Success as a Social Enterprise

Success as a Social Enterprise

Leaders who Build Businesses that Change Lives

LEXXER Solutions attended a presentation and launch at the Banqueting Hall at Belfast City Hall

Many of our clients are interested in:

  • Starting, or thinking of starting, a social business.
  • Supporting a social business (as a consultant or board member)
  • Encouraging entrepreneurial activity within their community/network

Therefore we felt it was useful to attend today to learn more. The speaks were both inspirational and informative with a clear message that social enterprise doesn’t mean being soft on professional commitment to excellence.

Josh Babarinde, Founder of Cracked It

Josh is Founder and Chief Executive of Cracked It, London’s award-winning social enterprise smartphone repair service, staffed by young ex-offenders. Cracked It runs pop-up workplace repair clinics in organisations including the US Embassy, Ministry of Justice, Barclays and River Island. In 2019, Cracked It was named Social Enterprise of the Year by the Evening Standard and also by the Centre for Social Justice. Josh himself was named in the Forbes ’30 Under 30 in Europe’ Class of 2019. He shared the Cracked It story, the lessons that he has learned along the way and his view on the opportunities that exist within social business.

Then a local social enterprise story with a big heart and an even bigger vision.

Dave Linton, Founder of Madlug

In 2015 Dave learned that most children in care transport their worldly belongings in a bin bag and he set out to do something about it. With £480 and zero business experience he started Madlug (Make a Difference Luggage) with a mission to help every child in care travel with dignity. In 2016 Dave was listed as one of the 50 New Radicals by The Guardian and, following a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2017, he was invited to brunch with Sir Richard Branson! Madlug is gaining traction across the UK & Ireland and Dave is passionate about using Madlug to influence a new young generation of social entrepreneurs. He shared the Madlug story and the business insights that have helped him build the brand and grow an award-winning social business. 

The event was chaired by Professor Ken O’Neill brings bringing the academic know how to the mix.

Professor Emeritus Ken O’Neill, Ulster University 

Ken is Chair of the School for Social Enterprises in Ireland – the only organisation devoted exclusively to the development of leadership and management in the social economy on this island. He has also served as President of the International Council for Small Business and Chairman of Young Enterprise in NI. His most recent books are entitled ‘Understanding Enterprise, Entrepreneurs & Small Business’ and ‘Understanding the Social Economy’ (co-authored with Simon Bridge and Brendan Murtagh respectively). Ken will chair the event and share his own insights on opportunities within social business.

The event also marked the official launch of Belfast City Council’s new Social Enterprise and Cooperative Support Programme delivered by Work West Enterprise Agency.

Again with funding and support, access to a world class academic programme and with the inspiration and ideas from existing social entrepreneurs we are armed with a full package of support and information for our clients.

Our business is charity and that means taking charities into the world of knowledge through exchange programmes.

Let the knowledge we have gathered today help you tomorrow – speak to one of the team today!

Why did Wrights go so Wrong?

Why did Wrights go so Wrong?

A tragic conclusion to the weeks of waiting

Today has brought the sad news of Wrightbus going into administration. Our thoughts are with the workers their families and all those local businesses which rely on the work generated by Wrightbus. Our thoughts are also with Sir William Wright that rare breed of local entrepreneur who built a world class business from the ground up.

The iconic Wrightbus Routemaster

The local company that built London’s distinctive double-decker “Boris bus” has gone into administration, with 1,200 workers made redundant and with it scores of spin off businesses in the supply chain facing uncertainty. Wrights had been in talks with three potential buyers after suffering cash flow difficulties but failed to reach a deal.

It would be galling now to think that some of those bidders withdrew in the hope that they could snap up the firm for less when it entered administration. This along with the collapse of travel group Thomas Cook spelled a bleak picture for the British economy. The government has an obligation to support companies like this owned by the family of Sir William Wright, its 92-year-old founder.

It is also clear that this failure is in no small part due to political failure here, the failure of MLAs to govern, and the failure of the local MP Ian Paisley Jnr whose diligence in securing foreign junckets stands in glaring contrast to securing the future of the three main employers in the area.

A Wright family spokesman said the change from diesel to electric in bus technology had caused a “sharp decline” in demand for buses in the UK. Some believe the family put £15m into the business last year and a further £8m since January and also provided funding to pay staff wages for the last fortnight as its financial situation worsened. Even at this late stage we hope that government will explore all remaining options for the business and assets.

As a knowledge brokerage we view the loss in different terms to most. For LEXXER the real tragedy is the potential loss of knowledge, and innovative advantage to Northern Ireland. We are aware that the predecessor at the Galgorm site JTI or Gallahers as it was once know were pioneers in tobacco machinery and the patents for these innovative machines the Inellectual property was one asset the Japanese owners stripped.

Our concern is that the years of Research and Development in which Wrights were world leaders will be lost to the local ‘knowledge economy’. We were pleased to attend the opening in 2016 of a new facility at Queen’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering named after Dr William Wright CBE, not only in recognition of his contribution to industry in Northern Ireland, but also his relentless drive in the promotion and development of new innovation and technology to reduce fossil fuel usage and emissions that are harmful to the environment.

The perfect combination of local government, innovative business and knowledge rich university

The project was a joint venture between the Wrights Group, which invested £300,000 in the centre – a figure matched by Queen’s University – with an upward potential investment figure of more than £6m. The key aim of the centre was to promote research and advanced engineering to facilitate the creation and development of technologies suitable for today’s bus industry, particularly as these needs become increasingly complex.

Knowledge is a key asset which must be saved

It was opened in Summer 2017 with a full and ambitious research portfolio A a knowledge broker working with local universities we welcomed this investment since evidence shows that businesses are more productive when they innovate and collaborate. Those businesses are more inclined to export and employ more highly qualified people. Wrightbus had a proven track record in innovation and creativity and is a familiar sight on the streets across the world. Queen’s University’s commitment to excellence in research and innovation and making a positive global impact was a perfect match. Such partnerships not only drove economic development and grew employment but continued Northern Ireland’s history of innovation and entrepreneurship and place on the world stage.

We had often cited the Wrights-Queens partnership as a model of knowledge exchange. Queen’s partnership with Wrightbus was one of longest standing industry-university collaborations. which led to the development of some of the world’s most advanced hybrid engines. We only hope that the William Wright Technology Centre will continue and will ensure continued development of even better and cleaner environmental technology for advanced passenger transport in the UK and around the world.

Planning for the Future of the Past

Planning for the Future of the Past

Looking forward to a good days work with Portadown Heritage Tours as we plan for the future of their innovative heritage business in the town. We have been working together for almost two years now on a range of projects and have been able to draw down both National Lottery and local Council PEACE IV funding to support this innovative social enterprise.

Fresh home grown ideas are our speciality

In that time the community here has turned what was once billed the greatest the worst tourism nightmare Northern Ireland faced since the Troubles into a tourism success story. I mean of course the Drumcree Standoff which for a number of years was a regular summer feature in the local calendar. Politically motivated protests against parades were met by street protests which paralyzed the country, shutting ports and airports along with roads and bridges down.

Tourism N.I. listed it as the greatest threat to tourism citing figures which saw a dip in visitors in that period. Now less that twenty years later a project which was developed to promote Orange heritage has taken on a life of its own and is now the largest cultural heritage promotional programme in the town. Ironically one of the most popular ‘products’ is a Drumcree tour, with the trained professional tour guides all having an intimate knowledge of the events of Drumcree.

The community tourism project has breathed life into the Carleton Street Hall and local community, and with fresh thinking and cutting edge knowledge from a range of cultural tourism and heritage experts brokered by LEXXER Solutions the programme has developed into a charitable company, and now hosts a range of educational and interpretative tours, exhibitions and events for all communities and a range of heritage programmes which have developed beyond the initial Orange offering to cover the industrial, military, social and cultural life and heritage of Portadown.

Sweet Sound of Sucess

Sweet Sound of Sucess

This year sees the start of some exciting planning for the cultural and heritage future of Belfast. Belfast is bidding to be approved as a Unesco City of Music by 2023. The bid is included in Belfast city council’s 10-year cultural strategy, which is out for consultation.

Have Your Say Today

The bid is one of a number of big ideas out for consultation inclusing a new visitor attraction which tells the Belfast story and film centre is also part of the plan.

The process began when Belfast had previously been bidding, alongside Derry and Strabane, to become the European Capital of Culture in 2023. However, the European Commission (EC) ruled that a UK city could not host the title after Brexit.

Thankfully the council’s strategy said that the EC decision should not be seen as “the end of a journey”, and instead all the heard work and though was directed into a futher consulation on just what culture means to the city.

Bright Ideas for the Future

The main result is that 2023 will be designated a year of culture, and it sis now time for local communities and organisations to begin to think about what that means to them and how they can get in on the act. In the run up to and in 2023 there will be a programme of immersive cultural activity on a scale that Belfast has never seen before.

The first step on that road has been announced by council wich also wants Belfast to be recognised as a City of Music by Unesco. Presently Liverpool and Glasgow are the only two UK cities to hold that title. To secure the designation Belfast must prove it can host national and international music festivals and events. It must also specialise in music education and have a number of big and small venues for concerts, gigs and recitals.

The city must also promote all genres of music and get as many people as possible playing and listening to it. It is here where local communities especially those who do not feature normally in the cultural offering of the city must get involved.

‘Landmark signature experience and unique sounds’

Plans for a new visitor attraction telling the story of the city will require a range of knowledge based contributions. While the draft strategy speaks: “a landmark signature experience in the heart of the city centre.” We are all aware of the lack of ‘shared’ story about this city. How the different and divergent stories and the competing cultures are all represented will be a central challenge.

The new city council strategy – called A City Imagining – is out for public consultation for 12 weeks. LEXXER Solutions will be working with a number of its community and charitable clients to understand and engage with this process, and to have their voices heard.

The importance of this strategy is clear since it will shape cultural, heritage and by implication tourism policy and practice for the next decade and will see the pathway for progression and funding for local communities.

Have your say today

Simple and Stylish

Simple and Stylish

Every brand, however big or small, should have a set of cohesive brand guidelines to maintain its identity. Your brand is the face of your business; it projects your identity and defines how your clients and prospects view your business. Shouldn’t you value having a guide to place in the hands of every person who touches your brand? The answer is yes. This is extremely valuable to your company and its reputation.

What is a Brand Style Guide?

A brand style guide—or “brand guidelines”—is the primary visual of your company’s branding. Your brand’s visual identity includes your logo, tagline, color scheme, typography and graphics. A strong style guide can range anywhere from 5-500 pages. This document lays out how the brand should be portrayed, however formal or informal. It defines and presents examples of what your brand looks like in various visual media such as print and web. It lists the “rules” of consistency so a company knows how to use their new branding files correctly and successfully.

This is a handbook for how to properly express your brand: where and how to use the logo, colors, fonts and just as importantly, how NOT to use them, in order to consistently communicate the message.

brand style guide book

Keep it Clear and Consistent

Once you have a brand style guide, it is imperative that you keep it up-to-date and in the hands of everyone who touches your brand. In most companies, several people and departments will have their hands on the brand before content is delivered to the public. To assure your brand remains consistent across all channels, everyone within your company should adhere to the same guidelines when creating and designing all marketing collateral. A well-documented brand style guide will tether all who touch your brand together. This gives your clients and prospective customers a cohesive experience and a unified marketing message.

Without a unifying guide, your branding may appear inconsistent and incorrect across different channels. We’ve seen it all too often; the colors of a company’s logo get changed and suddenly you see a new shade of bright purple being brought in and makes the logo look unprofessional and inconsistent with other branding. This results in mixed marketing messages that confuses your followers. It could also negatively impact the perception your company gives to prospects. You don’t want the brand you’ve poured your sweat and tears into to become diluted in the eyes of your target audience.

Brand Style Guide Essentials

Here are a few examples of some key elements you should include in your brand style guide:

Logo variations

Many brands have a primary logo as well as alternative logos to give them versatility. When designing for clients, we focus on designing a primary logo to be used for most applications (website, business cards, and other important materials). The alternative logos are for other applications where the primary logo will not fit. It’s important to outline how and when each logo variation should be used to maintain professionalism and consistency throughout your brand. Consider these questions:

  • Will the logo appear the same for both web and print?
  • What will the logo look like on a white background? A colored background? A photo background?
  • How much space needs to be left around the logo?


Many businesses and blogs are all over the place with their font choices. This makes their website overwhelming and unprofessional. In order to cut down on confusion and create consistency on both web and print materials, consider these questions:

  • What is your body font for web? For print? What are the sizes for each?
  • What is your header font for web? For print? What are the sizes for each?
  • Are there specific character styles (like all caps) for any of your fonts or text styles?

Designer note: We usually recommend no more than 2-4 font choices per brand, to keep things simple, professional, and streamlined.

brand style guide typography


To streamline your colors and ensure they are the same tint and shade across all platforms, think through the following questions:

  • What are your primary brand colors? What are they used for?
  • How about your secondary brand colors? What are they used for?
  • What are the values for each color? (This makes it easy to assemble your colors and also provides a quick reference)
  • What color is your body text? What color are your headers?

brand style guide color palette

Does your company need any assistance in building a brand style guide? You may have a company brand or even just a logo, but need help building your style guide. Or perhaps you haven’t budgeted for that yet? Well come and speak to us today and find out what we can do for you today.

Don’t Miss the Deadline!

Don’t Miss the Deadline!

Don’t forget the Deadline for Charity Commission returns. It is the worst time of the year for many charities but help is at hand. The Charity Commission has updated its guidance on how to complete the annual monitoring return with helpful screenshots of the online return.

The Charity Commission has identified that October and January are two peak periods in which charities must submit their annual monitoring return to the charity register. If your registered charity’s financial year is 1 April – 31 March then you will have a deadline of 31 January.

All registered charities must submit their examined annual accounts and trustees’ report along with the annual monitoring return within 10 months after their full financial year after charity registration. If you haven’t received notification from the Commission that your accounts are due then please log in to the charity register to make sure that the ‘contact email for Commission use’ is correct. Please note that the publicly available email on the charity register may be different, so you need to log in to ‘Online services’ to check this.

If your charity is due to submit the annual monitoring return, please don’t leave it to the last minute as you may not have all the information to hand that you need to submit. Please note that if you file your return after the due date, a notice stating that the documents were received late will be marked in red on the public register and will stay there until the following year, even if you’re one day late.

The Commission has identified that common errors in previous returns to the charity register have included: accounts not being audited or independently examined; auditor’s/examiner’s report not included; trustees’ report not submitted; or the accounts not properly prepared. For example, accrual accounts must comply with the Charities SORP and receipts and payments accounts must include a ‘Statement of assets and liabilities’, even if the charity does not have any property.

Please see the Commission’s guidance on completing the annual monitoring return to ensure you have all the right information, or indeed if you have already submitted your return, check it to make sure it is complete. It is available along with the Commission’s other guidance on accounts and annual reporting below:

If you have any queries regarding the accounting and reporting requirements please don’t hesitate to contact the LEXXER Team who will provide an accounts completion and check service, along with a submission service to make sure you get your returns in on time.

PEACE of Mind

PEACE of Mind

At this time of great national uncertainty the prospect of BREXIT and especially a No Deal BREXIT has caused near panic in certain quarters. It is often hard to discern political spin and point scoring from genuine practical problems however it is safe to say that no other area of the UK will be as effected by BREXIT as Northern Ireland.

PEACE of Mind for the Third Sector in Northern Ireland

While agriculture and the small business sector have been most vocal it is the community and voluntary sector which stands to lose out most. Our Third Sector has become reliant on European funding most notably the PEACE Programmes which have been a feature of the funding landscape for over two decades.

Great uncertainty has prevailed as many projects had feared the worst. Therefore it is a pleasure to bring at least a small piece of good news.

Around £300 Million of funding will be committed to projects to support peace in Northern Ireland, the UK Government has announced.

The UK Government has committed to contributing millions of pounds to PEACE Plus, the programme that will succeed the current PEACE scheme, until 2027, as part of its commitment to uphold the hard-won peace in Northern Ireland after Brexit.

PEACE has helped promote economic and social progress in Northern Ireland and the border region of Ireland since 1995. The current programme – run with funding from the UK, Ireland and EU – will end in 2020.

This new funding will enable work to continue to build on the almost £1.8 billion (€2 billion) of investment in projects in both Northern Ireland and Ireland, including landmark projects such as the £14.5m PEACE bridge in Derry-Londonderry, which has linked communities across the River Foyle.

One organisation that has shown the benefit is Youth Action NI in Belfast, an organisation that used PEACE funding to help bring together young people from different communities in Northern Ireland. It established the ‘Youth Network for Peace’ – a regional project involving 10,000 young people in a range of participative social action projects on a cross-community and cross-border basis.

War and all that Follows

War and all that Follows

Thinking of those who served in the Armed Forces and the nation’s covenant with them. Making good on that national commitment.

A recent Christmas present, the biography of Jason Fox entitled ‘Battle Scars’ set me thinking about debt owed to those who served their country. While the headlines of Iraq and Afghanistan play large in the media, we know little of these men and women’s battles after they return home.

The Title says it all
Jason Fox speaking at a local book launch

The memoir by Jason Fox, an ex-special forces soldier and frontman of Channel 4’s hit show “SAS: Who Dares Wins”, is a powerful insight into not just the guts and glory but also the pain and permanent scars of war.

Indeed that title Battle Scars, says it all as Fox not only gives exciting accounts of the operations that defined his military service but honestly discusses the the psychological impact of modern combat.

Fox’s memoir has been described as both “adrenaline-fuelled” and “an important story” for its exploration of mental health in the armed forces. After a military career spanning 20 years, including 10 years as a Royal Marine Commando and 10 years in the Special Boat Service, Fox was diagnosed with PTSD in 2012. A year later found himself standing on a cliff-edge in Devon contemplating suicide.

Fox called the book “the story of my rise, my fall and my recovery”. “It deals in the truths about men, the military and mental health, and tells the story of my career in the Special Forces, and what happened to me once I’d trained and served as an elite operator only to lose it all.”

Helping Heroes

While working as a lobbyist at Westminster one of my biggest battles and greatest victories was in helping to secure the passage of the legislation which underpinned the Armed Forces Covenant. The Armed Forces Covenant is a statement of the moral obligation which exists between the nation, the Government and the Armed Forces. It was published in May 2011 and its core principles were enshrined in law, for the first time, in the Armed Forces Act 2011. It applies to all three services.

The Covenant articulates the view that the nation has a moral obligation to members of the Armed Forces Community in return for the sacrifices they make. Specifically, the Covenant outlines two core principles:

  • No disadvantage: no current or former member of the armed forces, or their families, should be at a disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services.
  • Special consideration: special consideration is appropriate in some cases, particularly for those who have been injured or bereaved.

The Armed Forces Act 2011 does not create legally enforceable rights for Service personnel but it does require the Secretary of State for Defence to report to Parliament each year on the progress made with respect to the Covenant. In that regard it is much like the ongoing personal battles of ex-servicemen with a continual struggle away from the headlines to ensure success. The Covenant offers real help and support to many who are still living with the mental and physical scars of war. The annual report to Parliament ensures that a regular check is made against performance. The real need however is to embed the Covenant and its ethos into local life in communities and Councils. This is part of the normalisation which is required after years of conflict, where the armed forces are seen as p[art of the community, a viable career option for young people and a source of pride for all. We may differ on our views of war, its necessity and its conduct, however we should all be able to agree that when there has been a national decision to engage in conflict those we send to fulfil that wish should be looked after in the theatre of conflict and upon their return.

Defending Those Who Defended Us

At LEXXER Solutions we provide support for a number of ex-services charities and personnel at a local level. It is our aim this year to help at least three charities to access the funding attached to the Covenant, and through three projects to I’m prove the lives of veterans. We will also work to ensure that the Covenant is fully and properly implemented in Northern Ireland.

Our first successful project funded by the Armed Forces Covenant funding was back in 2016 where we worked with a number of local community groups to integrate the ex-service community into a wider community festival. We also helped with research and wider heritage programming to commemorate the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme linking groups like the Royal British Legion, and Help for Heroes with a range of local community and cultural groups.

Armed Forces Day saw the service and ex-service community honoured and integrated into the community, in a local festival and historic series of events.

The project was educational, commemorative and a celebration of the contribution of the Armed forces. Our skills in the study and presentation of often contested heritage and history allowed us to work with Mid and East Antrim Council to present a programme of activities over three weeks which respected the sensitivities of the Troubles and allowed still divided communities to come together and celebrate a shared military tradition.

Practical Help through Projects

Each year LEXXER Solutions offers pro bono support ( a fancy American term for free help and support) to a number of chosen charities. We would like to prioritise ex-service charities or those working to help this sector. So come and speak to one of the team today if you have a project idea or a need that has to be met. The first point of contact will be the grants offered by the Armed Forces Covenant.

Under the Armed Forces Covenant Local Grants programme, grants of up to £20,000 are made for local projects that support community integration or local delivery of services.

Community Integration projects should create strong local links between the Armed Forces community, who are  current and former members of their armed forces and their families) and civilian communities; and be able to clearly demonstrate how they will have impact in overcoming barriers to better integration; and improving perceptions, attitudes and understanding. For the project to be truly effective in achieving community integration there should be shared development, delivery and benefits for both communities.

Delivery of Local Services projectsshould be local projects which offer financial advice, housing, mental and physical health, employability or social support for serving armed forces personnel, veterans, and their families. Projects must be well connected, both to their beneficiaries and to other relevant organisations, and be able to demonstrate how the services they provide will be well-publicised, accessible and joined up.

You can only apply for a grant online, and you should read the Local Grants Guidance carefully. You can also read the application questions before you access the online form to get an idea of the information you you will need to provide.

Then come and speak to one of the LEXXER Team and we can guide you through the application process and ensure that you make the best case possible for your idea. This is needed to help others understand why there is a need for your project and how it fits with the programme aims.

You can read about past projects that we have awarded funding to so far. Your idea might not be something that we have funded previously. You can also read our terms and conditions of grant for the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Local Grants programme so that you can see what you will have to agree to if you are awarded a grant.

We are here to help and we would like to focus on practical projects which offer real help to ex-service personal especially with mental health issues. Our experience in working with victims of the Troubles have also given us a number of ideas which work, so if you know there is a need but just haven’t got the solution then that’s where we come in.



At LEXXER we help you to be heard, and ensure that your message is clear and consistent. Often the passion of a cause, or the urgency of the issue means that you or your firm or organisation are not in the best place to make strategic decisions. This is where we come in, with an external, professional and more strategic approach. Our ethos is simple – You Do the Talking, We will do the Thinking!

An effective issue advocacy campaign requires more than just good lobbying; it requires a strategic communications plan that utilizes every available asset.  Winning communications strategies demand preparation, seamless coordination, and strong execution.  Having the facts on your side is a good start, but those facts won’t help unless they are shaped into powerful arguments delivered in a manner that provides the most impact.  That’s where our experience helps.  Our experts have worked on hundreds of the highest profile and most complex public policy battles over the past two decades, and know how to prevail in the court of public opinion.

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At LEXXER, we listen to what our clients want, ask key questions, and then develop the messages and media plan best suited to meeting their communications objective.  This means building a plan specific enough to meet client goals, while at the same time encompassing enough flexibility to quickly respond to any unanticipated crisis or opportunity.

Our range of advocacy Services are geared to help you be heard.


MOMENTUM – Getting You Started

MOMENTUM – Getting You Started