An after-work programme designed to support people in starting social enterprises has enabled 18 businesses to launch, as well as helping some secure almost £20,000 in funding.

The 5 to 9 Club in partnership with the UK Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs - UnLtd - supported 36 people, through a version of the course specifically designed to support social entrepreneurs start up their own social ventures, with 18 of those going on to found a business and begin trading so far.

Businesses that had completed the programme were then invited to pitch for up to £5,000 each in funding from UnLtd, through their Try It and Do It Awards.

Eight businesses were successful in their pitches securing £20,000 between them. In addition to this, another seven 5 to 9 Club alumni also secured funding with UnLtd, bringing the grand total of money awarded by UnLtd to 5-9 Club participants to £39,750 to date.

These successful enterprises range from cafes and food initiatives, through to mental health and wellbeing support for veterans, and all are based across the South Wales Valleys

The 5 to 9 Club is a key part of the Welsh Innovation Centre for Enterprise’s outreach programme, as it looks to connect with potential business founders across south east Wales.

The programme aims to support individuals with an idea and help them turn it into a fully-fledged business by equipping them with the skills and knowledge they will need to launch and grow.

Outreach engagement manager at Welsh ICE Lesley Williams said: “For many, founding a business is not just about building something of their own and taking charge of their incomes - it’s about doing something they are passionate about, that makes a difference to the lives of others.

“Welsh ICE is itself a social enterprise, as we aim to invest half of our profit back into social causes and the community. So when the chance came to work with UnLtd to host a focussed 5 to 9 club, it was a no brainer.

“We’re incredibly proud to have helped so many ethically minded businesses to launch and are excited to see the difference they will go on to make, both to the lives of the founders, but also to the communities they will support.”

Welsh ICE is one of five regional enterprise hubs across Wales, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government. The hubs will see more than £4m invested to provide supportive spaces and mentoring for new and growing businesses, with the ICE Campus supporting the South East Wales Valleys region.

For more information about your local 5 to 9 Club or call 029 2014 0040.