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Almond Enterprises

THERE CAN be few business transformations as stunning as the one that has taken place at Almond Enterprises.

The organisation, based in Craigshill in Livingston, began life in the 1990s as the Craigshill Initiative, which carried out stair cleaning, initially for the Development Corporation and then for Almond Housing Association. But when the initiative's directors retired in 2004, the business risked closure.

It was only when the housing association decided to step in and set up the organisation as a subsidiary social enterprise with a full-time manager that the business was revitalised.

"The old enterprise never grew significantly," says Margaret Schonberger, head of policy and development at Almond Housing Association. "But when we set up Almond Enterprises the principle was to give local people the opportunity of jobs and personal development, and support local groups through surplus funds," she says.

More clients

Although the organisation still provides services to Almond Housing Association, it has expanded its client list to include the local council and other housing associations in the area. With the help of a Communities Scotland Wider Role grant, it now has a fleet of three vans which ferry employees and materials between jobs.

"The new vans are terrific," says Annette, a supervisor at Almond Enterprises. "It saves hanging around on street corners for taxis and means I can get more water and cleaning materials on the job."

And the organisation's success - Margaret says it's aiming to be grant-independent within two years - is matched by the turn-around seen in its employees.

Almond Enterprises now employs a dozen people, some of whom had little or no experience of work.

"One 16-year-old who joined us was unlikely to be offered work in the conventional job market, but he's been fantastic since he came here," says James Belton, Almond Enterprises' manager. "He's also taught some of the older staff web skills, which they have all appreciated."

According to one employee: "The old company was good, but now we have so much more opportunity and it really feels like we're going somewhere."

Locals happy too

James feels that locals who receive the cleaning service are happy too. "There is a bit of pride that comes back when everything is tidy. After we've visited properties, we see some tenants putting notes out to ask others to keep things tidy," he says.

There are plans to expand the role of Almond Enterprises further. The enterprise is strengthening links with other social enterprises to recycle and reuse as much of the house clearance materials as possible. It is also talking to West Lothian Council about offering a crèche service, with Almond Enterprise employing a creche co-ordinator.

"Not only will the service benefit businesses who need creche facilities, but it will also offer childcare training to local and link to a local college to allow them to get childcare qualifications," says Margaret. the pilot plans are successful the service will operate without grant funding.

For further information, contact:

James Belton
Almond Enterprises Ltd
45 Adelaide St
West Lothian
EH54 5HQ

Tel: 01506 435997

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Company Registration No. 278156. Scottish Charity No. SC 029210