Acceptable Enterprises Ltd (AEL) based at Centre Point, in Larne, is celebrating its 15th anniversary.
The social enterprise employs 25 people and is currently offering 46-day placement opportunities through the Northern Health and Social Services Trust.
AEL which was formed in 1999 – and last week won the Community Engagement Award at the 2014 Larne Business Awards - was the first social enterprise company in Northern Ireland and took up residence at the former NRC building, Pound Street, in August 2012, returning the building to full occupancy in partnership with NRC and the Trust,
Chief executive David Hunter explained: “A social enterprise company is a company which is not for profit. It has a social ethos to try to benefit people in the area.
“We work with people who are disadvantaged, either through disability or some other means. We provide work placements and try to create employment for people with disability.”
The work involves packaging, sample making and “mail merge”. Clients include Bombardier, Brett Martin and Kilwaughter Chemical Co.
During the last 12 months, Acceptable Enterprises Ltd. has started two new internet businesses which involve importing goods from China, bags for party “favours”, sweet bags, lollipop sticks and straws, which are then sold online. These items will also be on sale at Centre Point from the end of October under the brand name of “Candyrush”.
Acceptable Enterprises Ltd. has also launched a new cafe, called “Lunchbox”, which is also based at Centre Point.
“We have a cafe onsite now taking telephone orders. It is open to the public and we are currently working on building a web platform to enable people to order their lunch online,” said David.
“The cafe serves fresh food prepared on site. It is all home produce,” he added.
Chef Kerri Sittlington prepares hot and cold meals, with a large selection of specials. Sandwiches, paninis and wraps are all popular. There is also a selection of homemade desserts, tray bakes and pastries.
Lunchbox is open from 9am until 4pm, Monday to Friday.
The “Lunchbox” concept was the proud recipient of Santander’s Social Enterprise Entrepreneurship Award to the tune of £50,000.
Looking to the future, AEL in association with “Learning to Grow”, a social enterprise based in Magheramorne, is preparing to launch another venture.
Construction work is underway on a bottling plant at Shore Road for a new spring water, the first in Ireland to be sold by a social enterprise. Bottling is expected to commence next spring.
Plans are also in the pipeline for the development of the Centre Point site. Acceptable Enterprises Ltd. is aiming to get a new allotment project off the ground on a 2.2-acre plot to the rear of the building.The project has already received funding to the tune of £10,000 and applications have been made to additional funding bodies to make the latest concept become a reality.