A PILOT by Nationwide to get community-focussed businesses off the ground has begun with two budding start-ups.

The Swindon-based building society will mentor the companies over the next six months in an office in the Workshed to get them from start-up to fully-successful enterprises.

Tote, an app that joins van drivers up with anyone looking to collect heavy furniture, is one of the first to make it on to the programme.

Shane Moore, 31, founder of Tote and an ex-Swindon Wildcats player, told the Adver: “I had that pure lightbulb moment when my wife bought a Wendy house and we had to rent a van, dismantle it, and bring it back. It took me six hours and cost me £160 in total.

“It made me realise there are people out here with vans who are sitting around twiddling their thumbs who would be very happy for £160 in their pocket to do this job.”

Shane has now been put in touch with Nationwide’s mobile apps team, which will support the front-end development of the Tote app.

“Within a week they’ve put me in touch with an IOS developer who is going to help me get this project off the ground,” he added.

The second is the Platform Project, a social enterprise that helps disadvantaged young people run their own mini-business with the help of local professionals.

Its founder and managing director Sadie Sharpe, 37, said: “I’ve had this big five-year plan in the back of my head to grow it and try and make it self-sustainable without having to rely on funding.

“We take referrals from social services, other youth agencies like SMASH, as well as schools and mental health services. They come to us and do whatever themed-business challenge we happen to be running, whether that’s organising a teenage music event or having an upcycling fashion show.

“They learn new skills and build their confidence working with real adults. It helps them bridge that gap between seeing themselves as a school kid to all of a suddenly taking themselves seriously with a future.”

Michelle Simpson, head of innovation partnering at Nationwide, said: “There are lots of early-stage businesses, or those wanting to start out, here in Swindon with great ideas. A little support and advice on how to develop their businesses could bring real value to our local community.

“We are looking forward to working with, and learning from, the Platform Project and Tote as two great Swindon organisations who are joining us as the first businesses on our regional mentoring pilot.”