FH: Stories | Social Enterprise Kent (SEK)

Roy Laming works for SEK, an organisation doing extraordinary work to transform the lives of people and businesses in the district.

SEK (Social Enterprise Kent) has been operating for 30 years with a mission to improve lives and support the communities in which it works.

In Folkestone Roy and his colleague Matt Saxena are part of a team delivering a number of projects, under the Folkestone Community Works programme, on behalf of Folkestone & Hythe District Council, as part of a broader and ongoing Folkestone town centre regeneration programme.

Despite the disruption caused by measures introduced to control the spread of coronavirus, Roy and Matt have not allowed it to put them off their determination to make a difference to local communities.

“Folkestone is a vibrant place,” says Roy. “There’s a positive vibe here with a real appetite for development and improvement – from the creative quarter to the Harbour Arm.  It is a destination and go-to place now.

“The projects that we are helping to deliver are playing their part in making Folkestone a better place, helping people and businesses to achieve their ambitions.”

Roy’s background is as a social enterprise advisor, with years of experience helping businesses to get off the ground.  His skills as a business coach and mentor have been crucial for one of SEK’s latest projects that launched in January 2020.

Enterprising Opportunities is a project SEK is delivering as part of Folkestone and Hythe District Council’s Folkestone Community Works Programme. A programme scheduled to invest £4.9 million into Folkestone.

Part funded by the EU’s European Structural and Investment Fund, the project offers 12 hours of free business coaching and mentoring support to entrepreneurs and existing small businesses in four wards centred around the Harbour area of Folkestone.

“We’re pretty early into the project, with the focus on finding the people in the area that we can help,” Roy explains. “These are people who might have a new business idea or have established businesses that they want to develop.”

The people and businesses the project has begun to support perfectly illustrates the entrepreneurial spirit that exists in the district.

One of these is a mechanic, specialising in MG car upgrades. He set up his business less than two years ago, and while things are going well, he would like to have a greater number of clients, enabling them to thoroughly enjoy their cars.

“All new businesses can take up to 18 months or longer to really get going. With this business, our support to date has included helping him enhance with his social media and outreach,” says Roy.

“He wants a good pipeline of cars to work on. For him, as a new start, it is all about raising awareness of his passion for the marque and expertise in upgrading and maintaining these vehicles. This in turn will attract more customers, more orders and more income.”

Craft shops, social enterprises that support people in the community, arts projects that inspire, micro businesses, freelancers, sole traders, dreamers with a bright business idea. These are the kinds of businesses this project will support over the coming months.

“Mentoring and coaching and helping people to get going. That’s the role you want to play” explains Roy. “Tapping into the ingenuity and innovation that exists in places like Folkestone. It’s the reason I got involved, the opportunity to use my experience in helping people on that journey.”

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