TWO Kildare social enterprises shared a prize of €2,000 following a gruelling Dragon’s Den type competition as part of Co Kildare Leader Partnerships Kildare Social Enterprise Programme (KES).The best start up award went to Woolstock while Athy Boat Tours won the award for best existing social enterprise. Woolstock, based in Newbridge, promotes the benefits of wool as a natural, sustainable material in a wide range of industries and land to label transparency in wool products.
Athy Boat Tours offers boat tours, bike hire and canoe activities on and along the River Barrow and Grand Canal. Since last May participants on the specially devised programme received a wide range of skills and mentoring on business planning, finance and funding, marketing, communications as well as measuring social impact. They then promoted their services through a Dragons Den style pitch to identify the winners of the competition.
Speaking at the presentation of certificates Brian Kelly, Rural Development Manager with Kildare LEADER Partnership, said that the initiative, one of the first of its kind in Ireland, had proved successful beyond expectations. We now have a number of new or expanding community based initiatives throughout Kildare delivering products and services and sustaining and creating local jobs in the process.“We hope the proven success of the social enterprise model will encourage similar initiatives and we look forward to hearing from people and communities with ideas for development in their local area, “ he said.Paul O’Sullivan, CEO of Clann Credo Community Finance, said the diversity of the projects involved, including job creation, heritage, environmental care services and tourism, shows both the extent of gaps in products and services and the ability of local communities, with a some positive support, to help make a difference locally.The KES programme ran on evenings and Saturdays from May to November this year and was organised by Kildare LEADER Partnership in conjunction with Clann Credo Community Finance, Ireland’s leading provider of Community Loan Finance and the Irish Social Finance Centre.