There were celebrations in Lisburn recently when local charity Stepping Stones brought home a top award.
The charity scooped the award in the inaugural Social Enterprise Awards, which were held recently in Londonderry.
Stepping Stones were crowned champions in the ‘Education, Jobs and Training’ category.
Cara Cash, who collected the award on behalf of the charity, said everyone was delighted with the success.
“We are so incredibly proud of our Coffee Shop team, both the staff and the trainees, and for them to receive recognition at such a level is amazing for them and us,” said Ms Cash.
“Being named the best Social Enterprise for Education, Training and Jobs means so much to a team who are delivering NVQ’s each day to young people with learning disabilities, which ultimately makes them more employable and work ready.
“We look forward to welcoming lots of new customers into the Coffee Shop to see for themselves just how incredible a team they all are,” she added.
Director of Social Enterprise NI, Juliet Cornford explained: “Again we have seen the innovation and excellence of the Social Enterprise sector across Northern Ireland.
“This year’s award winners have contributed to not only the local economy through job creation for those often furthest from the labour market but through the regeneration of some our most challenging communities.”
The annual awards are organised and hosted by Social Enterprise NI the representative body for the sector.
They provide a central meeting place where the sector can collaborate, share knowledge, information and best practice to create real social change.
Social Enterprises are businesses that reinvest their profits towards achieving a social purpose.
They operate in almost every industry in the UK, from Health and Social care to renewable energy, from retail to recycling, from employment to sport, from housing to education.
Northern Ireland has a vibrant and expanding Social Economy sector, currently employing over 12,200 people.
The future is looking bright with 77% of local Social Enterprises reporting plans for future growth.