New business acquisition ensures that charity continues to thrive
Like many charities, Port Talbot and Afan Women’s Aid relies on social business activities to generate income. In 2017 the trustees decided to set up a trading arm and in 2019, with help from Social Business Wales, it was able to purchase an existing private business which will give it a sustainable income for years to come.
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Port Talbot and Afan Women’s Aid (PTAWA) provides support to families who have been affected by Domestic Abuse, enabling them to rebuild their lives. Although a member of Welsh Women’s Aid, PTAWA is an independent registered charity and company limited by guarantee. It is responsible for the maintenance of all its own income, whether from statutory or charitable bodies, donations or trading activity.
In 2017, PTAWA set up its own social business trading arm, Thrive Group Wales. The company has pursued various commercial opportunities, including catering services on construction sites and cleaning contracts. However, the short-term nature of these contracts meant it was difficult to forecast income and plan for growth. The Board decided to look at alternative options which could generate a sustainable, steady income and provide full-time jobs for the women supported by PTAWA and the wider community.
Thrive Group Wales identified a business opportunity in purchasing an existing private indoor play centre business, but it needed help to assess the business case and prepare for a period of growth. Manager Karen Todd approached Social Business Wales for support with the purchase.
SBW provided the Thrive team with a wide-ranging package of support. Firstly, they received advice on the financial potential of the targeted acquisition, financial profiling and business planning to ensure it was a viable opportunity. The team also needed HR advice around transferring existing employees at the play centre. SBW specialists then provided financial advice, especially on VAT implications, and referred the organisation through to a number of funding providers. Finally, SBW set up a peer-to-peer mentoring relationship with established social business Fern Partnership.
The support provided by SBW established a good business case, and assisted the organisation to negotiate terms and secure funding to allow the purchase to proceed. The HR advice means that local people previously employed at the play centre on variable terms and with no contracts will get more secure and sustainable employment. In addition, the relationship created with Fern Partnership will hopefully reduce the risk of problems in the future.
Manager of Thrive Group Wales, Karen Todd, said:
“Taking on a new venture and going into a period of growth is daunting for any business. People often forget that as a social business we have multiple stakeholders and we can’t just go to the bank like sole traders or private businesses. We are accountable to our community and board members and I cannot stress enough the importance of having sound and accurate business advice during this critical stage.
“People often underestimate the importance of good business advice and the role it plays in making a business successful or not. Hand on heart, I can say that without the help and support of Social Business Wales, Thrive certainly would not be where it is today. The help and advice that was given was outstanding.
“The information from SBW enabled the board to measure the risks of taking on this business; ranging from HR implications of TUPE, to understanding the operational pressures of the charity, from the mentoring relationship, to the VAT and financial implications. Additionally the specific guidance around governance from our Business Advisor Carl was exemplary and gave the directors confidence that this was the right decision.
“I will certainly be shouting out on the rooftops about what Social Business Wales is doing to help social businesses like ours. I hope that one day Carl will be calling on us to mentor others, who we can share our experience with.”
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