The Forward Trust’s Enterprise Fund

Jo Ritchie from the Forward Trust tells us about how their Enterprise Fund supports businesses run by those in recovery from addiction or by ex-offenders – including a new record label.

The Forward Trust, who empower people to break the often interlinked cycles of addiction or crime to move forward with their lives, have established the first social investment fund in the UK that is specifically focused on supporting businesses run by and creating employment for those in recovery from addiction or ex-offenders.

It’s called the Forward Enterprise Fund, and was launched in 2018 in partnership with Social Investment Business, one of the UK’s largest social investors, with access to £2 million of investment funds, and a further £600,000 to fund business support and match-funding for Crowdfunder campaigns. We aim to support up to 40 businesses over the next three years, and have already received 70 expressions of interest, and concluded deals for initial support with twelve businesses. Already, these entrepreneurs are busy working on their expansion plans and starting to coalesce into a network for personal and business support.

The Forward Trust's CEO, Mike Trace said 'Huge numbers of people in recovery or who have turned their backs on crime have succeeded in turning their lives around by setting up their own businesses – ranging from sole trader operations to significant trading entities. We have set up the Forward Enterprise Fund in order to stimulate the development of a greater number of these enterprises around the country by providing loan finance, business support and access to crowdfunding for ex-offenders or people in recovery with their own ideas.'

One such organisation who have taken up the opportunity with the Forward Enterprise Fund is We Are Not Saints – an independent record label dedicated to working with people with real talent who are in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

Chris De Banks is the founder of We Are Not Saints and is himself two and a half years in recovery, said: 'These people are amazing, talented, and often gifted musicians and songwriters who would surely have had promising careers in music if it wasn't for addiction. If they hadn't found themselves on that unfortunate path, they could very easily have been your favourite act, headlined your favourite festival, or featured on your favourite Spotify playlist.'

He continued, 'We Are Not Saints is about amazing music, world class talent, chances, and opportunities. If it wasn’t for funding from The Forward Trust’s Enterprise Fund and coaching from Crowdfunder, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to give our artists second chances and give you the opportunity to hear incredible music from an unseen world of creative talent.'

We are constantly on the lookout for new applications from those in recovery or ex-offenders who need help with access to finance, or who just need the right business advice delivered at the right time by people who understand the challenges they face.

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