Free startup programme for young adults in Devon

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written by

Abby Gordon-Farleigh

Jan 18, 2022

Founders for the Future: a free startup programme for young adults in Devon

Do you think that Devon’s economy could be fairer? Do you think that running a business with others is better than going it alone? Grants and free business support for 18-30s who want to work together to create new startups in Devon. 

Do you have an idea for a new business that will benefit Devon’s local food sector, housing, or wellbeing in your community? You could get up to £1,000 and a three-month programme of support to develop your business ideas.

Stir to Action together with the New Economy Centre at Selgars Mill in Uffculme are launching a new business incubator programme to work with 15 young adults in Devon – aged between 18-30 years old – supporting them to create new enterprise ideas that secure a sustainable future for Devon’s local economy.

From March - June 2022, Founders for the Future offers a fully funded package of business support including workshops, residentials, 1:2:1 business consultancy, study visits, market development, a business fair, and up to £1,000 startup grant.

More than just a business start up programme, the three-month programme puts young adults at the heart of economic development by focusing on building a business based on collaboration and democracy through co-operative and community business models. 

So, what is a co-operative business? A co-op is just like any other business in that it makes products or services available to customers to purchase, but it’s owned and controlled by the people closest to the business: its employees. By giving people a stake in the business, co-ops create greater engagement, interest, and concern for the long-term interests of the business. 

By focusing on co-operatives, the programme is prioritising long-term sustainability over short-term economic gains. According to Cooperatives UK’s Cooperative Economy Report 2020, “76% of co-op start-ups are still flourishing after the difficult first five years. Just 42% of new companies make it through to the end of year five.”

Christopher Bunce, 23, of Suma Wholefoods worker co-operative said: “Having previously worked for some years within a very corporate business structure, working as part of a co-operative has proved to me that it is possible to run a successful business democratically, and also one that aims to exclude no one and decentralises power. Working within a co-operative business brings a whole new sense of value to day-to-day work, as not only do I see the immediate progress, but I’m also actively part of guiding the direction of the organisation. From the people we employ to the donations and work we do for our local community, I love the fact I’m part of a movement which prioritises people over profits.”

Nathan Brown of Co-op Culture and co-operative advisor for Founders for the Future said: “Worker co-operatives provide a way for individuals to launch a successful business together that they couldn’t achieve on their own. Sharing the hard work and responsibilities of the start-up phase, they get to share in the rewards, too.”

Simin Wadiwala, 24, Young Co-operators Network secretary and former member of SEASALT Housing Co-op said: “Co-ops are a way for young people to experience a sense of ownership – be it in their work, housing, or community. Instead of working for someone who focuses on their own short-term returns, co-ops are built by members for members, which allows them to make decisions about the business that meets their and their community’s needs.”

Applications are open now until 21 February 2022. To find out more about the programme and apply visit

Founders for the Future is part of the Devon Social Entrepreneurs Programme led by the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) in partnership with Devon Communities Together, Stir to Action and New Prosperity Devon. It is funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund, which is managed by Devon County Council within the Devon area.

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