A former social worker has launched an online hub for social care services and professionals and aims to create up to 10 jobs over the next three years, following support from Boost; Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub.

Matt Hughes set up Preston-based One Stop Social Ltd after leaving his job in social services for a local council and youth justice.

Matt took the leap to set up on his own after spotting an opportunity to fill a gap in the market – and admits while it was a risk leaving his permanent management job, it was something he felt passionate about pursuing.

The online hub is a place for both social work and social care sector providers – including training providers, recruitment consultants and sector specialists – to promote front-line services, advertise vacancies and publicise training, events and resources.

Following a 10-month market research project involving social care services and professionals, the One Stop Social website was launched.

Matt has been supported by Boost’s Growth Support Programme, which helps entrepreneurs to develop business plans and grow their companies.

The fully-funded programme, delivered by Winning Pitch and Enterprise4all, provides help to develop a personal action plan, Lean Launchpad sessions outlining key principles for developing a new business and one-to-one coaching support for business owners.

Boost; Lancashire Business Growth Hub is led by the Lancashire LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and Lancashire County Council, and supported by funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Through Boost, Matt attended a number of masterclasses where he created a business model canvas to visually display his services and how to achieve more customers. This process gave Matt a clear direction and he believes the business model canvas has given him the knowledge needed to grow his business in the next few years.

Matt has also been supported through one-to-one coaching and continues to receive support.

He said: “The Boost masterclasses gave me, somebody with limited business experience and exposure, the opportunity to expand my knowledge base, understanding and skills in setting up, expanding and developing One Stop Social. It also gave me the confidence to give it a go.

“Following this support, I was successful in obtaining a government-backed business loan of £20,000. This has allowed me to really kick on with my business developments.

“In the next three years, I aim to create 10 jobs, my first employee joined in January and this will increase to meet demand for our services over time. The response to the business so far has been great, our rebranded and redeveloped website will launch in March and will be more interactive for users. A lot has happened in a short space of time, but it’s both exciting and rewarding.”

Rona McFall, head of entrepreneurial solutions at Winning Pitch, said: “It’s great to hear that Matt has taken on his first staff member just a few months after going live and that our help was the springboard for him to access finance. The business has been launched following a lot of in-depth research and we were pleased to be able to support Matt on the next steps to make sure there is a successful future ahead for One Stop Social Ltd.”

Boost Business Lancashire has received £3.8m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for ERDF. Established by the European Union, ERDF funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.  For more information, visit www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding

Matt had this to say about the recent article: “It’s always nice to be endorsed and supported by those involved within the business community and outside of One Stop Social. We continue to be a unique enterprise in that we are run by front-line social work and care professionals. We continue to grow from strength to strength. Our new website is very user-friendly and easy to navigate. What I hope to achieve is for those using the site to see it as a resource that will help them achieve and support those in need. I am passionate about supporting social work and the care sector.”

Source: Growth Lancashire. Permission sought.