Power Up Scotland Programme

“A lot of fantastic early-stage social ventures across Scotland struggle to access small to medium-sized loans, so we are so pleased that through this partnership we can support those organisations to make an even greater difference within their communities.” John Montague, Managing Director of Group Operations

Power Up Scotland develops early stage social businesses through investment, business support and cross-sector partnerships.

Launched in 2018, Power Up is open to organisations across Scotland and has made £750,000 available to lend over the next two years. The funding available is to enable organisations to build on the good work they currently do within their communities. Whether it’s buying equipment, hiring new talent, or progressing with business development plans. Successful applicants also receive mentoring and business development support to social ventures for the two year period.

The programme, pioneered by Big Issue Invest and funded by partners, Aberdeen Standard Investments, Edinburgh University and the Scottish Government, aims to enable up to 20 Scottish early-stage social ventures to access loan funding of up to £50k. Power Up has been developed for organisations likely to be accessing finance for the first time, and with social value creation being the key criterion, social enterprises, charities, and private enterprises are all welcome to apply.

The scheme builds on Big Issue Invest’s significant expertise in social venture investment, which since its launch in 2005 has seen the organisation directly invest in more than 350 social ventures.

Power Up was born from the Corporate Social Venturing (CSV) England programme, devised by Big Issue Invest. The programme was created to support, develop and increase the sustainability of early stage social ventures. Along with its predecessor SPARK, CSV England has invested £4 million in 56 ventures to date, with mentors and companies still actively involved in several of these businesses seven years later.

Amongst the first crop of Power Up Scotland investees to receive funding and support were businesses including;

Hey Girls

Hey Girls is a Scotland-based Community Interest Company (CIC) which is committed to tackling period poverty by offering a girl or a woman a pack of sanitary products for every pack purchased. Their model is driven and supported by research, including a study by Plan International UK which highlighted that 1 in 5 female students in the UK are skipping school because they can’t afford period products. Hey Girls offer no leak, super comfy, chlorine and bleach free, environmentally friendly product, and all the profits from their Buy One Give One Period Products go directly to help girls and young women in need. The organisation also delivers education and awareness-raising workshops in schools, and run innovative myth-busting campaigns.

As a Power Up Scotland investee business, Hey Girls were supported by ASI’s head of credit and key individuals within his team to develop a business proposition for supermarkets and put in place operational systems to deal with the volumes of product required. The investment provided Hey Girls with the working capital to buy stock for their first ever supermarket orders, and supply products to a total of 280 ASDA and Waitrose Stores throughout the UK.

If it wasn’t for Big Issue Invest we wouldn’t have been able to do this. We wouldn’t have been able to scale up Hey Girls without their support. It’s not even just the money but the mentoring, the training and the connections we’ve been able to make. With contracting advice and mentoring from top firms across the country we’ve been able to become a more solid-feeling organisation.

Celia Hodson, Hey Girls Founder & CEO

Invisible Cities

Invisible Cities works across Scotland to train people affected by homelessness to become walking tour guides in their own city. They also recruit professional tour guides as volunteers and offer homeless trainees 1-2-1 sessions on how to build a tour, the content to include, and general guiding tips.

Each of their guides tours is unique and based on a theme they have personally chosen, and they encourage guides to include history of the city, local knowledge, places to visit, local social enterprises, and their own personal stories in their tours. They offer these alternative walking tours to international visitors and the local public to raise awareness of homelessness and provide trainees with the opportunity to develop customer service and public speaking skills, and grow in confidence.

Invisible Cities were supported by a team of mentors from Aberdeen Standard Investment who supported them to put in place operational processes to systematize and scale up. Since receiving funds though Power Up Scotland, Invisible Cities have expanded their tours from Edinburgh into Glasgow, Dundee, Manchester and York.

 By taking part in the Big Issue Invest programme, Invisible Cities has grown from a small Edinburgh based team to a multi-location social enterprise with a plan! The support and mentoring was invaluable, with results we see every day in our work, plus connections we could have never made on our own. As a leader it has made me really dig into the reasons why we do what we do and be very clear on what we want to achieve in the future.

Zakia Moulaoui, Founder, Invisible Cities


Viarama is an Edinburgh-based Community Interest Company (CIC) which harnesses the power of virtual reality (VR) as a force for good within communities across Scotland. The social enterprise is committed to harnessing technology to benefit school children, senior citizens and 18-24 year olds, in therapeutic, educational and entertainment settings. This includes using VR as a reminiscence tool for people living with conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and those in palliative care or living nursing/care homes; working with profoundly disabled people, enabling them to virtually travel to places in the world they have always wanted to visit; and working with children and adults with developmental disorders, for whom they create soothing sensory experiences.

When Viarma engaged with the Power up Scotland Programme, they were seeking support to define their business proposition and develop their route to market. This support came from mentors from across Aberdeen Standard Investment, who brought skills in business development, financial planning and marketing.

Power Up Scotland gives businesses what they really need in the form of practical advice, mentoring, relevant workshops, and access to expertise that can be hugely beneficial. This was very helpful to me and my business in many ways – from financial planning, business planning, strategic thought, to good old-fashioned sound-advice.

Billy Agnew, Founder Viarama

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