One of the region’s best-known charities was the major winner at this year’s Social Enterprise West Midlands Awards after its pioneering new venture secured a ‘double triumph’.
Beacon Opticians Plus+, which provide optical healthcare, beat off a host of challengers to take home the SE Potential and SE Prima titles after impressing judges with the way it is competing with high street and independent opticians.
Just two months on from its official launch and the social enterprise has turned over £3500 in sales, completed 50 eye tests and offered people additional support and services through the Beacon Centre for the Blind in Sedgley.
Held at the University of Birmingham, the high-profile event also saw eight other social enterprises honoured for their commitment to the region, including a manufacturing assembly specialist, a creative youth engagement agency and an individual who champions getting ex-offenders back into employment.
Recognising Innovation in the West Midlands
Sallie Ryan, Partnerships Manager at Social Enterprise West Midlands (SEWM), commented:
“This is one of the biggest award ceremonies in our sector and it is only right that we recognise organisations, enterprises and individuals that are creating businesses that have a sustainable impact on the communities in which they operate.
“We had a record number of entries this year, showcasing tales of expansion, innovation, passion, community spirit and employee development. These are serious businesses, with clear strategies that are being delivered and helping to add wealth and jobs to the West Midlands.”
She continued: “Once again we have had a fantastic response from our supporters who make this event happen, including sponsors Amey, Big Society Capital, PwC, UnLtd, Development in Social Enterprise and the Enterprise Foundation.”
Other winners on the evening included:
- Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council’s Paul Smith (SE Partner) – Providing expert support and facilities to social enterprise start-ups.
- Beatfreeks (SE Passion) – An agency that uses creative arts to engage with and inspire young people.
- Nick Comley, Community First (SE Professional) – Providing expert advice to social enterprises in Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
- Production Assembly Services (SE Profit) – Providing assembly outsourcing services to the region’s manufacturers.
- Witton Lodge Community Association (SE Planet) – Enhancing the local environment by replacing sub-standard housing and organising gardening, walking and wildlife clubs.
- Changes UK (SE People) – Delivering innovative person-centred support for people seeking abstinent recovery from drugs and/or alcohol.
- Bill Longmore (SE Inspire) – Leading the West Mercia Police and Crime Commission’s approach to helping ex-offenders back into employment.
- PM Training (SE Aspire) – Demonstrating best practice in delivering apprenticeships and work placements
The final award on the evening went to the Social Enterprise ‘Moment of the Year’, which went to The Key Fund’s Sam Tarff for his involvement in the recent Pitcher’s Platform.
With the ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitch to a panel of finance and funding experts drawing a tie from the audience vote, the decision was made to award the £500 grant and social finance mentoring for 12 months to Green Revolutions.
Rather than see Approachable Parenting’s valiant efforts go unrewarded, Sam stepped in to match the offer.
Beacon Opticians Plus+’s Nick Comley concluded: “It was fantastic to be surrounded by some of the finest social enterprises in the West Midlands and even better that we came away with two of the main awards…just a couple of months after starting to trade.”
Social Enterprise West Midlands is the leading business network and consultancy for social enterprise in the region.
The membership-led organisation offers access to expert consultancy, advice and guidance, as well as a series of event and workshops designed to educate, inform and promote a sector that has the highest percentage of social enterprise start-ups outside of London in the country.
The SE Awards were backed by a host of sponsors, including Anthony Collins Solicitors, iSE, and Lister Trade Frames.