AN East Kilbride-based courier firm that was started by a man who was housebound for three years with an illness has been chosen to get support under a £825,000 programme to help early stage social enterprises grow faster.

Bruce Gunn's Delivered Next Day Personally is in the first cohort of seven firms picked to participate in the LaunchMe scheme for businesses that aim to deliver social or environmental benefits as well as a profit.

With backing from the Big Lottery Fund, the scheme aims to identify the most ambitious, early stage social enterprises in Scotland and connect them with investors looking for social as well as financial returns.

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The companies chosen will follow a programme that includes getting them into the shape required to meet the standards set by investors and linking them with potential funders.

Participants will be able to apply for seed funding and additional funding of up to £100,000 to match any investment they secure.

Social Investment Scotland may provide funding for firms selected for the programme.

Billed as Scotland's first social enterprise accelerator programme, the programme is delivered by the Firstport development agency for start-up social enterprises.

Karen McGregor, chief executive of Firstport, said the programme offers a new approach to supporting ambitious early stage social enterprises that can achieve rapid scale and deliver social and economic benefits to communities across Scotland.

She said the first cohort includes "driven and innovative social entrepreneurs."

Mr Gunn suffered an allergic reaction to a mosquito bite on a family holiday to Spain in 2008, which led to a long-term illness.

"I went from being a successful IT consultant to joining the lost generation of disabled people on the scrapheap," said Mr Gunn, who started Delivered Next Day Personally in 2012 after getting frustrated in his search for suitable work.

The company employs people with disabilities as couriers to make deliveries in areas close to where they live. It has ten staff and works with 18 self-employed couriers.

Mr Gunn, aged 51, wants to roll the model out across Scotland.

The firms were chosen by an expert panel chaired by Jock Millican, who chairs the LINC Scotland angel investor organisation.

Mr Millican praised the quality of the applicants. He said: "The panel was looking for a business model that was eventually sustainable but it wasn't purely about profit - the businesses also had to demonstrate a social impact that benefits the community."

Other members of the first cohort are Sew Can Do Manufacturing; Bad Idea, which encourages young people to think about starting businesses; Inverness Kart Raceway; Citizen Bank, which rewards people for contributing to communities ; Homes for Good letting agency; Breadshare community bakery.