TV Dragons singe social enterprise

Figures from the social enterprise sector have reacted with dismay to the reception given to Fruity Faces founder Paige Allen on BBC2's Dragon's Den programme last week.

Fruity faces, which makes novelty children’s protective cases for fruit, invests its profits in global children’s charities.

The Dragons shied away from what they saw as a “dangerous” mix of charity and business. “We thought the Dragons would want to look socially responsible and charitable but in fact the opposite happened,” said Allen. “They said things like ‘how can I sit on your board and take my 5% when I know you’re giving your 95% to charity?’”

Adele Blakebrough chief executive of CAN, said the Dragons’ response was a familiar one. “This is a compelling and very public example of the hurdle facing social enterprises seeking money to grow their business,” she said.

SEC chief executive Jonathan Bland added: “It’s a pity the Dragons have not yet realised that you can mix profitable business with achieving social dividends.”

Social Enterprise London is hosting a conference at the House of Commons next Tuesday called “Capitalism and social enterprise: strange bedfellows?” Communications manager Jo Stetzel said: “As a social enterprise development agency, it is up to people like us to communicate the message that social enterprise can deliver economic solutions to social and environmental issues. Clearly there is still lots of work to be done."

FreshTies founder Ashish Poddar said the Dragons had unfairly depicted social entrepreneurs as deficient, pointing out his “people helping people” website had just been chosen by the Round Table business network as its global platform.

Tim Purcell, speaking on behalf of HCT Group and CO3, pointed out that new social enterprises have a better survival rate than other start ups. “Perhaps a basic economics lesson might be useful so that the Dragons don’t make the same mistake again,” he said.

But CIC regulator John Hanlon was more positive, saying: “I welcome the fact that a popular television programme aimed at our future entrepreneurs raised the profile of social enterprise."

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