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LARCH supports social enterprise’s purchase of building to secure future for small businesses

A social enterprise in Hartlepool providing space for small businesses is celebrating after being awarded funding to secure the building long-term. The Big League CIC has bought ‘Bovis House’, a prominent three-storey office building on Victoria Road, which used to house the Job Centre. This is thanks to LARCH (Local Access Redcar Cleveland Hartlepool and Key Fund Investments which provides developmental support and social investment for social enterprises.

The Big League CIC runs the Poolie Time Emporium project which supports local business owners from Bovis House, offering them one-to-one consultancy and low-cost business accommodation. The charitable organisation was launched as a Community Interest Company (CIC) in 2014, as a community-wide attempt to alleviate poverty and create job opportunities across Hartlepool and the Tees Valley.

The Big League CIC founder Ian Cawley (pictured above outside Bovis House), renovated and opened Bovis House in June 2020 as a space for smaller and start-up businesses to grow. The 16,000 sq. ft venue holds 28 units, all filled with small or start-up businesses within a month.

The building had laid dormant for nearly two decades, but now houses a range of businesses including a physiotherapist, accountancy firm, bespoke clothes manufacturers and a professional photography studio.

Ian said:
“During the pandemic we came across the Bovis site and we took it over as part of a long term ambition to create space for local businesses. We’re proud to now secure its future on a long term lease ownership agreement, made possible through part grant and part loan from the LARCH programme. This process began last July, in which we have been working away to meet requirements, ensure stability long term for the project and to guarantee as always our work in Hartlepool puts the people and their livelihoods first!

“Our aim for this purchase is to improve access to services and facilities for our local community, ensuring that we aim to maintain the facilities we have developed here for small independent businesses within our Town. We want to help their businesses to flourish and grow, as well as maintaining access to community businesses within Bovis House, and our very own Poolie Time Emporium, providing a low cost shopping experience to those who wish to utilise it.”

The LARCH project is a £4m enterprise development and investment programme, with Key Fund acting as the investment partner in Redcar & Cleveland and Hartlepool, hosted by the North East charity VONNE. It is one of only six areas in the UK to be chosen by its main funders Access Foundation for Social Investment and Big Society Capital, with further support of partners The Key Fund and Tees Valley Community Foundation.

LARCH’s aim is to tackle inequalities that may contribute to health, housing, employment or wellbeing, and is a unique opportunity to enable local charities or social enterprises to make more social impact in their communities. It provides access to enterprise development support, blended repayable finance (known as social investment), or financial support to develop growing enterprises and earned income streams within existing VCS organisations.

Neta Kaur-Brown, Manager of LARCH said:

‘We are extremely proud to be working with The Big League CIC, a shining example of a mission led social enterprise, providing valuable support and services needed by people and organisations in its communities. With this focus they have understood the need to secure Bovis House, to continue to provide an affordable space for business growth in Hartlepool. This secures stability for the many social enterprises within it, whilst also delivering charitable services from Poolie Time Exchange. 

“Working closely with The Big League CIC, LARCH provided enterprise development funds alongside social investment from investment partner Key Fund for the purchase of Bovis House.

“Our ongoing partnership with The Big League CIC, has meant they continue to help LARCH by mentoring other social enterprises and sharing their expertise on all aspects of social business.”

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