Barnsley Community Build - construction training for long-term unemployed
Barnsley Community Build - construction training for long-term unemployed
Key Fund, Britain's largest regional investor in the social economy market, has had its busiest month in over the decade of its investing history.

Sheffield-based Key Fund receives on average 12 to 16 applications every month from across the north of England, equating to £400,000 of requested funds to help new social enterprises start-up, or existing enterprises expand. Out of those applications, not all are awarded.

However this July to August, the number of applications more than trebled, with 42 applications requesting a record £950,000 of funds. Just two applications were turned down, resulting in a bumper £851,000 worth of funds committed in one month - the biggest in Key Fund records.

Garry Brown, Senior Client Officer at Key Fund, said: "It's not normal - this level of applications is really not normal! We've had to extend our usual four week assessment period to six weeks to cope with the influx. We've seen a spike in applications for our Creative Industry Finance scheme, and a surge from Leeds and Bradford, but the applications came from all over the North, and from a wide-range of sectors. One thing that was clear was the big increase in different investment types and the significant number of innovative ideas. There seems to be a realisation that organisations no longer rely on grants, so they have to be more creative and entrepreneurial. There were a lot of good, exciting ideas."

Higher Rhythm, a recording studio in Doncaster
Higher Rhythm, a recording studio in Doncaster
The Key Fund is itself a social enterprise, so is well positioned to understand the unique challenges facing social enterprises. It positions itself as a moral lender, providing much-needed finance to help social enterprises turned down by mainstream lenders.

Key Fund has invested over £29 million into the social enterprise sector, supporting over 2,000 organisations and 175 business start-ups. It invests in all sectors, from health, education, renewable energy, sport and the arts - anyone with a social mission at the heart of its enterprise.

Mr Brown added: "It's a very healthy indicator that the Social Enterprise sector is becoming more robust. The public sector cuts and the economic downturn have actually seen more organisations step up and become more innovative. It also shows that with the right support, the North can and does have a vibrant, growing social economy, with everything from community-run pubs and therapeutic Artisan bakeries to innovative recycling schemes. Social enterprise is basically business with heart and soul that give something positive back into the environment or society. It's about delivering more than just the bottom line, but it also needs to be business savvy to survive, and the strength of applications we've received recently promise a very exciting future."

The Key Fund Statistics Since 2002

Loans, grant and equity investments from £5,000 to £150,000 totalling over £29 million.
254% increase in investments (£800,000 in 2002 to £2.8million in 2012).
1679% increase in loans only (£112,000 in 2002 to £1.9million in 2012)
2,000+ organisations supported.
1,800+ jobs created or preserved.
175 business start-ups funded.
14 industry sectors supported.
£342,000 average loan value.
12.4% APR typical price (36 month term).
7.4% bad debt & write off.

For more about Key Fund www.thekeyfund.co.uk