The third round of the Community Business Bright Ideas Fund is now closed. For start-up advice and resources, please visit the MyCommunity website.

Do you have a local community asset but don’t know what it could be turned into? Or a community business idea that you don’t know how to get off the ground? If you are a community group or organisation who would like to set up a community business but need a bit of support, then this fund is for you.

The Community Business Bright Ideas Fund aims to give community groups in England the support and tools to start setting up their community business. It will also give them early-stage finance they need to carry out consultation with local people and feasibility. Jointly funded by Power to Change and the Department for Communities and Local Government, the programme is being delivered by a consortium including Co-operatives UK, Plunkett Foundation and Groundwork UK, led by Locality.

Before submitting an application make sure you read our guidance to check your eligibility.

Bright Idea: Putting a Grade II listed hall into community hands

Wath Hall is a Grade II listed Georgian mansion built in 1770 and recently used as civic offices for the Town Council and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. The hall stands at the heart of the town, and when it came under threat of closure in 2011, local people rallied round in the belief that it should be preserved for the benefit of the wider community.  Since joining the Bright Ideas programme, local residents have formed a charity, Wath Hall Ltd, to pursue this objective. Their Bright Idea plan includes the feasibility for the preservation and enhancement of the building to bring it into use as a heritage centre, community education hub, cafe and small business centre, accommodating a number of different organisations and activities. The group continue to maintain and tidy the building, but they are restricted from doing any major works until a lease from the council is in place. They have identified two people wanting to occupy rooms in the Hall as soon as they are available, and interest for events such as wedding fairs.

They have appointed a Volunteer Co-ordinator who has helped to organise several community engagement events including an art competition and a photography competition. These events have proved to be instrumental in helping to identify new volunteers. The events have also raised the profile of the building and the community business significantly.

As part of the programme, they also visited Stirchley Baths in Birmingham, which was extremely helpful and inspiring. It provided the group members with an extensive amount of information and ideas, particularly around community consultation, engagement and income generation. They have decided to join the Heritage Trust Network and will host part of the study tour for the Trust’s AGM later in the year. They are also seeking involvement with Wentworth Woodhouse and Elsecar Heritage centre in the HLF and Arts Council funded programme “Great Places” which has been awarded £1.25m in Barnsley and Doncaster.

Bright Idea: Test trading a community cafe

The Shotton Partnership planned to establish a community café. This community business development is prompted by a recent community asset transfer of the community centre and the merger of the Shotton Partnership with the Community Association. The lease on the community centre from the Parish Council should be signed in early January 2017 and the Partnership and the Community Association are progressing with merging. The partnership are currently test trading the community café, which opened on 12 June 2017.

With Adviser support under the Bright Ideas programme, a decision was taken that test trading would be the best route to the longer term development of the business. The community centre already has an adequate kitchen and most staff and volunteers have food hygiene qualifications, so there were few barriers to getting started. They undertook lots of community consultation around opening times and menus. The test trading period is giving them a good understanding of the volunteer and management requirements. They are using charitable company limited by guarantee for this test period, after which a suitable legal structure will be explored based on the results of test trading. All six members of the development group are involved in developing and volunteering as part of test trading. If the test trading period is successful, they aim to employ a salaried manager supported by community volunteers.

What does Bright Ideas offer?

If your application to join the Bright Ideas programme is successful, you will receive a comprehensive programme of support including:

  • Online induction and ongoing support either online, by phone or where possible through visits
  • Community business development plans to help successful groups shape and develop strategies and plans for their community business
  • Mentoring and visits to inspire applicants and give them the opportunity to learn from peers
  • Regional networking and events to learn from social finance experts, successful community business leaders, funders and technical specialist

Participants will also be able to apply for a grant of up to £20,000 to put all this great advice into action, and their community business idea into reality.

Need help?

Have a look at the answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), get in touch via the Helpcentre, or ask questions on the Forum. Help is at hand!