New Leaf CIC is supporting more people into careers with help from the Forward Enterprise Fund
Thursday 14 November 2019

New Leaf Initiative CIC provides clear routes to employment and education for ex-offenders looking to make positive changes to their lives. They work with marginalised groups, building empathic relationships with men and women in custody and training them in transferable employment-related skills, such as communication and conflict resolution. They do this in partnership with an adult education provider. CEO and founder Marie-Claire O’Brien (pictured centre) explains the support she received from the Forward Enterprise Fund.

How did The Forward Trust help with your business development?

We received funding for consultancy support to help prepare a business plan and cash flow forecast. This enabled us to then apply for further investment from the Forward Enterprise Fund - which we received!

How much funding did you receive?

We were over the moon to receive £25,000 to increase our staffing capacity. It enabled us to appoint a Recruitment Manager as well as purchase a client management system. It means we can help many more people with convictions and those in recovery to find and keep employment - scaling our business while maintaining quality and consistency for our service users and wider stakeholders.

What would be your advice to others looking to start a new business after a challenging past?

It is challenging starting your own business, especially in the social sector where competition for funding is high and services users need more support. Don’t quit and speak to everyone about what you do and your offer! If you know you are filling a gap, can evidence the need for your service or product and have the right energy and enthusiasm, it’s important to build a network that can support you in your search for sustainability. Funders, commissioners, stakeholders and partners will all be found when you get out there and network.

Although we are all time poor, this is essential if you are to get where you want to be. I found out about the FEF by attending an event in London and speaking to the right people at the right time. So it’s vital to get out there and show what you have to offer the world - they need you, and your service users need you more!

Sustainability is essential in the current climate, so think about creating multiple revenue streams that benefit your service users. We can no longer just rely on grant funding to help us deliver our important work, which is why I am so grateful to the Forward Enterprise fund for helping us to develop our social enterprise further.

What is the future for New Leaf?

We want to help 600-1,000 people to find work over the next three years. We’ll do this by increasing our staffing capacity, work experience and training opportunities and to get more national employers involved in the untapped talent pool of people who wish to turn over a New Leaf. In doing this we will empower people to create more fulfilling, independent lives away from crime and drugs and with a career of their choice. Having a job reduces re-offending by 50%, with 67% of people with convictions believing a job to be the single most important factor in reducing re-offending rates. We are also in the middle of creating a co-operative mode to employ the people who find it most difficult moving into the world of work. The future is bright - for us and our service users! Thank you!

For more information about the Forward Enterprise Fund, contact Stephen Anderson, Enterprise Coach at or on 07584908346