After 30 years of working with children, young people and families, redundancy forced Gill Walker to make the decision of her lifetime – to give up or dig deep. Gill discovered how a viable enterprise might help to improve the lives of others. Initially focusing on young people, she devised a model combining retail and training in a youth centered environment. Key to this was the commitment by Marj who brought a wealth of experience to the model. Gill’s book provides a humorous, but poignant, narrative describing Gill and Marj’s first steps into commercial business, and contains a wealth of information that would have saved Gill many painful non-productive hours in negotiating social enterprise.
The book is already receiving great reviews:
This book is a personal account that will speak to many public or voluntary sector staff who are thinking about taking the plunge and setting up a social enterprise. It demonstrates that at the heart is the commitment of Gill and Marj to young people and that gives them the passion and motivation to set up the business.
The book shows what a steep learning curve it was for them and gives useful pointers for others trying to navigate this brave new world. Thank you for the insight. – 4 stars, Bluestones
The following is a short extract from Gill’s ebook, Me, Marj and a Trestle Table:
There seemed to be a lot of confusion round what a social enterprise was – I found the following definition useful:
A social enterprise is ‘a business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally invested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners’.
Basically it is a ‘not for profit’ organisation which would enable me to continue to support children, young people and families. Public service is in my blood – I have a very strong work ethic and I was always reminded as a child and young person by my parents ‘think of others before yourself’ and I have lived my life by this. During this 3 week programme, ‘Patchwork People – improving lives through enterprise’, was born and I did an early ‘raw’ pitch to the group the day the programme finished in December 2010. The next day I decided to write my business plan! I downloaded a ‘template’ and started to fill it in. I wasn’t sure who might want to see it – which is a bit of a problem as you should really know who your audience is. But it did give me an opportunity to get my thoughts down on paper in some sort of structure. During this process I managed to get three ‘character’ references from respected colleagues and a young person whom I first met as a pupil in the primary school where I was head teacher, and who is now at university studying law.
Over the next two months this plan went through seven drafts and 12 months on, although many friends and colleagues have looked at the plan to offer their advice and guidance for improvements, no one else has asked to see it. What has been more widely shared was the summary – which again has been transformed many times. It is worth saying that every time I share the summary it is amended or updated depending on the audience. The next step was to register the business – I completed the CIC 36 and sent it in only to find I should have also sent the IN01 to Companies’ House. Between 17th December and 25th January 2011 – my paperwork was rejected twice. On the Companies House website it kept stating ‘Patchwork People community interest company – rejected’……. Not a very good start to my business career.
Eventually I rang Companies House and they talked me through my ‘articles and memorandum of association’ with me ticking and crossing the boxes as instructed. I rang Companies’ House at the end of this process to find out if everything was OK – when the gentleman at companies’ house said yes the business is registered I burst into tears as if I had just been told I had passed a really difficult exam! Why a Community Interest Company? Having talked to many people I decided this was probably the organisation I needed – it locks the assets which means I couldn’t sell the company, the Directors and Staff can be paid, and it could be described as a creating a legacy – which appealed. A book I would recommend is ‘ The Social Entrepreneur Revolution’ by Martin Clark. My husband bought me and it confirmed what I wanted to be – a social entrepreneur. (although I really struggled to spell it). Other Social Entrepreneurs include Jamie Oliver with his ‘seventeen’ restaurants, Tim Smit and the Eden project, John Bird and Big Issue, Richard Adams and Traidcraft. They all are ‘doing good by making money and making money by doing good’ (Martin Clark)
I never wanted to be a businessman; I just wanted to change the world. – Richard Branson
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