The Mission

Other case studies

What were the reasons and purpose for setting up the social enterprise?

There has been an enormous amount of change to the 3rd sector, and whilst there is increasing pressure on charities and voluntary organisations to deliver more services to vulnerable and disadvantaged people, there is less and less funding available.

We hope that developing a social enterprise will enable us to carry on with our mission as a charity (which in short is to enable and empower local communities) whilst making a profit through a business with a social purpose.

The Somer Valley is a complex area, encompassing a number of towns and villages with coal mining and industrial pasts. There has been a lot of change in these areas, and there are specific communities who have become isolated due to issues such as long term unemployment and low skill levels. We want to be able to support these communities by offering them opportunities to meet and to play together.

How did you start putting your idea into action? eg business planning etc

 We developed our idea by conducting external analysis of the local areas we work in, as well as an internal review of our services and skills. Once we had identified the areas of need and where we wanted to work, we developed a number of project/business ideas.

After this phase we began trialling our ideas through short, grant funded pilot projects; this commenced about a year ago. The pilot projects helped us to hone our ideas and identify what we feel will work best within our local communities, both to fulfill our social purpose and to make a profit.

Around a year ago we developed a Strategic Business Plan which identified key markets, customers and services and since then we have obtained additional grant funding to provide us with the time to develop our business. I have developed an outline business plan for our BIG IDEA as well as liaised with some local businesses about our idea.

Since then I attended the University of Bath’s Startup Bootcamp where I was supported to develop our Social Business Canvas and have gone on to develop a Risk Register. I am hoping to continue onto the next stage of the programme where I will be supported to develop a more detailed business plan.

How did you let people and potential clients/customers know what you were doing and market your organisation?

So far we have discussed our ideas with specific people within the local communities we work in. These include St John’s Foundation and Midsomer Norton Town Mayor, Paul Meyers, who has been very supportive of our endeavours.

Our pilot projects over the summer, as well as involvement in the Community Matters Research project with University of Bath and South West Foundation is helping us to explore the needs of specific communities in the Somer Valley. This, combined with our involvement in the Action Against Child Poverty Steering Group has helped to raise the profile of the areas we work in and the needs of the people within those areas.

We plan to develop a more ‘formal’ steering group of community members and interested parties to support the development of the business going forward. The plan is to have members from all stakeholder groups to ensure that our business reflects the needs of the community it works within.

How did the Startup Bootcamp help you to develop your business/strategy etc?

I found the first day of the bootcamp enormously challenging, but it gave me a true gift. I have been able to make a great deal of progress in a short period of time due to the focus on the entrepreneurial mindset and the understanding that the course gave me.

In addition to this, there are the tools I now have available to use going forward to develop the ideas, as well as the inspirational experience of meeting fellow would-be and actual social entrepreneurs.

The experience of the course has given me the confidence to push forward with our original plan, and I am well under-way with updating all aspects of the Social Business Canvas. Having a short, visual form of business plan has helped to clarify our ideas and enabled me to communicate them clearly to potential stakeholders.

What are your long- term goals for your organisation and aims for the future?

 Next year, Wansdyke Play Association (WPA) will have been providing free play services supporting the needs of BANES communities for 25 years, and we want to make sure we will be here supporting local communities in another 25 years!

Our aim for the immediate future is to ensure we still meet the needs our local communities, and to build capacity within the organisation to address the increasing and acute needs within these communities.

In the medium to long term our aim is to develop a successful social enterprise business, which will provide a self-sustaining funding stream for the organisation. If we do this successfully, we will be able to develop the organisation strategically, sustainably and in a clear, structured and considered manner for the future.

What do you do in your spare time?

As I have a 4 year-old and a 6 year-old the concept of ‘spare’ time is quite an alien one!! I love spending time with my family, taking my children to their various activities, visiting the local parks and sea-side resorts and occasionally joining in with some activities on my newly acquired roller skates!!

I am also Chairperson of a village pre-school so I am heavily, but willingly, involved in the running of that organisation and the challenges facing pre-school education.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of setting up their own social enterprise?

Go for it!! Don’t be afraid of failure or judgement as each mistake or wrong turn you make will help you understand the direction you need to take to achieve success. Passion for your social purpose will carry you through the challenges.

Personally, I worried that all the Social Entrepreneurs and Academics would be very intimidating, but they have all been truly inspiring and very supportive. There is a lot of advice available to you if you want it, so seek it out and have a go.

 Would you recommend the Startup Bootcamp support to others and why?

I would definitely recommend the bootcamp to people. I feel that what I gained from the workshops was quite different from the other attendees in many ways. Although, in my career, I initially came from a very commercial background, for the last four years I have been thoroughly embedded in the charity sector, focused on the needs of beneficiaries in deprived areas.

One of the major things I took away from the bootcamp workshops was the ability to step outside the problems our beneficiaries face and think differently, ‘entrepreneurially’, in order to form solutions address those problems.

Supported social business:

Wansdyke Play Association

Interview with Business Development Officer - Stacey Pottinger

"We have some exciting plans and we are that crucial stage where we can get out of working in the spare room and progress into an office space. It can be a very rewarding experience, however it won’t be without problems, so make sure you have everything as well organised as possible before you start."

Urban Car Spa

Jonny Rees-Davies - Business Support  2017

"It is a great opportunity for individuals or start-ups to gain support when they are still subject to external influence. We found the experience invaluable, as it helped to focus our plans for the future substantially."

Food Drop 

Everest and Miranda - Startup Bootcamp March 2017

Home / Case Study - Wansdyke Play Association

Wansdyke Play Association (WPA) works with local communities and organisations to develop and deliver free community play services as well as providing one-to-one and small group support for children with additional needs and those struggling with behavioural, social and emotional challenges. We work across BaNES and the Mendips with a particular focus In fulfilling the needs of targeted communities in the Somer Valley. In the last two years, we looked at how the 3rd sector was changing, and specifically how children and family services were adapting. 

There are less and less preventative and early intervention services available so we decided that we needed to think about doing things differently both for our beneficiaries and for our organisation. Having made that decision, we thought about what we wanted to do and decided that any business we run must be something which will support the people of the Somer Valley who are facing isolation. We also knew the idea needed to sit within our expertise and therefore must be related to play and community development.

Find out more and apply for the Social Enterprise and Innovation Startup Bootcamp or Business Incubation