Fikay – recycled fashion

Who’d have thought a cement bag could be turned into such mighty fine recycled accessories. This new range by Fikay Eco Fashion is produced by local villagers, they’re paid a fare wage, to support their communities. Fikay is run by socially minded Students (who are winning lots of awards while they’re at it). The company’s aim is to make a ‘positive, sustainable impact on communities in poverty by employing local producers’. Fikay Eco Fashion also donates Bricks to help build schools in the producing communities. People over profit.

Fair, Individual pieces that are Kind to the Environment, take social Action and say Yes

The Clothes Club hits Dalston rooftop – to raise money for Bootstrap Campus

We’ve been pretty busy the last few months, planning the 2nd Clothes Club event on Wednesday 4th September. It’s a chance to enjoy the last of the summer, hopefully, on the Dalston rooftop. We’ve been in touch with their team since last summer when we decided to first launch TCC, so it’s a pretty weird feeling that the event is suddenly upon us.

We’re supporting Bootstrap Campus who run programmes and workshops for disadvantaged kids in Hackney. Our first Clothes Club supported Hackney Pirates who also help kids in Hackney, with pioneering educational programmes (after school hours). The youth sector is definitely something we’re passionate about, so it’s great to be partnering with yet another great social enterprise in this space.

Bootstrap Campus are part a social enterprise, Bootstrap Company, who have been around since 1977. They help incubate 100s of early stage companies and believe ‘in the power of creativity and micro-enterprises’. By leveraging the creative enterprises that are part of the Bootstrap building community, they develop programs that focus on creative learning and career building, all done within the perfect space – the iconic Print House building, the WW2 bunker and sought after Dalston rooftop.

Their CEO Sara Turnbull is a ‘Chartered Environmentalist with experience in holistic sustainability, energy efficient retrofit and behaviour change’, she’s no doubt had a major impact on the company (and I’d love to interview her).

If you’re free on Wednesday evening pop by with 3 items of quality clothing to swap. You’ll get tokens in return which you can exchange for clothes and do your bit for the environment. There will be cocktails, live sketching of the event in action, and a famous DJ. But best of all for just £10 you’re not only getting new items, it also helps kids in Hackney (win:win).

Thanks for your support TheclothesClub_Poster_Sept4_final

3 months into On Purpose…

I’ve been freelancing for 5 years or so now, so I’m very used to working to contract lengths and deadlines. In fact I love working to contracts. So why is On Purpose any different?

We do two six month placements, April-Sept 2013 and Oct-April 2014. I have moments when it feels like a ticking time bomb. We’re encouraged to do feedback sessions with our placement, to check how we’re doing and help build the relationship. Have you ever done a feedback session? I don’t think I ever had before and in my head it felt a bit uncomfortable but it was actually an amazing experience. Perhaps I’m lucky with my placement.

So back to the ticking time bomb. At the end of September I want to see the impact I’ve made, on projects I’m solely running. I’m very used to working in a team of people as an Account Director with creatives, planners, other account handlers to support. Now it’s just me. This is the most accountable I’ve ever been. Oh shit. I hope I do a good job. They’ve said I am, so it’s pressure I’m putting on myself. And that’s the point, challenging yourself outside your comfort zone and taking a leap.

So instead of a ticking time bomb, I’ll think of it as a leap off a cliff, into a lovely sea with a few waves. But I’ll be fine because I love swimming.


Starting a career in social enterprise – the On Purpose leadership programme

I love the advice in this film, I’ve watched it 5 times (so far):
What makes you really itch?
What if money was no object?
How would you really like to spend your life?

For the last few years I’d been asking myself  ‘what do I desire’, really desire.
I’d been lucky to work in some great agencies and meet so many amazing people but I didn’t see it being my career forever.

I’d always, right from the start of my career, felt that business should have social value and give something back. It’s not just for stakeholders to profit from. Suddenly 10 years later everything is starting to piece together.

I started this blog as an exploration and went to a talk Escape the City were running with On Purpose:

‘We believe there is a better way of doing business that can help solve many of society’s most intractable problems. We find and work with the best professionals to develop the next generation of social enterprise leaders who have the commitment to tackle these problems by harnessing the power of business for social and environmental good.’

A few months later, after 4 stages of the rigorous interviews, I got offered a place on the On Purpose leadership programme. I start the placements in April.

I’d been considering doing a Masters but wanted to do something practical still. On Purpose is the perfect blend. You do two placements, at two different companies, for six months each (full time). They’re all leading organisations like Social Enterprise UK, Big Issue Invest, Deloitte CR and you’re given specific projects to run.

Every Friday you have training out of the office, with leading experts. You don’t get a certificate at the end or take exams (thank god) but it has a strong business focus, so it’s like an MBA.

Probably one of the biggest pro’s of the programme is the networking opportunities, meeting people doing so many inspiring things. I can’t wait.

As he advises in the video ‘forget the money…better to have a life full of doing what you want to be doing’.

On Purpose are recruiting for their October cohort at the moment. So if you believe business can be done a different way, maybe the programme’s for you

The Clothes Club – raising money for social enterprises

TheClothesClub_black The Clothes Club, a new garment swapping community, has been launched with a goal of raising £5,000 for local social enterprises, at events held by the group.

I came up with the idea a year-ago and have been working since then to get the right team in place. Lucy Dunleavy and Carmen Ortiz Guillen, two East London women with a passion for social enterprise, will be helping with the operation.

A Facebook page is now live and the blog will be ready in April ahead of the first event. What’s the insight behind The Clothes Club? Often there are items in our wardrobe we still like but just don’t wear anymore or perhaps a gift that’s perfectly fine but not your taste. With this in mind we’re forming a community of clothes swappers for good causes.

The money raised at each event will go to a different social enterprise, a sector that’s close to our hearts. We’ll be supporting Hackney Pirates with the event in April, who help 9-12 year olds.

Hopefully The Clothes Club will be a viable alternative to ebay, gumtree and car boot sales. It works this way: You pay £10 to bring 3 items (decent items rather than tat). You receive tokens and can swap them of other items. If there’s something extra you want you can always buy extra tokens. The money raised goes to a good cause and you go home with three new things and potentially some new friends. Sorry boys but it’s a girl only thing for now.

If you’d like to join the community you can here and we look forward to seeing you at the events.

The Social Value Act & Conference – November 20th 2012

As always Social Enterpise UK are doing great things, I’m intrigued into the previous backgrounds they had (must read up). They seem to be true demonstrators of the power of community, when people have a common cause. They’ve had a recent success playing an instrumental role in SalesForce (shivers as I write it) dropping their ridiculous attempt to trademark ‘social enterprise’.

Social Enterprise UK have also triumphed in making a Private Members’ Bill become law in March, which is a ‘rare feat.’  The Social Value Act (which comes into force in January), in a nutshell, means public bodies now need to consider the social value a company creates, the benefits to the community, when they award a contract. The act should result in social enterprises delivering more public services and getting more budget, as they’re committed to doing more than simply making money from a contract. What a role reversal from the Thatcher years.

Social Enterprise UK will be creating guides, best practice events and training offers, to support social enterprises and public sector bodies to build their capacity to comply with the Act. I’d like to go to the  Social Value Conference next Tuesday, particularly to listen to how people are measuring social value and to dispel some slight cynicism I have:

  • Is the Act really going to create good for communities?
  • The threshold is £173,934 if awarded by local authorities and £113,000 by central government, so this doesn’t really help smaller social enterprises deliver public services?
  • Many aspects of social value and wellbeing do not have market values and are difficult to measure. Will the Act create increased burdens, which smaller suppliers might find difficult to bear?

Social enterprise in books: Better World Books

Better World BooksSince I’ve been researching the social enterprise sector, I’m constantly surprised and delighted when I stumble across a new example, in a sector which is sustainable and being scaled.

Better World Books is the online bookstore with a soul, founded by three college students in 2002. They sell new and used books online and help fund literacy programs worldwide with the proceeds – a bit like TOMS Shoes with their programme (it must be an American thing).

They’ve achieved impressive statistics: $8 million raised for literacy and libraries, 6.5 million books donated and over 92 million books reused or recycled but they’re got even more ambitious plans. I know 92 million books recycled!

By year-end they plan to have over 1,000 boxes in 50 cities. The drop boxes will improve their logistics infrastructure and also act as advertising, they have all bases covered. They’re also focusing more on online sales, initially they sold through Amazon but are increasingly selling more inventory through their own site (makes sense for a better margin).

It’s no wonder they’re a top 5000 fastest growing company for the 4th year running.

Hereos – Simon Griffiths from Who Gives a crap

There are some people in life who do great things and Simon Griffiths is one of them. My gorgeous friend Leanne Hammill works for the Loop in Australia and knows my love of social enterprise. She kindly sent me this as she thought I’d love it, and she was right. Great interview with the man himself.

Simon is a social entrepreneur, sounds good huh, wouldn’t we all like to be?

He’s the founder of ‘Who gives a crap’ and works in a team of three, with the perfect combination of skillsets (economics, product design and engineering). You can meet the team here. They wanted to make a difference and set up ‘Who gives a crap’, a brand new toilet paper brand. 50% of the profits go to developing countries, via WaterAid, to help provide better sanitation and more toilets.

They needed to raise £50,000 to be able to start the brand and put in a bulk order, so they did a crowd funding campaign. Simon sat on the loo at 6am July 10th, recorded via Google Hangouts, so it was all live streamed and didn’t get off until the £50,000 had been raised. Put your money where your pants are (sorry had to.)

They successfully raised £60,000 in fact and are hoping to corner the business market for bulk orders.

They won a bunch of business plan awards and spent two years perfecting the product and viable business model. What a bloody brilliant project.


How the social enterprise Hackney Pirates change children’s lives

Hackney Pirates blackboard roomThe Hackney Pirates is an innovative education project, developing literacy and creativity in young people, by giving them one to one attention in an unconventional learning environment.’ They help 9-12 years old each day from 3.30-6.30 and rely on volunteers so they can provide one to one support.

On April 25th I was invited to the Young Pirate Apprentice t-shirt event, as I donated some money through their Buzzbnk campaign. Hackney Pirates collaborated with Enabling Enterprise for it, a not-for-profit organisation aiming to ‘equip young people with the skills, aspirations and experiences to succeed in life’. This really is a massive thing, they and Hackney Pirates are CHANGING lives.

Hackney PiratesThe t-shirt project ran for a few months where the children worked on the designs for their t-shirt, market research, negotiating t-shirt deals, planning a sales strategy and organising the launch event.

Each week they were visited by an entrepreneur and the children presented their t-shirt designs at the launch event. I kid you not, I was very close to tears a few times at the event. You can clearly see the confidence the children have developed and you can see how it’s changing their lives, for good. They’re being taught creativity, entrepreneurship and are improving their literacy at the same time. Camilla and Catriona are such amazing people, giving these children faith in their abilities. I bet the kids feel like there’s now no limit to what they can do.

Hackney Pirates t-shirtThis is the t-shirt I’ve bought and you can buy one here if you’d like to help support them. They’re also looking for volunteers and you can sign up here.

#TheBigPamper for elderly people

Spots of TimeOn May 5th I went to West Ham with my good friend Sarah. Where is West Ham I hear you say? We arrived and met Alice from Spots of Time and about 10 other volunteers. We got taxis to the care home and when we arrived the room was quite full already with elderly people, care home workers and volunteers. It was bloody hot too and I’d worn a nice warm winter jumper.

To be honest I was really nervous. I was scared in case the elderly people didn’t want to talk to me. Nails Inc. had kindly donated some nail varnish and volunteers were painting nails. My friend Sarah had bought her mum’s dog, Pedro! What the hell was I going to do.

Painted nailsThen I remembered I’d bought some After Eights for them. I started walking around the room offering them. One gentleman was French speaking and I realised afterwards he couldn’t understand what I was saying. I also quickly learnt that you just need to start by asking their name and introducing yourself! Basics Emily.

Pedro the dogThe highlight of the day was communicating with a lady who couldn’t talk. She was hunched over in her chair alone. I was determined to not leave her out so asked if she wanted to see the dog. She winked. Pedro came over and behaved beautifully. He definitely knew the role he was playing that day. I asked if she wanted to feed Pedro and she winked again, with a third & forth wink for after eights.

It just shows that everyone deserves a little bit of time. Even one hour is precious and lifted the room. Each person has a ‘voice’ to be heard, sometimes you have to ‘listen’ that bit harder.

It would be so amazing if schools factored volunteering into the curriculum, so it became the cultural norm.