The Utilize Project helps more than 80 SMEs kickstart businesses in Canary Wharf

London-based social enterprise, The Utilize Project, has helped over 80 SMEs and community groups to kickstart their businesses with reduced commercial rent through their meanwhile space incubator project.

Commercial rent has been at an all-time high since last year, with retail spaces costing as much as £2,175 per square foot annually in some areas of London.

Other major UK cities, such as Leeds and Birmingham also saw increases in commercial rent, reaching annual prices of between £150 and £190 per square foot in 2021, a rise of 7% and 5% respectively over just six months.

As a result, many SMEs, start-ups, and community groups have been unable to find suitable and affordable space to start their businesses and as a result, hundreds of commercial spaces have been left empty and local communities lifeless.

With such increases, plus the aftermath of the pandemic, a new report by London Green Party revealed that almost 800 publicly owned spaces in London alone have been neglected and remain empty.

To help combat this, The Utilize Project, a social enterprise that transforms unused, empty spaces into vibrant, community-first high streets, has set up an incubator project.

They look to collaborate with bold, social-conscious entrepreneurs who have a passion to benefit and revive their local communities, from food shops and cafes to music studios and support groups.

Since its founding in 2019, the social enterprise has joined forces with over 80 businesses in east London.

For the Women’s Network, a community group based in Isle of Dogs which offers mental health, educational and social programmes for women, a physical space was crucial to carry out their services effectively. Yet, price increases meant that this wasn’t achievable.

A spokesperson from the organisation, says: “Finding a suitable space that can accommodate our numbers, especially at an affordable rate for a small organisation like ours, has been a nightmare in London. Since being recommended to the Utilize Project, our initiatives, mainly the coffee mornings, have been a great hit with the locals.”

“It is a safe space where women and their young ones can come together, share experiences and more than anything, make it their own.”

The incubator project has also been beneficial for local creatives. Okera, a young videographer from London who goes by the name OkeraHD, needed a temporary filming space for his projects.

He explains: “I was after a space to use as a film set for my feature and short films to get the youth to expand their creativity. The Utilize Project helped me to gain more exposure to younger audiences as I was able to invite them into the space and grow a social circle allowing them to grow confidence and help with their acting experience.”

It is these small yet essential organisations that are having the largest impact on local communities, according to The Utilize Project.

The social enterprise will be expanding across 12 other east London boroughs in the next five years, helping to home even more community-first SMEs through their incubator project.

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