Securing funding from UMi Debt Finance Scotland has helped GTS Solutions - the only social enterprise operating in the UK private security industry - to expand into cyber security.
Edinburgh-based GTS Solutions was founded in 2012 by chief executive Chris Thewlis, who has borrowed £50,000 from the fund to finance a partnership with Swiss firm Lucy Security. UMi Debt Finance Scotland manages a £12 million loan fund under the Scottish Growth Scheme, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), to help accelerate the growth of Scottish businesses.
GTS can now offer Lucy’s software to the UK’s social enterprise sector to ensure its cyber security and safety. Lucy offers security training and testing services in 130 languages.
Chris said: “Our partnership with Lucy gives us a cyber security product that we can deliver in a tailored way specifically to the social enterprise market in different languages and potentially allows us to export.
“The loan from UMi Debt Finance Scotland enabled us to seal the deal with Lucy and to hire a full-time trainer to expand that part of our business. They were recommended to us by Derek Smith at Allied Irish Bank and the process was painless, to be honest.
“They gave me a decision within days and the money was in the bank within two weeks, so it was super easy and super quick.”
Tom Brock, fund director at UMi Debt Finance Scotland, said: “Chris and his team have developed a unique business model that successfully combines a commercial offering aligned with their social enterprise and ethical values which underpins their overall strategy. I’m delighted that we are supporting the company to help them achieve their ambitious growth plans.”
GTS has around 50 permanent members of staff, with additional workers coming onboard during busy seasons, and lists Edinburgh Castle, Multiplex Construction’s University of Glasgow regeneration project and a score of Scottish local councils among its customers. It is also the only social enterprise to partner with global security equipment firm Axis Communications.
The business was set up as a community interest company (CIC), a format used by social enterprises that intend to reinvest their profits into projects and schemes that benefit their local communities. GTS is signed up to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals and has so far delivered savings of £8.5 million to the public purse.
While the business was launched initially to provide security staff for pubs and events, it quickly developed into also offering training to disadvantaged young people and other hard to reach groups to enter the industry.
The company took over the running of the “Get Into Security” programme from The Prince’s Trust and became accredited through the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and Highfield Qualifications, turning the scheme into its own “Securing Futures” project.
Chris said: “The people came out of our five week course with many more qualifications than anyone else working in the industry in Scotland – they didn’t have the experience, but they had all the boxes ticked for an employer, because they’d been trained as fire marshals and had first aid and health and safety training, alongside many other industry-specific and transferable skills.
“Securing Futures became arguably the most successful employability programme in Scotland ever, with a 97% retention rate and a 93% outcome rate for sustained employment after six months. More than 200 young individuals went through that course before it ended in 2018-19.
“We still deliver training ourselves, and we could run Securing Futures again for other organisations.”
About 75% of GTS’s employees had some form of barrier to getting into work, with Thewlis and his team helping them to overcome those obstacles. The company pays its staff the living wage and also gives them a guaranteed number of hours in their contracts.
In March GTS also announced two new appointments. Roger Horam, a director with the European Development Innovation Network, has joined the Edinburgh-based company as a non-executive director with a focus on funding applications and tenders. He also has extensive experience as a project manager, from small start-ups to multi-million pound operations. Also joining as a non-executive director is Brian Cameron, formerly head of business development and marketing at Grant Thornton.