SCOTLAND’S social enterprise development agency Firstport has welcomed a £3 million investment by the Scottish Government into its programme to find and support social entrepreneurs, such as Glasgow's MILK Cafe.

Funding for the Social Entrepreneurs Fund will double to £1m for each of the next three years and, delivered by Firstport, it offers grants and business support to help people who want to set up a business with a social or environmental purpose turn their ideas into a viable venture.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance announced the funding boost yesterday while launching the government’s first-ever Social Enterprise Action Plan on a visit to the MILK Cafe in Govanhill, Glasgow.

The cafe, which provides employment, training and support for ethnic minority women in Glasgow, was launched in 2015 by Angela Ireland and Gabby Cluness with £3900 seed capital from the Social Entrepreneurs Fund and business support from Firstport. MILK has been awarded a further £25,000 this month to expand and employ more staff.

MILK provides a safe, supportive environment where ethnic minority women are given valuable opportunities to gain appropriate skills, work experience, confidence and resources to move on into employment. Support includes help with English language, personal development, form filling and interview skills.

Karen McGregor, chief executive of Firstport, said: “Social entrepreneurship has a proven ability to tackle problems and transform lives and communities. Firstport supports an average of three people a day to take their first steps into social enterprise and has invested in over 800 social entrepreneurs.

“We warmly welcome the action plan and are delighted that the Scottish Government is doubling its investment in the Social Entrepreneurs Fund. Combined with Firstport’s free business advice and resources, this will enable us to boost the number of social enterprises throughout Scotland even further.”

The government’s action plan follows the publication of Scotland’s Social Enterprise Strategy, aimed at growing the sector over the next decade. Scotland has more than 5000 social enterprises – businesses that reinvest profits to address important issues like homelessness, unemployment or climate change – with 200 new enterprises starting up every year.

Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, said: “Scotland’s social enterprises are all about empowering communities and being a catalyst for change.

“They also employ more than 100,000 people and contribute around £1.86 billion to our economy each year, so they make a significant economic contribution as well.

“Businesses like the MILK Cafe – offering a safe space for ethnic minority women to gain work experience, improve their English skills and integrate locally – show the huge difference a social enterprise can make in their local community.”

MILK co-founder Angela Ireland said she was delighted how well the cafe was doing and that Firstport had given them a lot of support in setting up the business and by giving them new funding to take on staff.

Constance also met Glasgow social entrepreneurs Fiona MacNeil of Gilded Lily and Selina Hales of Refuweegee at the event.