What is a Social Enterprise Business?
Social enterprises are
businesses. They make and do
things that earn money and
make profits like any business.
It is how they work and what
they do with their profits that
is different: working to make a
bigger difference, reinvesting
the profits they make to do more
Social enterprises come in all sizes, from small community cafés to really big international organisations, but they’re usually started by a person or group with a particular passion and sense of purpose.
The passion often comes from
trying to solve a problem that
they understand personally; and
the purpose comes from having
a business idea that could solve
that problem for others.
The Vision of Fermanagh Fun Farm as a Social Enterprise
In early 2019, the idea of Fermanagh Fun Farm came about by local primary school teacher, Mr Alan Potters, after he felt there was a gap in the market for a fun farm attraction in the Fermanagh area. At this time, the nearest fun farm attraction was in other counties such as Tyrone and Ballyshannon, all over an hours drive away. The idea of a fun farm attraction came to Alan, while he was teaching in Scotland and had visited a few farm attractions as part of school trips.
Fermanagh Fun Farm is located on the Potters family farm. The farm has been passed down through the Potters family for generations. The farm had been a diary farm and about 10 years ago converted to a beef / sheep farm. The farm was operated by Dickie and William Potters. After Dickie's passing in Nov 17, after a short illness, the farm lay disused. During this period, the farm was starting to fall into a poor state and alot of work was needed done, before the buildings and yard were suitable for public use. 20 months later and Fermanagh Fun Farm was born.
Fermanagh Fun Farm C.I.C was first opened to the public on Sat 6th July 2019. The aim of the farm was to create a fun, educational, hands on, active learning experience for members of the public, while being a home to to rescued and adopted animals. All animals were to be treated as pets and given a home for life on the farm. No animals were to be working animals or used for any food production. This is a commitment, we still stand by, to today. The farm became home to around 20 animals who were rescued from local sanctuaries or donated by local farms, who liked our ethos. We had rabbits, guinea pigs, ponies, donkeys, pigs, goats, hens and roosters. Visitors to the farm had to pre-book to visit. Small groups of visitors had a guided tour to meet the animals, a handling session in pets corner and a chance to learn about pony grooming and take ponies for a walk. A small tuck shop was available onsite and picnic area with a tractor and trailer climbing frame. The farm was open daily all summer and weekends during the autumn. The farm had there very first Halloween pumpkin carving experience at the end of Oct and then closed for the season, to reopen 5 months later in March 2020.
As a social enterprise, all profits from 2019 were used to care for our animals to provide them with their food and medical care needed. The committee applied for grant funding to be able to add more attractions to the farm and rescue more animals. We also used the profits to purchase some animals, to extend the range of animals on display.
We had new arrivals of animals of turkeys, ducks, silkie hens, guinea fowl birds, peacocks, miniature horse, meerkats, gerbils, hamsters and cows were added to our collection. We also got funding from the National Lottery to build a new outdoor playarea. We also got funding from DEARA to purchase indoor playarea toys and furniture, and flooring for our new tearoom. The local council give us funding to build a new toilet block area.
A loan was got to be able to do some ground work such as building a car park (cost approx £10,000), putting fencing and safety measures in place around the new outdoor playarea and converting a disused sillage pit into a indoor playground.
2021 seen the farm being expanded again by introducing horses, alpacas and a lama to our collection. Different breeds or cows and sheep were added to the mix too. The farm was extended by adding more picnic areas and a new quad a trailer rider. Profits from 2020 were used to expand the carpark, build new pathways around the attraction, paint all external walls and upgrade pets corner.
Profits, from 2021 were used to farm continue to expand by adding art work to the external walls and adding a funfair area of pedal boats and cups and saucers. The quad and trailer ride was upgraded too. A new log cabin was purchased to be used as a birthday party room too. Surplus profits were also donated to local organisations.
2022 was the year we started to expand what we had to offer at the farm. See list below.
* Training and Employment
Alan an experienced school teacher has worked in both the primary and secondary school sector, with pupils with additional support needs. While working in this sector, he noticed that his pupils, had less opportunities to gain paid employment or work experiences. By providing opportunities for employment, volunteering and gaining national qualifications at the farm, he hopes to enhance young peoples opportunity to be able to gain paid employment or voluntary work. With agricultural & tourism being the biggest employment areas of Co Fermanagh, providing learning and training in both areas, gives young people more of a chance of gaining employment.
* An Education Service
Onsite & Offsite educational workshops will be provided for schools . These will be linked to the Northern Ireland Curriculum from foundation stage to Keystage 4. Areas of the curriculum will be "The World Around Us" & GCSE agricultural, tourism, business studies, food & nutrition, preparation for working life, work and life skills.
* Mental Health
We have started to work with local public organisations whose role is to support people in the community suffering from mental health. Working in partnership with these organisations, and with the use of our animals we have been able to support people with mental health through our animals enrichment programme. Many people talk about the benefits being around the animals have helped with their health and well-being.
The committee continue to have a vision to expand the attraction. Our AGM will take place in Sept 2022, where a decision will be made on our priorities for expanding in 2023. Our customer feedback is used as the foundation for making these decisions, with the committee deciding on the next stages.
Watch this space for more info.