Spring has sprung, Dorset is looking beautiful in early bloom, the community enterprise development programme is getting a steady flow of enquiries and the first new enterprise has blossomed… how very seasonal.
I started this new and exciting role at the beginning of December last year, leading a 2-year project. Work has a focus on finding new ways to offer homecare and help at home to older and disabled people. Since I started, I have been out and about finding the local connectors and meeting the ‘can-do people’. Local communities have been very welcoming and expressed their pleasure and excitement of the possibilities that the programme brings.
Work started in the Sherborne Rural and Three Valleys areas of West Dorset and the Blackmore Vale and Winterbourne areas of North Dorset, where increasing the number and range of homecare and support options available to local people is seen as real priority.
I have been humbled and inspired by the amazing neighbourly and community spirit already very evident in these rural communities. Local people helping other local people. Whether it’s supporting each other to put out the bins, get shopping, do the garden or get to the local coffee morning or appointments. This neighbourly help is clearly valued, but there is an obvious need for a little more here and there, local people still helping others but this time for payment. Supports and services adding to and extending what friends and neighbours can offer for free. The kind of thing that local micro-enterprises are so very good at and the reason why I am so passionate about leading this programme.
So, I was pleased when I was contacted by Carole who wanted to use her skills and passion to help older people where she lives. We met regularly and worked together to help her and her new enterprise Creative Companions meet the ‘Doing It Right Standards’ which underpin all Community Catalysts work with micro-enterprises. The standards are designed to ensure that people running their own enterprise have everything in place to offer high quality support and to keep their customers safe. Carole is an experienced businesswoman with an empathetic and person-centred approach, and she embraced this new opportunity with both hands.
I’m really pleased to be working with Anita from Community Catalysts, she has been there as a sounding board for my ideas and when I was ready to make a start in developing my small business she was encouraging and objective. My business offers people day to day support such as help with shopping, planning and cooking meals, help with domestic administration and keeping the home tidy, we also can bring creative activities such as art, craft, gardening to people at home.
I am currently working with 11 people a bit like Carole, all very different and at different stages of their enterprise journey. Some are an a very early stage, working with me to explore an idea and beginning to talk through what this could mean for them and their customers. Others are already offering help to older and disabled people locally, perhaps providing help with personal care or other support in the home. With these people a lot of our conversations are about the importance of the standards and how to ensure the support they offer is of high quality.
As the programme develops the resources available to micro-enterprises in Dorset grows. It’s fantastic to have colleagues doing similar work in other areas of the UK able to recommend tools and resources that might be useful to people in Dorset. It is equally great to have made such strong local connections and have links with local businesses and organisations, able to offer advice to micro-enterprises and to support each other. Working together to share and overcome barriers.
I met with Gill recently, a Dorset woman who is really interested in setting up a micro-enterprise. Gill is keen to support people with gardening and other chores in the home, to help people to stay living in their communities. Her biggest fear was developing a website: the look of relief on her face when I said I could introduce her to someone who could help, made my day. In essence, that really is the key to my role, keeping things achievable, removing the barriers and smoothing the way for community minded, altruistic but entrepreneurial people to shine.
Dorset Community Enterprise Catalyst