - incubators tend to be focused on wider local economy:
supporting a particular type of thematic enterprise,
for example young people or digital technologies. For the individual entrepreneur, they gain access
A hybrid model deliberately sets out to ensure to a supportive peer group of like minded people,
a mixture of tenants and users of its services and become part of a community that offers them
to encourage the wider business community to access to various types of support. And research
benefit from its services, rather than focusing shows that through this supportive environment,
support on stimulating a single type of business their businesses are three times more likely to
within it. succeed than they might have otherwise.

3. Integrated housing - while incubators have For the wider local economy, incubators have
traditionally focused on housing new enterprises been found to directly support an average of 30
only, newer models are being created that offer enterprises, with a further 150 being supported
housing for workers as well (although Emmaus through their associated services, and that
communities have been offering work and through the support to these businesses 167
accommodation for many years). In recognising full-time jobs are created and sustained.

Above left: Social Enterprise Coalition, image:

Steve Forrest
Above right: Farming For All
6 Growing homeless entrepreneurs - From practice to theory and back again

Key development issues Common problems

In developing incubator facilities, a number of There are a number of challenges and problems
approaches can be taken depending on the type that incubators experience and it is useful to
of model being adopted. Regardless of model know what these are before developing a new
though, there are two key issues to consider: facility to ensure that they can be accounted for
from the outset:
1) Ensuring that there will be a sustained interest
and demand for facilities and services being • Financing - not just raising the finance required
offered into the future – this means understanding for the initial start-up costs of the facility, but
not just the current needs of local businesses, also supporting its cash-flow during periods
but their future needs and those of aspiring where tenancy rates (and therefore rental
entrepreneurs who are yet to develop and launch incomes) may be low, to allow for discounts to
their enterprises; be offered to incoming enterprises, to support
salary and maintenance costs and so on;
2) That there is sufficient interest and support
able to be offered by other agencies and • ‘Move on’ - the premise of any incubator is
providers to the future tenants and users around that it supports an enterprise to form, grow,
business support services. but that the enterprise then ultimately ‘moves
on’ having been nurtured and able to support
itself, so that others may benefit from the
facility. However, due to the supportive culture
and environment of incubators, many tenants
are reluctant to move out;

• Common areas - incubators have a number

of shared facilities including kitchen space
and it is usually around how different tenants
use (and leave) these facilities that causes the
most problems; and,

• Access and infrastructure - it should be borne in

mind that not all entrepreneurs will be able, or want
to, drive. There should therefore be adequate
access to public transport links as well as parking
facilities for those that do wish to.

Relevance of incubators for • Supportive peer network - from like minded

homeless entrepreneurs entrepreneurs who all wish to see each other
Given the above, incubator facilities can be seen succeed and not be satisfied with simply
to potentially offer a number of significant benefits maintaining the ‘status quo’ of their life and
to homeless entrepreneurs: situation.

• A dedicated space to focus the mind - hostels • Challenge perceptions about homeless
and other temporary accommodation are entrepreneurs through having a mix of
usually full of distractions and offer limited tenants - there is often a great stigma attached
storage facilities that may be needed by a to being homeless and offering a public
start-up enterprise. space that allows homeless entrepreneurs
to showcase themselves to the wider
• Flexible terms and support all in one place - business community (fellow tenants and
homeless support agencies are usually other users of services) will go a long way
fragmented by location and difficult to access to challenge others’ perceptions about the
outside of pre-arranged times: having business abilities of people who are homeless.
support services available on-site through the
incubator encourages entrepreneurs by their
having access to help ‘on tap’.

Opposite left: Manchester Ceramics;

opposite right: Open Cinema
Above left: Create Leeds, image: Mark Skeet;
above right: Emmaus
8 Growing homeless entrepreneurs - From practice to theory and back again

Case Studies encourage a mix of individuals, projects and skills

St Mungos so that people can learn from each other.
St Mungo’s offers a range of services to homeless
people, including advice on setting up and running There are undeniably challenges. The cost of
a business. However, the organisation recognised renting in London is high and the more successful
that once back in the hostel or at home there was the centre is the more space will be needed. The
little support to help people build their business. centre is only open on weekdays, which limits
They were missing opportunities to network with access to workshops and storage.
other businesses and were restricted by a lack of
storage space or room to be creative. However, the space offers a secure, supportive
and productive working environment. In its
One solution was to develop a space which first year of operation Squeaky Chains trained
people could work out of to build an enterprise. in bike maintenance ten people affected by
St Mungo’s had un-used space in its basement, homelessness, many of who had no interest
which with the help of volunteers was transformed in bikes before. Two have gone into related
into a suitable workspace. employment, three have achieved City and Guild
qualifications and others continue to volunteer in
The first residents were Squeaky Chains, a social the workshop training new recruits.
enterprise set up in October 2009 to repair old
bikes to sell. The space is provided free of charge, The aim is to continue to build the centre to offer
and in return Squeaky Chains provide one day of space to more businesses and social enterprises.
training to clients each week. St Mungo’s provides
business support when requested, but the project
leader is given independence to pursue his ideas
and establish rules for his volunteers and trainees.
For St Mungo’s this is an important part of what the
business incubator offers: to demonstrate trust in
individuals and encourage independence.
Contact details
Other groups have since set up within the space, Colin Vint,
on a full or part-time basis dependent on their Business Start-Up Coach.
needs. The centre aims to provide an opportunity Tel 020 7902 7951
for anybody tackling homelessness and to Email

Pop-up Business Incubator: Aspirations The pilot programme has attracted over 20
In 2004, Aspire Support UK was launched to people, 17 of whom have graduated the course,
support the network of social enterprises working keen to carry on with their business idea. They
under the Aspire name. It became a registered will continue to receive mentoring from Aspire’s
charity in 2006 and is now exploring and Business Development Manager. The Pop-up
developing new opportunities for spreading and Business Incubator will be repeated as and
embedding the core Aspire model of transforming where needed.
lives through enterprise and employment. Aspire
Support UK became Aspire Foundation in 2008.

The charity hopes to help homeless and

disadvantaged people start their own successful
businesses. Working with a network of the
capital’s homeless charities, Aspire Foundation Contact details
runs a series of courses in business development Paul Funnell
around London. Business Development Manager
Tel: 0207 921 4448
Successful entrepreneurs with real life experience Email:
of starting and running a business present six
day-workshops on: researching your market,
raising money to start your business, where to
run your business from, starting up legally (red
tape), who to ask for help, information, finance
and support, business planning, sales and
marketing alongside managing the risks.

Opposite: Squeaky Chains workshop

at St Mungo’s
Above: Aspire Foundation
10 Growing homeless entrepreneurs - From practice to theory and back again

Wandsworth Youth Enterprise WYEC then offers a programme for young

Since 1988 Wandsworth Youth Enterprise entrepreneurs to support them in the first two
Centre (WYEC), based in Tooting, London, has years of running and establishing a new business,
been supporting young people aged 17-30 including a business counselling service, skills
to develop business ideas and start up their workshops, training courses and managed
own businesses. Their mission is ‘to increase workspaces. The centre has developed a £2.7
economic activity and promote entrepreneurial million business centre in Tooting to provide
behaviour among young people within income for the charity’s work and to provide
disadvantaged communities’. move-on space for young people moving from
WYEC’s incubator space.
WYEC’s is a four step model which begins
with the Business Launchpad, an outreach Since being established WYEC has supported
project that uses a range of methods to engage over 5,000 young people and seen more than
young people onto their business training and 500 businesses started. The centre has a high
counselling programme. The next stage is for survival rate of young businesses with 85-90
those who are interested in setting up a business per cent trading after two years.
to attend an interactive, introductory workshop.
At step three those who have decided to stay on
to explore setting up a business, become clients
and receive one-to-one assessment.

Contact details
Wandsworth Youth Enterprise Centre
Trident Business Centre
89 Bickersteth Road
London, SW17 9SH

Toyin Dania,
Business Counselling and Training Manager
Tel: 020 8516 7700

Further resources Online
• Find details of how to apply for FREE 3xE • UKBI -
Membership and FREE 3xE services • Development Trusts Association -
• Find 3xE Members’ Directory
• Read case studies of homeless social • Asset Transfer Unit -
enterprises and learn the lessons of their • Workhubs Network -
• Find policy documents about social enterprise Find help in your region from regional
• Find business planning guidance and tools social enterprise infrastructure bodies:
• Add your product or service to the supply- • North East
chain pages • South East
• Find links to other helpful sites • West Midlands
• East of England
Other • East Midlands
• CAN Guide: How to Mezzanine • South West
• Cluster Policy: Issues for Social Enterprise, • Yorkshire & Humberside
Bob Allan • North West
• Benchmarking Framework for Business • London
Incubation, 2003, UKBI
• Feasibility study for a regional flagship
incubator in Cambridge for Co-operative and
Social Enterprises, 2003, Adrian Ashton
• Research report on establishing a dedicated
Community Enterprise incubator in
Cambridgeshire, 2003, Adrian Ashton
• Mosques on stilts, rhubarb plantations,
and time share printing presses – Future
opportunities and needs for workspace in
Burnley, 2007, Adrian Ashton
• Workhubs – smart work spaces for a low
carbon economy, 2010, Workhubs Network
For further copies of this
document, contact:

3xE Network
66 Commercial Street
London, E1 6LT
Tel 020 7426 8500

Registered Charity Numbers:

E&W1082947, SC040094.

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