Social enterprise support

Social Start-Up School  

Do you have a great business idea which could positively impact your local community or environment? Want some help to get it off the ground?

Is it time for you to be part of the social business movement, joining over 5,500 social enterprises across Scotland which already trade to address social needs, to strengthen communities, to improve people’s lives and to protect the environment?

The Highlands and Islands is part of a new international programme offering dedicated help for anyone setting up a new social business.

Four social business start-up schools are being set up across the region. The first, in Sutherland is open for appliclications now. Others will be placed according to demand and are likely to be in the Outer Hebrides, Wester and Easter Ross.

Each social start-up school will run for an 18-month period, with the hub in operation 2-4 days a month, offering face-to-face workshops, seminars and physical space where participants can work on their ideas. There’ll be a virtual network between face-to-face sessions. Participation will require a commitment to the full programme.

Be Inspired

Social enterprises come in many shapes and sizes, and their value to communities is often multi-faceted. The Shieling Project teaches people the skills to live more sustainably from the land. Starting with a few voluntary directors and an idea it now has 10 part-time staff. It's revenue has grown from £3,000 in 2015, to £100,000 four years later. Download their story here or from the link to the left.

Our first School is in Sutherland  

Are you based in Sutherland? Our first start up school is starting soon and we'd love to meet anyone who might be interested in taking part. You don't have to have a fully formed idea, the start-up school will help you develop your idea and provide you with the skills and confidence to take it forward.

We've already had a huge amount of interest from across Sutherland, and are looking forward to our first cohort getting started. It's not too late to join them. 

Wester Ross Start-Up School

Are you based in Wester Ross? Our second start-up school is opening for applicants soon. If you are interested in hearing more contact us or apply below. More details to follow. 

Apply today

Can't make it to the taster but keen to know more?

The Start-Up Schools are part of the Support Network for Social Entrepreneurs, an Interreg North West Europe partnership project. The fully funded programme of support is being funded by Interreg North West Europe, run by HIE and delivered by the Social Enterprise Academy.

What support will be delivered through the Start-Up School?

  • Idea generation (Good Ideas Workshop, the Melting Pot)
  • Leadership skills
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Financial planning, pricing, investment, cash flow and resource management
  • Developing social business model
  • Links and introductions to wider sector support network

Support will be tailored to your individual needs and delivered in your local area, at times that suit your wider commitments.

Complete a short form to register interest and begin the application process.


If you would prefer to contact us with a video application, or you need support with the process you can get in touch here.

Contact us




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