Social businesses thrive as loan fund hits record high

spit & sawdust

We share relevant third party stories on our website. This release was written and issued by Wales Council for Voluntary Action.

The Wales Micro-Business Loan Fund set up by the Welsh Government to support small and medium sized enterprises has recorded the highest amount of investment in Wales’ social enterprises since the scheme began.

The £6 million fund is managed by the Development Bank of Wales, with a £1 million social element managed by WCVA's Social Investment Cymru team. 

During the quarter ending June 2018, the WCVA recorded the most loans drawn for social enterprises since the beginning of the programme, with no arrears or 'bad' debts and the portfolio of loan recipients at a record high. This means more money being used for social good in the business sector than ever before. 

Spit & Sawdust

Spit & Sawdust skatepark and community café and art space opened in east Cardiff in 2014. As the first successful applicant to the Wales Micro-Business Loan Fund they secured £20,000 in start-up investment to help get the enterprise running, which was the maximum loan available at the time. The park was a roaring success in its first year, surpassing its annual target of 13,000 annual visitors. 

Four years of hard graft later, Spit & Sawdust now have four full-time staff, a rolling programme of events, offer services such as the Skate Rats summer club for children, and host a monthly female-only evening. 

One of their recent projects (run in partnership with Tros Gynnal Plant with funding from the Millennium Stadium Charitable Trust) offered free skateboarding lessons for asylum seekers and refugees from the local area, with a meal included afterwards. 

The café itself has also attracted a lot of good press, serving ethically and locally sourced homemade food which draws foodies from across Cardiff and beyond. 

As part of their art programme they run regular life drawing sessions, as well as a programme of exhibitions and events, with funding from Arts Council of Wales

'As a non-profit our main priority is to give something back to the community. It's been very rewarding watching people of all ages discover skating here, make friends and being part of something,' says Director Nia Metcalfe, 'without WCVA and the funding from the Wales Micro-Business Loan Fund opening Spit & Sawdust would not have been possible, so we are extremely grateful for their support.' 

Glyn Wylfa 

The latest project to receive a loan is Glyn Wylfa in Chirk, Wrexham, a café and visitor centre based near the beautiful Chirk Aqueduct and Viaduct. 

The building was acquired through community asset transfer and then underwent extensive renovation by the social enterprise, who turned it into a community hub and café, housing the local police station with meeting space for local charities and interest groups, and private office space. 

Glyn Wylfa now employ 11 people from the surrounding area in the café and estimate that more than 35,000 people visited the premises during the last year. 

One of the most lucrative arms of the enterprise is renting the excess office space to local enterprises and community organisations. Glyn Wylfa received £40,000 from the Micro-Business loan fund to renovate another area of the building so that they could accommodate the growth of one of the tenants and help retain the rental income and the tenant's 14 employees. This also freed up the existing space to more potential tenants from their extensive waiting list. 

The build is now complete, and the tenants moved in on 17 August. 'It's been a long haul, but we're really pleased', says Brian Folley, Finance Director at Glyn Wylfa, 'the micro-business loan from WCVA contributed approximately 50% of the renovation build cost of the new office building. We are extremely pleased with the smooth loan application process and the help and assistance received.' 

Could you be next? 

'The two projects above are brilliant examples of the strength of the social business sector in Wales,' says Alun Jones, Head of Social Investment Cymru.

'Spit & Sawdust has clearly had a great deal of social impact in the area, and their progression shows that they have established a truly sustainable business model. They're willing to innovate and adapt to meet the needs of the community and work together with other organisations to do so.

'Glyn Wylfa have taken a derelict building and turned it into a vital centre for the community, a hub for tourists and a home for other community organisations and enterprises looking to work in the area. Their application saved 14 jobs and created space for even more in their offices.

'These two are far from being the only groups to have benefitted from investment in this way - we have numerous social enterprises making their mark in diverse fields across Wales, and I'm proud that we've helped make that possible with the Micro-Business loan fund.'

How the fund can help your business 

The fund can offer flexible loans to social businesses for the following: 

  • New equipment which could increase efficiency or production
  • Cash flow
  • Acquisition of small businesses
  • Purchasing stock
  • New premises
  • Adapting current premises 


More information on the Wales Micro-Business Loan Fund.