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Lowestoft man calls for a Suffolk tsar

PUBLISHED: 09:15 24 September 2009 | UPDATED: 14:10 06 July 2010

SUFFOLK should have its own social enterprise tsar, sector leaders were told yesterday (Wednesday).

Trevor Lynn, the founder of multi-award-winning gardening service Mow & Grow, told a meeting of fellow social entrepreneurs that their sector needed a champion able to break down barriers and help promote a social enterprise culture.

SUFFOLK should have its own social enterprise tsar, sector leaders were told yesterday (Wednesday).

Trevor Lynn, the founder of multi-award-winning gardening service Mow & Grow, told a meeting of fellow social entrepreneurs that their sector needed a champion able to break down barriers and help promote a social enterprise culture.

He urged delegates to “shake the tree” and suggested that promoting the concept could save the county hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“Why don't we have a social enterprise tsar for the county?” he said. “If we are going to serious about social enterprise let's have someone put the pressure on.”

The Suffolk social entrepreneur, whose Lowestoft-based concept has now spread across a number of other counties, was speaking at the Big Social Enterprise Enquiry event, held at the Co-op Education Centre in Ipswich. Ideas from the day will feed into a larger Suffolk summit entitled Lives we Lead - New Horizons due to take place at Adastral Park on October 14 where 300 invited delegates will deliberate over the challenges the county faces and try to come up with solutions to them.

Mr Lynn, who admitted he knew “nothing about social enterprise, nothing about charity and very little about business” when he set up Mow & Grow in 2005 to provide free gardening services in deprived areas, said he expected the turnover of the Grow Organisation UK Ltd which he helped create to reach £5.5million this year and £19million next year.

“It's really, really important that Suffolk shouts about its successes,” he said. “If we get it right we can help this county - we can help this country.”

Mr Lynn, who now sits on think tanks for the Ministry of Justice and the Cabinet Office of the Third Sector, revealed he has accepted an invitation to be a “dragon” on a social enterprise pilot of the hit BBC series Dragon's Den.

He described to delegates how his social enterprise benefited from an initial £10,000 grant from Suffolk County Council.

“We have not looked back. We are very fortunate now in that we generally don't apply for any funding from the council unless it's for a new start up. We are self-sustainable now we have got that original funding,” he said.

“You almost can't afford not to be investing in social enterprise now.”

Other speakers included Tony Butler, director of the Museum of East Anglian Life, who described how they had created a social enterprise there which had helped transform the lives of homeless people, long-term unemployed, ex-offenders and other vulnerable groups. The activities they created, including restoration projects and a vegetable box scheme, had also brought new life to the museum, he said.

“There's nothing worse than going to a museum where there's no activity. It feels like a dead space,” he said.

“What we did could be done anywhere, but what was special about our work was it was done in a museum.”

Celia Hodson, chief executive of Choose Suffolk, called for a “level playing field” when social enterprises bid for contracts.

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