Find out about the social enterprises behind our Christmas gift advent calendar 2013 and tell us why you buy social for the chance to win our Christmas hamper
22. Cre8 Products
Cre8 Products officially opened its doors for business in the summer of 2012. Based in Newport, Gwent, this social enterprise produces high quality personalised glassware and slate products.
Cre8 Products is the first such venture set up by Solas-Cymru, a housing and support organisation which in turn in part of the Seren Group. Seren supports vulnerable young people, adults and families.
"Many of the people we support were struggling to gain access to employment or to find training and volunteering placements that were supportive. We decided one way in which we could tackle this problem was to start our very own social enterprise," the organisation says.
The idea behind the etched glass products now on sale at Cre8 came from Solas's volunteers, including people living in supported housing schemes, under the guidance of a professional arts worker.
21. The Bakery Dunbar
The Bakery in the East Lothian town of Dunbar aims to produce high-quality breads and patisseries using the best ingredients and traditional recipes. But it is doing much more than that. As a community-owned cooperative with more than six hundred shareholders, it is demonstrating that, when the will is there, local people can come together to save important local services.
The story began in 2008 when a long-standing family bakery announced it would be closing. With help from the local community development trust, work was begun on a business plan to create a new, cooperative, bakery. A management committee of local businesspeople, financial experts and marketing specialists came together and in 2009 the first community share issue was launched. Following extensive building work, the new bakery business began trading in October 2011.
During 2013 the venture diversified into hosting bread and patisserie courses, whilst its head baker Ross Baxter picked up an award for UK Cake of the Year. The cooperative is committed to working with growers and millers to provide fine flours and where possible to using rarer, heritage-type grains.
The Dartington Hall Trust, a charitable organisation based in an historic hall and 880 acre estate near Totnes in south Devon, has been a place of innovation and creativity ever since the estate was bought in 1925 by two visionaries of their day Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst. Today, Dartington focuses its activities in three areas, those of the arts, sustainability and social justice.
LandWorks is one of its most recent initiatives. It is a work-based training scheme, working with prisoners and ex-prisoners to help them acquire the social and employability skills they need to achieve success in stopping offending. LandWorks forcuses on landscaping and other ground-work activities, using the Dartington estate itself. A new LandWorks garden at Dartington will be a long-term legacy of the work undertaken by the trainees.
LandWorks was launched in July and is currently operating with a group of trainees mainly on day release from HMP Channings Wood. Next year the project plans to expand to include a more permanent training centre. "It is incredibly difficult for ex-prisoners to secure and sustain employment upon release," the Trust says. "LandWorks aims to change this".
19. Dartington Hall
We're not a hotel, says Dartington firmly. Admittedly, Dartington Hall happily provides many of the things you'd expect in a country house hotel. There are fifty bedrooms overlooking a mediaeval courtyard available for B&B, a restaurant and bar, beautiful gardens to explore and, beyond them, an 880 acre estate and the rolling Devon countryside. It's a good place to relax and the hospitality earns plaudits on Trip Advisor… but that's not the real point.
Dartington describes itself as a 'place of learning and experiment'. For almost ninety years, ever since its founders Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst purchased a run-down estate with the aim of launching an experiment in progressive education and in rural regeneration, Dartington has been known as a place of social initiatives and creative happenings. The roll-call of famous visitors ranges from Stravinsky to Simon Rattle, Bertrand Russell to Aldous Huxley. The idea of the Arts Council was concocted at Dartington, too.
Today, Dartington still focuses on the arts and also has initiatives in the fields of social justice and sustainability.
18. Jamie Oliver's Fifteen
The story of how Jamie Oliver launched Fifteen in 2002 is well-known, not least because of the TV series which accompanied its first year of life. Oliver wanted, he says, to create a new restaurant which would serve very high quality food but also to help fifteen apprentices encountering difficulties in their loves. "My intention was to give young people who've often faced enormous challenges in their lives the opportunity to unlock their true talent through great training and mentoring," he says. Profits from Fifteen go to a charity, the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation.
From the original London initiative two similar Fifteen restaurants have developed in Amsterdam and London, each with their own charitable trusts. Between the three over 350 young people have graduated, four-fifths of who remain in the catering industry.
Apprenticeships at Fifteen are based on on-the-job learning (65%) college work and personal development. Apprentices increasingly work directly in the restaurant, taking it over completely for a week at the end of their year.
17. Divine Chocolate
Divine Chocolate Ltd offers fair trade chocolate from cocoa grown in Ghana by farmer members of the cooperative Kuapa Kokoo (the name means 'good cocoa growers'). Kuapa Kokoo is a federation of approximately 1400 village cooperative societies, who between them have about 65,000 members. Local farmers have been joining in increasing numbers, partly because they feel they can trust Kuapa Kokoo as an accountable democratic venture to use accurate weighing scales when buying their crops.
There's an extra twist to the story, however. Unlike conventional fair trade ventures, Kuapa Kokoo itself has a significant shareholding stake in Divine, enabling it to have two places on the Board and the opportunity to influence directly how the brand is developed. This 'seat at the table' helps give Kuapa Kpkoo more status in the cocoa industry.
Divine chocolate was launched in Britain in 1998 and since 2007 has also been available in the US.
16. Who made your pants?
This cooperative produces "gorgeous undies" (their words) for women, produced by the coop's women workers at its small Southampton factory. The venture, launched in 2009, was begun by a local human rights campaigner Becky John who had previously been involved in an Open University film about sweatshops in developing countries. As the coop's website explains, "This got Becky thinking. 'I love lingerie', she thought, 'but where does it come from? Who made my pants?' At that moment the name was born."
Knowing that there was a huge refugee population in Southampton, Becky looked to see if women refugees would be interested in participating in the venture. The women employed by the cooperative are primarily from Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan, and the cooperative provides training and support when needed for them. "For many of the women we work with, it's important that this space is for women only. We do everything we can to create a warm, friendly environment," the coop says.
After their success in developing a range of lingerie for women, Who made your pants? is now about to start for the first time producing pants for men as well.
15. Start in Salford
Start in Salford began twenty years ago, when its founder and current CEO Bernadette Conlon began offering art workshops to local Salford people with poor mental health… using the boot of her car as a base. The charity she set up has come a long way since then and now has a well-resourced centre in Salford with art and media studios, craft workshops and gardens. But Start in Salford's aims, to encourage both creativity and well-being and to challenge the stigma of mental illness, remain unchanged.
"Many vulnerable people in our community are too often left on the sidelines. Start in Salford exists to nurture those talents, and to bring about a new-found confidence in those who feel isolated or excluded," the organisation says. As well as running such things as life drawing classes, craft sessions and a community choir, Start in Salford also offers professional support, including employment skills, access to formal accredited learning and help for the self-employed.
14. The Co-operative Group
The Co-op can be proud of its role in bringing fair trade products into mainstream retailing. Back in 1992, it was the first major supermarket chain to stock Cafédirect coffee, when Cafédirect was just beginning to create a market in Britain for equitably traded third world food products. Ten years later, the Co-op took arguably an even more important decision, when it switched its entirely own-brand range of coffee to fair trade. The decision meant a guaranteed outlet for many coffee-producing coops at a time when very low commodity prices for coffee threatened farmers' livelihoods. Own-brand chocolate and tea were also switched to fair trade.
In this context, 'the Co-op' means both Britain's largest cooperative society, The Co-operative Group, but also the remaining regional independent societies, such as Midlands, Midcounties, Lincolnshire and ScotMid. Although they are separate businesses with their own members and their own elected boards of directors the cooperative societies organise their purchasing jointly, through a consortium called the Co-operative Retail Trading Group (CRTG). Even some of the very small community-based coop societies (such as Coniston in the Lake District and Radstock in Somerset) are signed-up members of the CRTG.
13. National Lobster Hatchery
Lobster fishing – and of course, the subsequent cooking and eating of the lobsters caught – has been a traditional feature of many small coastal communities in Britain. But, as with other aspects of the fishery industry, lobsters are vulnerable to over-exploitation. In both Scandinavia and the Mediterranean, for example, lobster stocks have already collapsed.
The National Lobster Hatchery, based in Padstow in north Cornwall, aims to ensure that Britain's lobsters do not suffer the same fate. A marine conservation, research and education charity, it runs a lobster hatchery in the river Camel estuary which is also a visitor attraction, last year attracting more than 40,000 people. "As well as seeing first hand the fascinating progression of a lobster from egg to adult and learning about our own conservation and research work, children can learn about the wider marine environment and why we should protect it," the charity says.
The National Lobster Hatchery also runs a 'Buy one, set one free' initiative with participating restaurants and fishmongers, whereby people ordering lobsters can make a voluntary £1.75 donation to the charity's work, which is then matched by the business. It also operates a fundraising website, selling everything from chocolate lobsters to stuffed lobster toys.
12. Better: a feel good place
Since its origins in 1993 as a new way of running the former leisure centres of the London Borough of Greenwich, GLL has grown into one of the country's most enterprising and innovative social enterprises. It now runs over 100 leisure centres in partnership with local authorities in London, the Home Counties and as far away as York, and employs almost 6,000 staff. It has recently extended its remit to include library provision and also operates in the field of health, education and community sport development.
GLL is constituted as a charitable 'bencom' (society for the benefit of the community). "We believe social values are just as important as financial performance. We don't have shareholders like private companies, or any bonuses to pay out. Instead we invest any surplus money we make back into our services," GLL says.
GLL is committed to improving both the customer service it delivers and the way that its employees relate to the business. Staff are encouraged to hold (non-dividend paying) shares in the society, and the majority of GLL's Board is elected by the workforce.
11. ARTHOUSE Meath
ARTHOUSE Meath is a Surrey-based social enterprise operated by the Meath Epilepsy Trust. Works produced by the ARTHOUSE artists, the majority of whom experience severe ellipse, are widely available through retail outlets and at exhibitions. The organisation also runs its own shop in the centre of Godalming.
"The organisation's main aim is to show what can be and is achieved. Offering purpose to individuals is life changing, especially for those who have been told they can't, or have been made to feel redundant in the past," the trust says.
The artists operate in a caring, sheltered environment, where they can develop not only their artistic skills (under the guidance of professional artists) but also social skills such as team participation and work experience. Art sessions are held daily on Mondays to Fridays, and have the added advantage of helping to reduce epileptic seizures (seizures can be reduced when the brain is occupied and interested).
ARTHOUSE Meath is, among other things, the trade stationery supplier for Mary Portas concessions in House of Fraser stores. The project also runs an extensive online shop.
10. Brigade Bar and Bistro
There's a lot of social history behind the former fire station in Tooley Street, on the south bank of the Thames in London. Tooley Street was the scene of a devastating fire in 1861 which lasted two weeks and which led directly to the formation of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.
The fire engines have since been moved elsewhere but the Tooley Street Fire Station is continuing to make history, now as a fashionable bistro and bar. Brigade is more than just a restaurant however, with - in the words of its chef-founder Simon Boyle - an appetite for distinctive food and individual service. It's also a social enterprise which, through the linked Beyond Food Foundation, offers people who have experienced homelessness or have been at risk the opportunity to take part in an apprenticeship programme. Apprentices obtain the qualifications, and receive the personal mentoring, to ensure that they can go on to find sustainable employment in the future.
9. Pants to Poverty
Pants to Poverty makes a bold claim. It maintains that, by producing good quality underwear, loungewear and pyjamas, it helps prove that fashion really can change the world.
The inspiration behind Pants to Poverty came from a speech Nelson Mandela made in Britain in 2005 when he called for a generation to support the call to 'make poverty history'. Pants to Poverty sees itself as part of that campaign. Its staple products are colourful jersey underpants for both men and women which are produced for it by Chetna Organic, a federation of farmers' cooperatives across a thousand villages in three states of India. "In these communities the farmers have been working intimately with the land, flora and fauna for many generations supporting the delicate balance of life and death that produces their food and cash crops. Everything they use is locally produced, sustainable and generates social, environmental and financial profit for them and their communities. This is where our pants start their life," says the enterprise.
London-based Bikeworks, winner of the best new social enterprise award in 2009, is a Community Interest Company which aims to encourage many more people to get on their bikes and start turning those pedals and spinning those wheels.
The company's story begins back in 2006, and has grown from the shared vision of three founders, Jim Blakemore, Zoe Portlock and Dave Miller. Bikeworks encourages bicycle reuse and recycling, works in schools to help children learn to ride safely and also operates bike stores offering a full range of repair services and the sale of new and refurbished bikes.
Bikeworks also works with businesses to encourage them to make their workplaces cycle-friendly, among other things by offering bicycle repair whilst employees are at work.
Our mission, Bikeworks says, is to actively change lives by offering positive cycling experiences. Its community cycling programme has included work opportunities for disadvantaged groups.
7. Heart and Home
Based in the Quays Shopping Centre in Newry, Northern Ireland, Heart and Home is a gift shop with a difference. It marks the first step in an initiative from Clanrye Retail Social Enterprise (CRSE) to operate a business that trains people with physical disabilities in retail related work, giving them both accredited qualifications and real hand-on experience. The shop opened in January 2012, and since then Heart and Home has developed further by opening an e-commerce site online.
CRSE is part of the larger Clanrye Group, a pioneering venture which was first established in 1982 to address spiralling levels of unemployment in the Newry area. What began offering skills training in areas such as joinery and hairdressing has expanded fast. Today Clanrye focuses particularly on helping young people with learning difficulties or disabilities, adults with a physical disability, and unemployed young people with low skills levels. Its mission is "to train, motivate and develop people for a brighter future in line with industry and commerce".
6. From Babies with Love
From Babies with Love is a social enterprise selling baby clothes online which gives all of its profits to the international children's charity SOS Villages. It was begun by Cecilia Crossley as a direct result of the birth of her son and of the concern she felt in reading about the hardships faced by babies elsewhere in the world.
"I was out shopping for my son's baby clothes and I thought, If I could buy a babygrow and know that the profit is going to help less fortunate babies around the world, why would I buy anything else?," she says. "There was no-one else who was doing this, so I decided to do it myself."
She decided to support SOS Villages, a charity originally begun in Austria after the Second World War which now runs over 500 dedicated villages for orphaned and abandoned children across the world. From Babies with Love has a particularly close link with the Chipata village in Zambia and with Lilongwe in Malawi, both of which benefit from the enterprise's profits.
5. Global SeeSaw
Freeset Ltd, and the online shop Global SeeSaw linked to it, is a British social enterprise directly helping women in India leave the sex trade and receive both employment and educational opportunities. Global SeeSaw imports and sells natural jute bags, organic fairtrade cotton t-shirts and a range of other gift items produced in India by women who had previously been trafficked into prostitution. "We're into ethical trade not because it's the latest thing but because it's the right thing," the organisation says. "We believe that business can make a real difference." Profits are reinvested back to enable Freeset to extend the range of its business.
Freeset's cofounder Kerry Hilton talks of the satisfaction of being engaged in a social enterprise which directly helps women regain their freedom. "The women are broadly involved in the life of the business and participate actively in decision-making, such as the hiring of staff," he says. He emphasises that Freeset is not a charity, but adds that "when you buy a Freeset bags or a Freeset t-shirt, your money is directly contributing to women's freedom".
4. Rubies in the Rubble
Rubies in the Rubble is the result of the vision of Jenny Dawson who left her job in 2010 to launch a social enterprise doing "something I really care about". As she explains, the chutneys and jams produced by the business in its purpose-built kitchen at New Spitalfields market in London are made with the unsold fruit and vegetables which would otherwise be dumped. Britain wastes sixteen million tonnes of food a year, she says.
"To you it might just be a jar of chutney but to me it's a solution," she says. She adds that Rubies in the Rubble not only turns potentially wasted food into high-quality products (now sold at London's fashionable Borough Market and in high-end delis) but also provides a way back for unemployed people looking to get back into work. "These products are powerful examples of the innate beauty in so much that our society discards and a way of empowering people in some of the most impoverished areas of our city," Jenny adds.
Rubies in the Rubble began in local kitchens and has expanded fast. It won the 2013 Good Housekeeping 'food hero' award and its products are now increasingly available, not only in London but also in outlets in southern England.
3. Chocolate Memories
Chocolate Memories is a social enterprise established three years ago by the charity Autism Initiatives. It is based in Moneyreagh in County Down (Northern Ireland), and offers training to adults with Autism Spectrum Condition.
The social enterprise makes a range of Belgian-style chocolates using very high-quality ingredients, and is currently gearing up for Christmas with a range of special products including a luxury Christmas hamper at £25. Profits are reinvested back into the business, to enable it to meet its social objectives.
"Combining training opportunities for young adults with autism whilst creating a high quality chocolate range has always been a rewarding challenge for the team involved. Our trainees are always at the heart of everything we do and they are introduced to all areas of the business," Chocolate Memories says. All its products are given a 'Carefully Made By' sticker, giving the name of the trainee responsible.
David is one of the trainees featured in this way. "I have really grown in confidence and I have got good skills working here," he says.
2. Brew On
Brew On describes itself as a 'social enterprise brewery'. Based in Herefordshire on the border with Worcestershire, it provides supported work and training opportunities for local people with disabilities or for those who are otherwise socially excluded. Brew On produces a range of craft brewed ales and cider under the 'Trusted' brand, available locally in a number of outlets including National Trust properties.
Brew On says that, by providing opportunities for real work and training, it aims to improve the lives of local people who would otherwise have very restricted employment choices. "Often people with disabilities or who are socially excluded are unable to find these opportunities in rural areas, and feel that they must relocate to more urban areas," the company says. Brew On is helping to maintain the cultural and social diversity of communities in the Herefordshire and Worcestershire countryside, it adds.
1. The Eden Project
The Eden Project near St Austell in Cornwall has enjoyed astonishing success since it opened its doors to the public in 2000. What began as a dream – the idea of turning a sterile wasteland where china clay had once been dug into an inspiring centre celebrating environmental and social regeneration – has attracted more than 13m people and, according to its co-founder Sir Tim Smit, has contributed over £1bn into the Cornish economy.
The Eden Project is a year-round tourist attraction run by Eden Project Ltd, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the educational charity the Eden Trust. The Project is keen to point out that it operates as a social enterprise. Although the physical infrastructure of the site including the domes was paid for by grant money, primarily lottery and European funds, its maintenance and all the running costs are covered by earned income. "Because we're a social enterprise, we reinvest our profits into the charity's educational projects," the Eden Project says. "Just like conventional companies, social enterprises compete to deliver goods and services, but social and environmental purposes are at the heart of what they do."
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