Melting Pot has feet under desk as turnover grows

Melting Pot has feet under desk as turnover grows
Jane Bradley, The Scotsman

AN office space venture set up in Edinburgh to serve charity and social enterprise workers is on track to become entirely independent within two years.

The Melting Pot, which was launched a year ago by Claire Carpenter, has this year generated £120,000 and is on target to break even – and run without the help of grants – by 2010.

Based in Edinburgh’s Rose Street, the organisation rents desk space to small charities, companies or social enterprises – offering from just five hours a month to full-time, permanent desk space.

Carpenter, who has worked in small not-for-profit organisations for more than 17 years, spotted a gap in the market three years ago.

She said: ‘This was something I needed that didn’t exist. I have often worked from home as I have mostly worked for groups without a permanent base here and it is a lonely thing to do.

‘Also, there are certain things you just can’t do, working from home. You’re not going to have a business meeting in your front room – at the Melting Pot, there are meeting rooms people can use and they also get the chance to network with other people working in the same field.’

Although an organisation does not have to be a strict social enterprise to rent a space at the Melting Pot, Carpenter is keen that her tenants should share the same ethos.

She said: ‘They have to be what I call ‘more-than-profit’ organisations – everything from charities to activists, to environmental consultancies.’

In addition to about £60,000 of rent paid by its 80 members, the group has generated a similar amount from renting out its meeting room space to external clients, including the Scottish Government.

The group lets the space from the Ethical Property Company, which rents the other two floors on the Rose Street site direct to larger charitable organisations.

‘We looked around for a long time for a suitable space,’ says Carpenter. ‘When we found this with the Ethical Property Company, we knew it was ideal. We refurbished it with the help of volunteers for under £10,000.’

Carpenter has estimated that the group needs 150 to 200 members to reach its target of independence over the next two years. She said: ‘It is growing all of the time. It is a very close-knit industry in Scotland and we get a lot of business from word of mouth.’

Customers of the Melting Pot, which has 25 desk spaces used on a ‘hot desking’ scheme, range from large charities, such as Oxfam, that want a base in Edinburgh, to small, one-person organisations.

Carpenter added that she did not believe the business would be adversely affected by the credit crunch.

She said: ‘I think businesses, especially charities which have been hit by a drop in donations, are more likely to want flexible office space. We are ahead of our targets, so I don’t think we’ve really noticed a hit at all.’