Fir Tree Fishery provides training opportunities for young people in the North West, while giving valuable support to the elderly and disabled. Its founder, Martin Taylor, was a student at SSE North West on the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Scale Up Programme 2015-16.
Martin Taylor used to farm Christmas trees. “I’ve always been entrepreneurial! I used to farm trees and ran a commercial fishery – that’s what gave me the inspiration to launch Fir Tree Fishing as a community interest company.”
That was 2012, when Fir Tree Fishing first opened its doors as an angling centre for people with disabilities and special needs. “I realised there were few opportunities for people with disabilities to enjoy angling. I saw a business opportunity and a way to help the community,” explains Martin.
After successfully helping around 40 disabled and elderly people enjoy fishing, the centre began receiving a new type of referral. “The council asked us if we could take on disengaged young people, which wasn’t our remit,” explains Martin. “We weren’t sure at first, but we also needed more volunteers, so we thought, how good would it be if we could get these young people, who are obviously interested in angling and the outdoors, to offer the support?”
A six-month pilot was launched and the new volunteers – all of whom were not in education, employment, or training (NEET) – began supporting the centre users. It worked: the centre received the help it needed and the young people benefitted too, their attitudes and behaviours improving dramatically.
young people benefitted too, their attitudes and behaviours improving dramatically.
As a result, Martin decided to offer relevant BTEC courses for the new volunteers and the organisation changed direction.
“It was great, but we’d faced a crossroads,” recalls Martin. “We were only eight staff and were moving from being a grant-funded organisation to one going out to tender that had to be contract-ready. We needed guidance.”
By joining the Scale Up programme at this crucial juncture, Martin received the mentoring he needed to help him adapt the business model. “I wanted to make sure we still did what we set up to do. That through funding for the young people, we could still help the adults, and become a free service for the adults. The programme helped me do that.”
Through a variety of training options, Fir Tree Fishery has already helped hundreds of NEET young people, with 76% of students progressing into employment. The centre now has contracts with 10 local schools and continues to support elderly and disabled people locally.
“The Scale Up programme gave me the direction I needed at that time”
“The Scale Up programme gave me the direction I needed at that time,” says Martin. “It helped me find out where we were going.”