The Co-operative Group has doubled the funding for its Enterprise Hub initiative from Â£7.5m to Â£15m to develop its service to encourage new businesses over the next three years.
The Manchester-based giant, which is hoping the scheme will spawn a co-operative enterprise a day this year, is also encouraging young people to set up their own businesses.
The Enterprise Hub, which recently scooped a national award, was piloted in the north west in 2009 before its official launch in April last year.
It has since been rolled out across the UK and there are now 11 Enterprise Hubs committed to supporting new and existing co-operative businesses, from pubs to grocers, and cafÃs to childcare ventures.
Representatives from the Hubs recently held a national conference to discuss its success so far and plans for the future, including setting up a school enterprise programme.
Michael Fairclough, the Co-operative Groupâs head of community and campaigns, said: Young people are savvy enough to understand the benefits of a co-operative business model.
We will be looking at how we can get young people thinking about a co-operative enterprise and how to implement a young enterprise programme, whether its at schools or even outside schools.
One idea is to create a toolkit. It will basically be a âbusiness in a boxâ containing everything they need to know about a co-operative enterprise.
The Co-op has so far helped get 500 member-owned enterprises off the ground, including 100 from Greater Manchester.
Mr FaircloughÂ said: Co-operatives alone are not a panacea but, sitting alongside other business and service models, they can help address the unprecedented social, economic and environmental challenges facing the country.
The co-operative model offers an alternative way to do business, it provides a robust approach to enterprise and can help to restore a lost sense of community cohesion, keep communities thriving and contribute to the re-building of a more balanced and sustainable economy.
Busy Bee Toy Shop in Chorlton, Manchester, is one of the businesses to have benefited from the Enterprise Hub scheme. When the owner of the much-loved toy shop retired after 25 years, locals formed a community co-operative to take over the business.
They invited people to buy shares in the co-operative and in just five weeks raised more than Â£32,000, enough to buy the name and stock and take on the lease. In July 2009, Busy Bee Toy Shop re-opened under new ownership.
The main driver for this was the number of local people who were sad to see the shop shut, said James Hillon, one of the founder members.
Some people considered taking it on themselves but no one felt they had the money or energy to do it alone. We formed the co-operative because we wanted the shop to be run by the community.
James, who works for Co-operative Financial Services, said that one of the main challenges was building a convincing case to persuade people that it was a worthwhile investment.
Every member of the co-operative has made a personal investment in the venture.
The minimum shareholding was Â£250 but many people invested more.
Each member has one vote, regardless of the number of shares owned. Busy Bee Toy Shop received free consultancy from Co-operative and Mutual Solutions (CMS) working on behalf of the Enterprise Hub.
They gave us sound advice about what financial controls to have in place, how to stay on top of things, good governance, and areas where co-ops can sometimes come unstuck, added James.