Early-growth social enterprises face many barriers to accessing growth capital. This stage is often referred to as the ‘Valley of Death’: social enterprises in this stage have used grants and seed funding before, but now they need more substantial financial support. They are caught in-between: too mature to receive startup grants or donations, and too small and risky for traditional investors.
To help close this funding gap, Reach for Change launched the Valley of Growth – a cross-sectorial initiative in partnership with UniCredit Bulbank, Forbes Bulgaria, The Business Institute, ING Bank and the Sofia Municipal Guarantee Fund for SMEs, funded by the European Commission. The project aims to boost the development of the social entrepreneurial market in Bulgaria by helping social entrepreneurs access financing instruments that match their needs and maintaining their appeal to potential investors.
The project has addressed the needs of the market by conducting research to better understand the social entrepreneurial ecosystem in Bulgaria. The research investigated design, testing and verifying solutions for a clearly identified market need, the lack of financial instruments, and investment readiness programs for early-growth social entrepreneurs in Bulgaria. The solutions included a social impact bank instrument, a municipal bank guarantee, and an investment readiness program. (The specific characteristics of the solution were further explored and verified during the project).
The project drew from existing knowledge and experience through the extensive involvement of experts and stakeholders (social entrepreneurs, potential investors, public institutions) in a specially-established social impact community. In addition, the international know-how transfer was secured through a series of events (including the. International Impact Conference) and transnational learning activities.
An immediate impact was achieved with the establishment of the social impact community. It resulted in decreasing communication and collaboration gaps between social enterprises, investors and relevant authorities. Organizations that took part in the project partnership have already increased their capacity due to curated information and organized research at the national level.
In the long term, once the financial instrument starts to be applied, the impact on social enterprises will be even greater, providing them with opportunities to expand their activities. Local and national populations, affected by social issues addressed by Bulgarian social entrepreneurs will also be impacted. The sustainability of the results is guaranteed by the dedication of all partners in the consortium. Their long-term interest is visible by previous activities, a signed memorandum and future plans for collaboration in the area.