Tag Archives: quality

Green and Grey – A Christmas Gift Guide

green-grey-logoThis is a shameless plug for the work of some of the wonderful people I met at the Festival of Thrift in Redcar back in September. We share a passion for taking reclaimed materials – other people’s waste – and turning them into festival-of-thrift-logostylish, quality products. Some are functional, some are artful, all are crafted with care for the environment and recognise the charm of the old (green and grey … geddit?) Thoughtful gifts created by makers who know the true meaning of value.


Purepallets founder and son http://www.remadeinbritain.com/purepallets/ with a small selection of there lovely stuff

Purepallets founder and son http://www.remadeinbritain.com/purepallets/ with a small selection of their lovely stuff

101 uses for an old washing machine drum from www.upcycled-cumbria.co.uk/

101 uses for an old washing machine drum from www.upcycled-cumbria.co.uk/

 

 

Upcycled cycle parts -discover your inner tube with www.veloculture.co.uk

Upcycling -discover your inner tube with www.veloculture.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a budding Seasick Steve? Diddley Bros can help www.diddleybros.co.uk

Are you a budding Seasick Steve? Diddley Bros can help www.diddleybros.co.uk

 

 

 

 

A sunny serenade from Mr Spatchcock (or was it Mr Wurzill?) www.spatchcockand wurzill.com

A sunny serenade from Mr Spatchcock (or is that Mr Wurzill?) www.spatchcockandwurzill.com

 

 

Ten green bottles (with candles) from www.upcycleupnorth.co.uk

Ten green bottles (with candles) from www.upcycleupnorth.co.uk

 

Small really is beautiful when you're a Beady Magpie www.beadymagpie.wordpress.com/

Small really is beautiful when you’re a Beady Magpie www.beadymagpie.wordpress.com/

Brilliant birdfeeders from BerryBootique https://www.facebook.com/BerryBootique/

Brilliant birdfeeders from Berry Bootique https://www.facebook.com/BerryBootique/

Drinks cans to artworks by Sarah Turner http://sarahturner.co.uk/

Drinks cans to artworks by Sarah Turner I like the can-do attitude! http://sarahturner.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

 

A balanced approach to wine drinking with www.gwkwoodshed.org.uk

A balanced approach to wine drinking with www.gwkwoodshed.org.uk

 

 

See you at the Festival of Thrift in 2017? www.festivalofthrift.co.uk

See you at the Festival of Thrift in 2017? www.festivalofthrift.co.uk

Something to sing about

concert posterThere has been much discussion recently about football managers, their relationships with the players and, by extension, their influence on match results. There are well-known studies of the effect a new manager taking charge of a failing team can have – achieving instant success (if only for a game or two).

On the same day in December 2015 that the Guardian newspaper published an article by Oliver Burkeman explaining why singing in a choir makes you happy, I discovered the benefit of having a new team manager (or Musical Director to be more accurate) in charge of our local choir – the Royston Choral Society.

I started singing in the choir in 2000. I missed the team-work associated with playing football and I felt that my physical fitness could do with a boost. I started running for fitness and joined the choir for the team-work. The running also helped when I was late for our weekly rehearsals…

And that’s been the case for the past 15 years with a Musical Director who lived music 24 hours a day and showcased the best the choir could manage for up to five concerts a year. I suppose I’d accepted that we’d achieved a creditable standard but didn’t have the potential to do much more.

But then poor health forced our incumbent Musical Director to step down and, in September of this year, we ‘signed’ a new manager. For me this was both scary and exciting having only sung under the leadership of the previous conductor.  After a comprehensive interview process there was agreement between choir members and the panel as to who was the best of the three candidates.

And we are now discovering how right we were with the appointment. When I joined I was told that singing in the choir was firstly about having fun and secondly about making a good sound. We’re now doing both by the bucket-load!

Our new Musical Director and conductor Andrew O’Brien has managed, in just three months, to convince us we can perform better, to sing with feeling (if that doesn’t sound too pretentious) and to sing at a higher standard than I could ever have imagined – all with largely the same group of (ageing) singers.

Our December Christmas concert was an amazing experience – for both choir and audience. Two concert-goers mouthed ‘wow’ after one of our pieces; I’ve never seen that happen before in my 15 years with the Royston Choral Society.

In football, the instant success of the new manager is often followed by a swift slide back to more familiar poor results. I refuse to believe our musical team will return to a lower division while our new manager Andy is in the dugout.

Oliver Burkeman’s article on the delights of singing in a choir is at http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/dec/18/why-singing-makes-people-happy-oliver-burkeman

A passion for pallets

???????????????????????????????Creative flair, a willingness to roll up sleeves and ‘have a go’, to experiment and being prepared to fail, all make Dawn Taylor well suited to a recent, perhaps surprising, career development. Dawn is founder of York-based enterprise Purepallets which does what it says on the tin (or should that be timber?) turning pallets into crafted items fit to grace any home.

From wine racks and candle holders to what can only be described as ‘letter wall shelving’ (B anyone?) pallet product design and creation clearly excites Dawn.

But perhaps the new career move is not so surprising, as Dawn explains… “When I was young I was a tomboy. My dad was a plumber and built our extension by himself, and I helped him. I learnt how to mix cement and lay bricks, so from an early age I’ve not been scared to try new things.” 

So, practical from an early age and Dawn’s creativity – probably also rooted in her past – has been honed through a career in retailing, including 14 years as a visual merchandiser with a major UK high street store.

And what could be more creative than turning a much-maligned product – the humble pallet which many of Dawn’s friends think is only good for firewood – into a thing with real appeal, each one unique? Having “fallen into making pallet products by accident” – an unexpected commission to make a wine rack – Dawn was soon bitten by the upcycling bug. She has just started experimenting with paint effects but still delights in the beauty of the ‘pure pallet’ finish which, when embossed with the original owners logo adds to the story behind the product.

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Now taking a service break with her current employer, Dawn has nine months to see if she can ‘give birth’ to a financially viable business. The product range is developing nicely – mainly through commissions from a rapidly widening customer base that values the bespoke nature of each item. With low overheads to date – pallets are sourced locally at low/no cost, the workshop is a garage at home, social media and word-of-mouth are the main marketing tools – there may be a temptation to under-value the finished product.

But Dawn believes her promotional offer – quality and uniqueness at affordable prices – could create a sustainable business model. While pallets grow on trees (well, sort of…) Dawn’s talents do not. With these she may just be able to differentiate Purepallets’ product range from others and have champagne corks popping.

See Purepallets products at http://on.fb.me/1xtfc8T

 

An A – Z of social entrepreneurship: P – S

P & Q  – Price and quality 

There’s a danger that, in the fight for public service and other contracts, social enterprise is promoted as a cheaper vehicle for providing goods and services. Some social entrepreneurs who should know better find themselves making such claims. In only a few cases have I ever found this to be true.

Social entrepreneurs will never ultimately win a battle on price, however much we may want to be the chosen provider, and it’s a dangerous route to go down. In reality, social enterprise is an expensive business model – employing people deemed ‘unemployable’, providing what others won’t, and locating in places others don’t go. I’ve always believed ‘better not cheaper’ is a much more sustainable mantra than ‘more for less’.   

R – Risk  

– “If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.” Ivan Turgenev

Textbooks tell us we need to have a fully grown business plan in place before launching an enterprise to minimise risk. But increasing in a fact-moving business environment, there’s a case for getting products/ services out there before they are fully formed.

The argument for a ‘lean start-up’ is that there’s no substitute for market-testing with real products and services and that early-stage feedback is more likely to be taken on board because it’s not written in stone in your fully developed business plan. 

S – Systems 

When asked how he ‘turned around’ an international charity that had grown too fast for its own good, the new Chief Officer’s one word answer was ‘systems’.

Social entrepreneurs are renowned for being flighty and fact-moving. Frustrated staff at a great social enterprise once told me “the business runs best when xxxx [its inspiring founder] is not around”.  

Just as there is usually a team behind every great social entrepreneur, so there needs to be systems people who can identify what works that can be shaped into a regular way of working that gives the enterprise firm foundations and brings stability from day to day.

 

Enterprise essential – polish the window on your world

A good website can be a highly cost-effective way to generate new business and meet needs for essential information, advice and support 24 hours a day. A bad website – with out of-date information, poor navigation, and unhelpful content and design – can kill your enterprise. Make sure your website builds your brand.

 

Enterprise essential – under promise and over deliver

Be honest, positive and precise with your customers about what you can do for them, and then exceed their expectations. If you tell me you’ll have my problem sorted the next day and I have to wait a week, I’m disappointed. If you say you’ll sort it by the end of the week and do it the next day, I’m impressed.

 

Eight top tips from ‘experts by experience’

Create and share the vision…

“Having a clear vision is important, particularly when well-intentioned people are in danger of diverting you. But making sure that vision is one which is shared is also important; the whole consultation process was about taking people with us. For sustainability, that strong foundation and broad backing is essential, as is having the right legal structure with community interest at its heart.”  Rosamund Webb, Station House Community Connections http://bit.ly/1wfUF6D

 Passion is important, but not enough…

“Unless you have a real desire and passion, don’t do it. Social enterprise is not a route to making money, so the desire to make a difference has to be genuine. But passion is not enough. You should learn as much as you possibly can about the subject, but don’t feel you have to do it all at once. It can’t all happen overnight, so have realistic expectations.” James Hogg, Music and Memories http://bit.ly/1p6Lwax

Be guided by your achievements and successes

When starting your business, stick with it. “You’ll have a huge idea at the start, with blurred surroundings so you can’t see how to get to your destination. But be guided by your achievements and successes.”  Amanda Keel, FullSpoon http://bit.ly/1BrZpsI

 Make it sell-able at a viable price…

“ If you want to make money [from your artwork]… you need to make it saleable and sell it at a viable price. The designs you come up with have to be commercial if that’s what you’re in it for. If you’re a creative being who wants to create art, don’t think of it as a business proposition.” Teresa Crickmar, Craftworks http://bit.ly/1qEEU8E

Get your public profile right…

“Look the part. The reason Forest Owl is getting into schools and talking to businesses is that we communicate effectively through our website and social media. We’re also building credibility by nailing our colours to the mast. We live our brand by getting out and about, not sitting indoors in an office.”  Ian Henderson, Forest Owl http://bit.ly/1xIoDEF

Learn to let go…

“Don’t underestimate the people you’re working with – particularly when they’re volunteers. Learn to let go, people are very capable and if you give them the opportunity, they’ll learn.” Nicky Kearns, Secret Space http://bit.ly/1BrZ4Gx

It takes a long time to build a reputation but a second to destroy it…

“It takes time to build up reputation and loyal customers – I favour word of mouth over any other publicity. I stress with the guys that it takes a long time to build a reputation but a second – one hair in the food – to destroy it. So we’re very strict on quality control.” Sam Speller, All Seasoned http://bit.ly/1CRpgvG

Give it a go and be patient…

“Be open to new ideas and experiences. Give something a try and if it doesn’t work out, don’t worry; it’s the trying that’s important. I stuck with jobs that didn’t suit me, resilient in the face of poor management for the sake of the children in my care, until other career stepping stones came along.”  Hannah Burns, Nurture by Nature Forest School http://bit.ly/1lTbOC8

 

More tips from Experts by Experience at:  http://bit.ly/1dQplX3

Learning about Earning: 10 lessons from a social enterprise start-up

After 12 years advising others about starting social enterprises, Chris Lee has spent the last 12 months setting up an environmental social enterprise in Hertfordshire, with the support of the School for Social Entrepreneurs in Ipswich. The Repair Shed brings older men together to stay healthier and happier for longer by making, mending and learning. Details at https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/the-repair-shed

Below Chris draws out ten lessons (2 per blog post) from the past 12 months and compares what the social enterprise start-up handbook says with his own experience.  In reality, there are no hard and fast rules – no right and wrong ways to do things, rather a series of balancing acts…

Lessons 1 and 2

 Social vs enterprise

What is social enterprise? A clue in the phrase:  Social – Enterprise but there’s no one agreed  definition.

Not a legal entity, but a business model. Social enterprise can be seen as a ‘business solutions to social problems’. Social purpose is the ‘reason for being’, while profit fuels the journey but is not the destination.

In common with other businesses… a social enterprise seeks to address the ‘triple bottom line’ addressing social, financial and environmental objectives  – getting the balance right is a constant challenge eg costing and pricing to be inclusive/affordable and viable.

Above all it’s about clarity of purpose to avoid mission drift. Gina Negus of the Projects Company in Essex) asks … is your organisation a train? – on track with a destination ahead (2- 3 years?) clear to everyone travelling in the same direction. Drawing in resources to fuel the journey, but in control (in the driving seat) with your foot on the pedal to travel at the right speed for you.

Spin vs substance

My opinion – social enterprise and social entrepreneurship is over-sold.  I’m a social enterprise enthusiast, but it’s all too easy to believe the hype and cast the private sector as the villain and social enterprises as the answer we’ve all been waiting for to treat society’s ills.

Reality, of course, is much more complex – there are good and bad private sector and social enterprise businesses, and both may have social impact. And scale if also important. Until we make enough difference to enough people, we should resist the temptation to over-egg the pudding. Holding the moral high ground is not enough. More at http://bit.ly/1qxU7rV

The same goes for sanctifying social entrepreneurs as edgy and dynamic (often scarily young!) saviours of the world. The social enterprise movement has no monopoly on entrepreneurship and social impact. In my experience the most entrepreneurial people are too busy getting on developing their next idea than to have time to shout about it! More at  http://bit.ly/1q2FZYT

In my opinion, the best way we can ‘sell’ the social enterprise model is by providing quality products, services and practices – selling on quality (not cheapness or charity as some in the sector are tempted to do…) For examples of three social enterprises that ooze quality, go to the ‘experts by experience’ profile at http://bit.ly/WujgYy

Two final tips on grounding your promotion of all things social enterprise in reality: Think carefully about what the name of your enterprise says about you http://bit.ly/1qtgLC1 – your brand – and don’t be afraid to tell the story behind your products and services http://bit.ly/1tCTIqQ

If you’re interested in exploring ways to turn ideas into action, join Chris Lee for a day-long workshop on December 4 in Chelmsford Details at www.voluntarysectortraining.org.uk/courses/event/70/Ideas-Into-Action

Enterprise essential – compete on quality not price

“Better, not cheaper” is a more sustainable mantra than “more for less”. Price your products and services so you can offer discounts by working out three prices. The top ‘dream price’ represents the real value of your input. The middle price should represent a good profit margin, and the bottom price is one you should never go below. Start by asking your dream price and only negotiate down for bulk orders, payment up front etc.

Enterprise essential – balance money and mission

As a social enterprise, you’re expected to balance social, financial, and environmental objectives. This will involve particularly hard decisions in an economic downturn, such as how to keep vulnerable staff who may not be the most productive, and how to maintain quality as demand for services expands without the resources to match.