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Happy Birthday to Us!!

Twelve years of CAP Enterprise - ups, downs and lots of fun.

When the idea of CAP began to form in 2010 in the aftermath of the Kent Enterprise Gateway programme we had one clear ambition - to help Kent-based charities be more business-like and to help businesses be more socially-responsible and ethical.

Charities could get help through infrastructure bodies, but the commercial support they needed to become financially stable through trading and public sector contracts was missing. Businesses had lots of support through Business Link, Chambers of Commerce and other business support providers, but support for social enterprises was absent. Filling that gap was the reason CAP was formed and was incorporated as a community interest company in November 2011.

The first five years were slow, despite our unique position. We survived thanks to Awards for All grants, small contracts with charities across the South East and delivering training on behalf of our colleagues. We were making a small difference, but really weren't setting the world alight. Our Little Shop of Dreams projects in Folkestone were highlights and our work on the Medway TLI project really demonstrated the need for CAP to keep going - wiping away our doubts about our future.

Being invited to speak about social enterprise in Brussels by the EU was 2014's highlight, but a second failed application to Unltd hurt. We really felt like our face didn't fit, but commissions from Maureen at ACRK and Marilyn at NWK CVS kept us going both financially and emotionally.

Things took a real change in 2016 following a chance meeting in Maidstone with an old client. For the next three years we worked with NOVUS, CXK and the Triangle Trust to work with people leaving prison to take steps into employment and self-employment. We honed our Business Builder programme, worked with over 1,000 people, visited eight prisons and developed a reputation as an expert provider of enterprise services and a trusted and collaborative partner. We also developed a strong alliance with our colleagues at Ealing CVS and were regularly asked to evaluate Big Lottery funded projects across the South East.

CAP really took off in 2019/20 working in prisons across Kent and Sussex, securing funding for our Inside Out action learning pilot and being commissioned to work with charities and social enterprises across Kent via the KCF Strategic Recovery grant scheme. We were on a high, started feeling more secure and were able to look forward with confidence.

Our progress has continued over the past three years (excuse the bullet points - t's been busy!!). We have:

  • Tested our WomenKind female empowerment programme, which we last ran in 2011

  • Run Business Builder for over 500 trainees

  • Worked with HMP Rochester prisoners to convert a van into a campervan

  • Contributed positively to the Medway Together programme, funded by the Community Renewal Fund

  • Been appointed as capacity building partner on the West Kent Universal Wellbeing service

  • Attracted six new members to the CAP team

  • Worked as Learning and Evaluation Partner on the highly successful Crawley Connects project

In response to this period of growth and positivity we decided it was time to put a strategy in place which would guide us through our teenage years towards our 18th birthday. Buoyed by a spirit of positivity and optimism we committed to achieving the following strategic priorities by the end of 2026:

  • Achieve £0.5 million in annual turnover - diversified income, asset-based revenue, long-term grant funding and social investment.

  • Grow the CAP team - more capacity, more expertise and more reach.

  • Strengthen foundations and systems - more automation, revised policies, accreditations and award-winning.

  • Become better known across the South East - clients, stakeholders, collaborators and funders.

When reflecting on the past 12 years it was impossible to not ask why we are still around when so many of our peers have been forced to close. I suppose CAP is still working because we do three things really well. Firstly, we care deeply about what we do - maintaining high levels of client satisfaction is imperative. Secondly, adapting and working flexibly and collaboratively is crucial. Thirdly, I genuinely believe that diversifying our income, so we are not dependent on a single source of income has helped us out.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who has worked with us over the last twelve years, whether commissioning us, recommending us, listening to us or encouraging us. There are lots of you and we really do appreciate your support. Thank you.

The CAP Enterprise Team

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