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ClearlySo and Manchester – impact investing and doing it in the North

by Tamsin Chislett

It’s a brilliant time to be in Manchester, there’s no doubt about that.  The Northern Powerhouse, devolution, Forward, HOME, The Factory… the list of recent or upcoming developments in Manchester’s economic, technological and cultural assets is bold and long.  There’s a buzz in the air, and you only have to witness the amount of building work in the city to know that Manchester is on the move.

But what does all this mean for impact investing?  Why now for a ClearlySo office in the city?

Well, all this change gives Manchester a huge opportunity to position itself as the best place in the world to be an impact-focused entrepreneur, and we’d like to do our bit to help by helping those businesses raise capital.

Opportunities abound.  The devolution of the health and social care budget to Manchester and the subsequent local-focus and connectedness across services should offer lots of opportunities for local impact-focused businesses to thrive.  Meanwhile, the tech scene is really taking off, with the accelerator Ignite launching in the city, and the opening of technology hub Forward.  There is a strong will amongst the community to build a better, more inclusive, more socially-minded community than has happened elsewhere (of course, we’re delighted that our own ex-COO Claire Braithwaite heads up Tech North).

The development of a thriving community of impact-focused businesses, investors and intermediaries is well underway.

There are some hugely innovative and impactful businesses, such as Reason Digital, a digital agency that serves charities, non-profits and CSR departments, or the Biospheric Foundation, which is serving high-end hyper-local organic mushrooms, demonstrating the future of urban farming (who we were recently able to help raise investment from a Manchester-based impact investor!).

There’s a fantastic support network taking off – check out the monthly community meetup for impactful ventures, or the ‘Women Supporting Social Enterprise’ network run by the wonderful Nickala at UnLtd and Jo at Enterprise Stuff.

There’s appetite from investors too.  North West Business Angels’ members are interested in impact investing opportunities (watch this space for a joint event in October), while enterprising individuals are already making investments in regional businesses in health, food, and solar power.

Picture these ingredients against backdrop of Manchester’s famous historical commitment to social equality, and you start to see why it looks so exciting.  At ClearlySo, we’re looking forward to helping impactful businesses to raise capital, and supporting investors to seek out impact-focused investments.

My personal ambition is for entrepreneurs solving social and environmental problems to get the capital and support they need, and for investors to use their capital to change the world for the better.  I want to see more of this in Greater Manchester and ultimately right across the North.  If you can help, or you’d like to be involved, please get in touch.

Image: Ben Ashmole, Flickr, Creative Commons