Finance: Social enterprises to get affordable online advice

Social Enterprise London is to pilot a new online business consultancy programme designed for social enterprises, not-for-profits and charities that cannot afford standard advisory fees.

The web package, known as Smart Business, is designed to provide marketing and finance guidance for the launch of new services or products. Participating bodies will be able to complete a series of online forms to give details of their proposals - Social Enterprise London will then email back with its analysis in fewer than 20 working days.

Sinead McBrearty, deputy chief executive at Social Enterprise London and director of the Smart Business project, said: "It has become quite clear that a number of organisations can afford our services and are prepared to pay the market rate. But there are also those that simply can't, so we are now looking at the consultancy process and working out how we can bring the cost down to an absolute minimum.

"We often spend a large amount of time interviewing the client. We are now trying to take that element of consultancy and transfer it to an online system."

SEL hopes the consultancy facility, which would normally cost between £500 and £800, could soon be available in an online format for between £100 and £120.

The online consultation is being offered free to 20 enterprises as part of the pilot, which is supported by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. Three organisations have already signed up to test the new system.

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