Dolpins Den participantsMore than 70 people attended an event in Lancashire recently to celebrate the achievements of 44 people with learning disabilities who have made the first steps towards setting up their own business or community project.

The event was held by Dolphins’ Den, which is run by the charity Thera Trust and supports people with a learning disability to set up their own business or community project. Participants attend a series of workshops and have the opportunity to be mentored by a local businessperson.

The project was supported by Thera North, Lancashire County Council and Vedas and is the last of three pilot projects.

It has been the most successful Dolphins’ Den project so far with 44 people attending at least one of the workshops and 20 people opting to receive mentoring from 11 Lancashire-based business people. Initial workshops were held in Burnley and Preston to introduce the project, help people define their ideas and start planning what to do next. This was followed by business mentoring, where participants received support from volunteer mentors who worked with them individually to make their ideas a reality. During the mentoring the project was extended with three new workshops on business planning, market research and marketing, delivered in Preston by Peter Dickinson from KUB and John Hughes from Community Integrated Care.

At the celebration event, participants were presented with a certificate of achievement by Sam Leonard, commissioning manager for Lancashire County Council; Matthew Smith, director of quality and involvement at Thera Trust; and John Hooper, non-executive director for Thera North.

Participants and their mentors showed their ideas and progress so far. Some of the ideas include a community choir, a self-advocacy group, dog walking, bag making, jewellery making, DJ-ing and community bingo. 

Andrew Bright, service quality director for Thera North and learning and development project partner at Thera Trust, said: “The celebration event shows the true benefits of Dolphins’ Den to the wider community of Lancashire and has made a real difference for 44 people by enabling them to kick start their own business or community project.”

The Dolphins’ Den pilots have been successful and Thera hopes to roll out the project throughout England and Scotland in the upcoming years. For more information visit: www.thera.co.uk/dolphinsden