A social entrepreneur, who is severely deaf, has set up a unique new scallop processing plant in Dumfries and Galloway to create jobs for the long term unemployed, support the local fishing industry and increase the availability of UK caught shellfish in local restaurants and shops.Geoff Tunstall, launched not-for-profit Scallops Direct in Annan with £20,000 backing from the Glasgow-based ethical lender DSL Business Finance which specialises in providing micro-finance for small firms which can’t get money from the bank.
Scallops direct now employs eight people and hopes to take on more in the near future.
The business processes fresh scallops caught by local fishermen for supply to restaurants, hotels and businesses within a reasonable radius to Annan as well as the wholesale fish markets.
As a social enterprise Scallops Direct, puts society before profit and aims to create a sustainable company which will have a positive impact on the local community by helping people who are disadvantaged and far from the labour market.
Scallops Direct is also re-introducing traditional hand “shucking” skills to the area which were almost lost when the scallops processing industry left the area 20 years ago.
Geoff states that around 80 per cent of shell fish are exported to other countries and very little ends up in shops and restaurants in Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Geoff, who has been involved in setting up social enterprises for around15 years, is also Director of not-for-profit Borders Social Enterprise Ltd which creates jobs and training opportunities for people who are long term unemployed and struggle to get back into the labour market.
In order to raise the cash he needed to set-up Scallops Direct, Geoff turned to DSL which runs a £1.5 million loan fund for social enterprises, charities, and small and start-up businesses.
Not-for-profit firms can borrow up to £50,000 for DSL’s Social Enterprise Fund.
Under the Government scheme, the Enterprise Finance Guarantee, DSL can also give loans to small and start-up firms even if they have been turned down by the banks, have no security or their idea is considered “high risk”.
As DSL is also social enterprise it does not distribute profits but instead uses any money it makes to help other social enterprise and small firms to create jobs and investment, especially in disadvantaged areas
Geoff and his co-director, Siobhan Hoare at Scallops Direct, who do not take a salary out of the business, anticipate that turnover will be £180,000 in the first 12 months of trading and double that for 2012-2013.
Commenting on his latest venture Geoff said: “: We sell high quality scallops caught locally from a named boat and within 24 hours these are hand chucked, cleaned and packaged at our processing plant in Annan. They can be supplied washed in the shell, freshly packed, frozen and in the half shell.
“Unemployment in the surrounding area of Annan is quite high especially with the de-commissioning of the nearby Chapple Cross Power station. We want to develop training and employment opportunities for disadvantaged adults and help local fishermen obtain a fairer price for their catch.
“We have been approached by a number of local small fishermen to process their scallops as they don’t have the economies of scale to deliver to the big processors.
“I’ve been involved in setting up a number of social enterprises over the years. Although I have always tried to be positive and not get let my deafness get in the way of my career and my life, I probably empathize with people who feel excluded from society because of my deafness. I have excellent lip reading skills which helped me to get through University and my first jobs in industry without telling my tutors or employers I was deaf!! I felt that people would have made allowances for my disability and I may not have progressed so well!!”
Geoff decided to approach DSL Business Finance for cash when he heard about them through his social enterprise links. He added: “I felt that because DSL are a social enterprise they would offer the right type of support for the business. I found chatting to them very useful and they in turn showed a lot of enthusiasm about the business. Our bank offered us very limited support but this appears to be a common problem for small businesses due to the state of the economy.”
Eunice Lancaster, General Manager of DSL Business Finance said that Scallops Direct is the first small firm in Dumfries and Galloway to receive support from DSL.
She explained: “Since DSL was set-up in 1993 it has helped more than 600 businesses across Glasgow and the West of Scotland to create 2,000 jobs by providing investment of £7 million.
“As a result we recently expanded and are now able to provide loans to small firms in areas out with the central belt such as Dumfries and Galloway. Our aim is very simple: we want to help small firms to set-up and grow and create investment and jobs in their communities.
“Many social enterprises struggle to raise the necessary funding they need to start-up or expand as traditional sources of finance, such as the banks, don’t really understand the sector. The assumption is often wrongly made that not-for-profit firms are more high risk than other businesses
“For this reason DSL has a special loan fund tailored to the needs of social enterprises. We also have more than 15 years experience of lending to social enterprises, charities and small and start-up businesses so we know the issues they face.
“Although we are a social enterprise ourselves, we are self financing and receive very little public sector funding. We generate income from interest on existing loans and other sources on bank finance.
“We are an ethical lender and can lend to clients even if they have been turned down by the banks. However, our clients still have to go through rigorous checks and approvals before we will lend. This includes a “Dragons Den” style loan panel made up of experts from the world of business and finance. The panel, who are unpaid, will assess the application but they are not just looking at the figures. They look at the social impact the business is likely to have and whether the client is credible, trustworthy and capable of running a successful business.”
DSL is continuing to see a significant increase in the number of small firms who say they have been unable to raise money from the banks due to the economic slowdown. Many of them turn to DSL as a last resort. Research shows that 82 per cent of clients believe DSL to be their only available source of business finance.
If you think DSL could help your business please contact them on Tel: 0141 425 2930 or go to www.dsl-businessfinance.co.uk.
For more information about Scallops Direct Alba Ltd please contact: Geoff Tunstall on firstname.lastname@example.org or ring Siobhan Hoare on 077966 81650.