Initiative to help homeless clinches £12k investment

Alice Sparks of Invisible Manchester

A Manchester-based social enterprise that trains people who have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides in the city has secured a £12,000 investment.

Invisible Manchester, founded by Alice Sparks, received the investment from Venture Further, a start-up competition run by Alliance Manchester Business School’s Masood Enterprise Centre, where entrepreneurs can compete for a share of £75,000 of funding.

With the investment, Alice Sparks will continue to grow Invisible Manchester which was set up to teach people about Manchester’s powerful history and exciting future, while also revealing a personal side of the city affected by homelessness.

The tours are designed to teach audiences about homelessness and learn about their guide’s own battle with homelessness, while also providing an additional source of income and employment for the guides.

According to latest figures, around 5,500 people are currently homeless in Greater Manchester alone.

More than 65 start-ups entered the Venture Further competition, and Invisible Manchester was one of five winners.

Other winning businesses included a table-service app where pub-goers can order food and pay on their phone at any restaurant in the world, and a firm which creates polymeric dressing that allows healthcare providers to detect wound infections at an early stage.

Alice Sparks said: “When I put myself forward for the competition earlier this year I never thought I’d be one of the five successful start-ups to get a share of the funding. So many other great businesses entered.

“I launched Invisible Manchester nearly two years ago as I just couldn’t sit back and do nothing while the number of homeless people in the city rose.

“It’s important that people learn about homelessness, and those who have experienced it themselves are the best placed to teach people.”

She added: “I can’t wait to put this money to good use and get more people involved in Invisible Manchester.”

Competition director, Dr Martin Henery, said: “We have seen an increase in both the quality and preparedness of the proposals being entered.

“There is more evidence of a ‘minimum viable product’ and early testing with prospective users and potential customers, the proposals are much more credible.

“In addition, the quality of some of the presenters has been remarkable, causing some of our judges to comment that on any other day they would have invested in those individuals there and then.

“These increases in quality don’t make the job of our judges any easier. However, it does remain an immensely enjoyable and rewarding task for all involved and something they wish to repeat year after year.”

Alliance MBS is the UK’s largest business and management school. Venture Further is a yearly competition open to all University of Manchester students and alumni that graduated within two years.