“…One of the biggest challenges these days is for potential business start-ups to find a route to free or subsidised and impartial business advice. The smallest things can scupper a business early on, such as change in personal circumstance, child care, or health issues…”
Julie Lawn is a social entrepreneur who founded Cute Dog Consulting in 2005 funded by Government enterprise schemes, driven by a need to find a flexible way to work (as a single parent) she set up a business offering business advice and vocational training. With a background in marketing and training, Julie has enabled Cute Dog to bring funded training solutions and apprenticeships to over 500 people in the last five years.
What is a social enterprise?
People often ask me, “What is a social enterprise?” Without being evangelical, I believe that social enterprise is ‘the way forward’ for small businesses in the UK.
Social enterprises can take many legal forms (and can be made up of just one person) but most importantly, a social enterprise needs to be a person or organisation that applies business sense and strategies to make a real difference in improving human and environmental well-being, rather than maximising profits.
Crucially, a social enterprise exists for social purpose and must have social aims, values, and beliefs.
A unique business
I brought together a group of people – all facing individual challenges, to help me set up a unique business. My early team included single parents, people over the age of 50 who had been made redundant, and people with disabilities (including agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder).
Plugging the gap
My ethos hasn’t changed from the early days. I still work with staff who find it hard to find ‘mainstream work’. The team and I are constantly striving to find Government and grant funding to plug the gap to offer vocational training and business advice support in the UK for anyone who wants to work.
Changes of Government and policy have made it increasingly difficult for marginalised people to start a business or access business advice particularly – and the situation is even more complicated for female lone parents, women and people who are disabled.
The small things that make a big difference
One of the biggest challenges these days is for potential business start-ups to find a route to free or subsidised and impartial business advice. The smallest things can scupper a business early on, such as change in personal circumstance, child care, or health issues.
My team is particularly keen to help people in social housing to move from benefits to the world of work, but in a reasonable and gradual way, and at their own pace.
Helping people on their journey into enterprise or employment
We have worked with women and marginalised people, offering advice to business start-ups, and have helped people make a rationalised decision about their business start-up. Much of the process is to help people on their journey into enterprise or employment.
By helping people plan the timeframe for starting their business (and actually find out if it’s really ‘for them’, or if they would be better off working for an employer) I’m immensely proud that the team and I have been able to help over 500 people find funding for training and start their own business over the last five years.
I want to change the world (or a small bit of it!)
As a leader of a social enterprise I’m passionate about achieving real social aims and this motivates me more than the challenge of running a profitable business. Many companies probably consider themselves to have social objectives, but my social enterprise is different – because social purpose is central to what we do.
Apprenticeship Training for your employees
Cute Dog is a City and Guilds centre, offering Housing, Insurance professional, English and Maths, Customer Service, Sales and Telesales, Business and Administration EPA. We can help you secure Levy Transfer funding to fully fund the whole course for your employees.
Becoming a Disability Confident Employer
The Disability Confident scheme supports employers like you to make the most of the talents disabled people can bring to your workplace – Read more here
We have had great success in the past 5 years supporting new and growing CICs and SMEs to raise grant, loan and equity funding. Please get in touch as we operate on a no win no fee, and can also evaluate any funded projects you win!
Social enterprise and Third Sector Business advice in London and the South East
If you are in London or the SE, Cute Dog can offer you business advice to help you plan for your short and long term future We can help you start or rewrite your Business Plan – saving you time & money and giving you the best chance of getting a Contract, loan or grant.
Specialist short courses
Our training includes: Dealing with Difficult People, Employing Neurodiverse Staff, and Engaging with your Community.
Finding a new pathway to work in West Sussex
A group of 12 unemployed disabled people have been referred to Cute Dog by Horsham Haywards Heath and Crawley job centres. We are working with them over 6 months to help build their confidence, practical work skills and find the perfect job for them.
App Development in Brighton
12 young people who show exceptional promise are being chosen from referrals made by the Job Centre Brighton to join a unique new digital training course. Delivered in conjunction with Brighton MET college, during October 2023, we will be offering a practical introduction to App Development and other digital roles, and combining employability and confidence building training. We aim to help every participant into a further study course or a role in IT in Brighton by the end of 2023.
Supporting Long Term unemployed people with mild mental health issues in Kingston, Twickenham and Wandsworth
Helping 30 people to identify areas for support, build confidence, improve their CVs and interview skills.
Working with Lere on focused presentation skills, and with Sophie and Chris to identify roles, apply for them and hopefully get a job by early 2024!