Social enterprise is an important part of Cumbria's economy, creating opportunities that benefit the community.

The vital role these organisations offer the county has been truly recognised with the The 2019 Cumbria Social Enterprise Partnership Awards.

Selling goods and services in the open market, social enterprises are reinvesting money they make back into their business or the local community.

By doing this it allows them to fight social problems, improve people's lives, support communities and help the environment. Thus when a social enterprise profits the community will profit.

The Cumbria Social Enterprise Partnership support the sector in the county and has almost 500 members, which is free to all Cumbrian social enterprises.

CSEP is funded by Cumbria County Council and is currently delivering networking events and giving business support to both start-up and existing social enterprise businesses throughout the county.

The ceremony took place on Tuesday March 5, at Coronation Hall in Ulverston with a theme of Future of Business.

Rob Randell, Chair of the Cumbria Social Enterprise Partnership said “Every year we are simply blown away by the amazing work that is being done by social enterprises throughout the county and it makes choosing the winners very difficult. This year was no exception and the awards honoured some truly remarkable and inspirational organisations and people.”

There were four categories in this year’s awards with Alpacaly Ever After taking New Social Enterprise of the Year.

The new social enterprise set-up as a Community Interest Company less than two years ago and has since went from strength to strength.

Millions of people have viewed their social media videos and 7,000 people have walked with their alpacas at the Lingholm Estate in Portinscale near Keswick they are currently rated on Tripadvisor as No. 1 out of 388 things to do in the Lake District.

Community Enterprise of the Year Winner was Carlisle Mencap for their Independence Studio, at Grace Little Centre in Kingmoor Park, Carlisle.

The studio an art and animation studio run by young adults with a learning disability, it is the only one of its kind in the north west.

The studio has been used to help create short films on a number important issues such as sexual exploitation, hate crime, voting, healthy eating and most recently, mate crime.

National recognition has been gained with the films being distributed by the Home office and Cabinet Office.

A big winner for the West of Cumbria fell to Time to Change who took the award for Social Enterprise of the Year

The group run Calderwood House in the former Egremont Police Station. With a mission to tackle poverty and homelessness in West Cumbria.

The team spend time challenging the negative stereotypes of homelessness.

Denton Holme based group, iCan Health and Fitness's Lisa Dyke took Social Entrepreneur of the Year

Lisa Dykes, a director of community interest company in Carlisle said “It was an honour to be nominated for an award, but to actually win is incredible.

"Since we set-up our community interest company less than two years ago, we have gone from strength to strength. It’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but it’s all been worth it and shows what you can achieve if you’re passionate and determined about making a difference and we strive to do this every day at iCan.”

Julia Clifford who is also a director at iCan said:: "Last year we got highly commended new social enterprise and I won social entrepreneur 2018, then this year my business partner and co-director won social entrepreneur 2019. Making us the first community interest company to have directors winning two consecutive years. We are very proud."

A number of others were highly commended including Gateway for Women, Creative Wellbeing and People First Independent Advocacy.

It is estimated that there is over 800 social enterprises running in the county, contributing at least £325m to the economy, providing 4,000 jobs and engaging with 5,000 volunteers. The businesses vary greatly in size and type, operate in many different sectors and provide services in areas where private and public sector provision is lacking.