Innovative Gloucestershire-based social enterprise SoFab Sports receives second £100,000 investment from the Resonance South West Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) Fund, enabling it to expand its warehouse space and take on new employees.
Resonance has worked with SoFab since October 2019, when £100,000 was invested into the social enterprise from the South West SITR Fund, to help the team with their work with young adults with learning disabilities to build life and employment skills, confidence, and self-esteem. The support SoFab provides these young adults is made possible primarily through its employment opportunities in its online sportswear and sports equipment retail business.
During early 2020 SoFab had already successfully made the transition to being an almost entirely online sportswear ‘shop’ before the COVID-19 pandemic started, selling its products via eBay and other similar platforms. However, it still experienced significant additional costs to its operations requiring new investment in the form of blended finance - the new SITR investment - plus an Access emergency COVID-19 grant.
The new £100,000 investment will support the steadily growing business purchase more stock, fully concentrate on online sales and expand its warehousing space. This will make it a more COVID-safe space for its team, including individuals with physical and learning disabilities, such as cerebral palsy who will be able to socially distance in their new larger, accessible warehouse. The investment will also enable the business to store more stock as well as also help to mitigate ongoing risk to their income in the near term.
Along with this, more part-time job opportunities for people with learning disabilities will be created thanks to the investment. Nationally, only 5.6%* of people with a learning disability are in work, so SoFab is providing much-needed employment opportunities for disadvantaged young people to gain vocational qualifications and experience, providing them with a platform for future mainstream employment.
And whilst the Cotswolds is often viewed as a fairly affluent region, the reality is that it is one of the worst areas in England for social mobility – ranked 268 out of 324 local authorities in England (2017), and is the second-worst area in the country when it comes to opportunities for young people born into disadvantaged backgrounds, according to the State of the Nation 2018-19 report** from the Social Mobility Commission. End Child Poverty*** has also reported that 18.7% of children in Gloucestershire/The Cotswolds are living in poverty – that’s one in every three children in some areas.
Chris Rawlins, CEO and Co-founder of SoFab, enthusiastically breaks down how the new investments will impact their social enterprise: “The new Resonance finance consisted of two elements. The first, a SITR loan of £100,000 enables our social enterprise to continue its four-year exponential growth trend through increasing stock variety, adding warehouse capacity and increasing our sales team when the situation allows.
The second element, a COVID Support grant, enabled us to secure the larger warehouse earlier than planned, enabling us to ensure social distancing for our vulnerable personnel. Our staff stopped working in March but were retained on full pay. We decided not to use the furlough as the complication would be an unnecessary worry in their already complex lives. Most returned to work in October, but the most vulnerable have remained at home. The grant also enabled us to install stairlifts, maintaining our inclusive principles and giving all our staff unrestricted access to all areas of the new warehouse.
This has been an exceptional year for all businesses, and whilst some have struggled others have prospered. We have all been in the same storm but in very different boats. Exponential growth in our business requires more stock and increased infrastructure to support it. This has only been possible with the unflinching support of impact investors.”
Katalin Juhász, Investment Manager at Resonance, said: “I am so pleased to see the continued growth of SoFab Sports and its transformative impact on adults with learning disabilities, providing them with employment, life skills, and opportunities to fulfill their potential.
“During a challenging year, it has been a pleasure working with the SoFab team as they have expanded, utilizing the most of the original £100,000 SITR loan in October 2019. So I am delighted Resonance has been able to continue to support SoFab in its growth trajectory by providing a mix of blended finance – an Access COVID-19 emergency grant and a new £100,000 SITR loan – which, combined, will enable SoFab to continue to strengthen as an organisation, whilst creating even more opportunities for people with disabilities.”
So, what started as a family business has now transformed into a social enterprise in high demand, creating opportunities for young adults with learning disabilities. And with this new investment, the team at SoFab can look optimistically into the future.
About Social Investment Tax Relief
Resonance’s South West SITR Fund provides a vital support scheme for social enterprises and charities that are working hard to improve vulnerable people’s lives in our communities across the country, providing solutions to some of their region’s most significant social problems, including:
The Fund has pioneered the use of Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) which was introduced in 2015, which simultaneously lowers the cost of loans for enterprises and enables the potential for competitive returns to investors. This important source of subsidy to the social enterprise sector is currently under threat – read more in our Save SITR Call for Action article.
Resonance also operates a SITR Fund in the West Midlands
For more information about investing in our SITR Funds click here
If you’re a social enterprise based in the South West or West Midlands and are looking for investment click here
SITR has enabled many outstanding and crucial social enterprises to access the investment they need to grow on an unsecured and affordable basis. The majority of these organizations would not have been able to secure this support had it not been for SITR. Unfortunately, though, SITR will be retired by April this year, meaning that other social enterprises in desperate need of investment in order to grow, will be unable to benefit from its vital tax relief. To remove this tax relief that benefits the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, without any replacement in place, would be incredibly damaging - both directly to social enterprises and the people they support. This is particularly detrimental at a time when social enterprises and charities are on the frontline, with staff and volunteers risking their own lives to help others through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
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Resonance Limited is a company registered in England and Wales no. 04418625
Resonance Impact Investment Limited, a subsidiary of Resonance Limited, is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Firm number 588462.
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