In every conversation there is an opportunity.
Students from the Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship studies were treated to an alternative approach to looking at Social Enterprise through performance and storytelling, and given the opportunity to meet social entrepreneurs from the creative arts.
Molly Rumford, Katie Mahon, Dawn Wood, Lucy Meredith and Angela Carradus
Panellists Katie Mahon and Molly Rumford from Bloomin' Buds Theatre Company are both current @UniversityLeeds students who are just bursting with enthusiasm for their social enterprise. They work in their communities in schools and other organisations to break down class barriers within education and society. Their motto is to “challenge the stigma of the class divide through community based theatre”. This work makes an impact on people by helping them to build their confidence and create their own opportunities. They have been successful in winning scholarship money to help fund their enterprise. They won a £3,000 scholarship from Leeds University’s SPARK team. This entailed attending a business boot camp which helped them understand the ‘business side’ of their enterprise. The help that SPARK has given them has been invaluable in keeping the business going.
Katie from the Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Company encouraged the students to develop their networking skills suggesting that “In every conversation there is an opportunity.”
Dawn Wood from Fabrication Crafts previously worked as a costume designer making costumes for film and theatre in London, and along with her husband who is a metal craftsman set up their social enterprise in 2008. They provide ad hoc work space with rentable facilities for fashion designers, costume makers and jewellers. Fabrication has a shop in ‘The Light’ in Leeds city centre selling hand crafted work by over 70 local artists and designers. They also run courses teaching craft skills in-house and in the community. Any money generated is ploughed back into the business.
Lucy Meredith, Co-Director/Performer at Yorkshire Life Aquatic is a self proclaimed Mermaid! She set up the business after unsuccessfully searching for an adults synchronised swimming club. The social enterprise is the only ‘dry land’ synchro group that people attend benefit from the fun, exercise and social experience gained from meeting the other mermaids. Their groups are in demand to perform their dry land workshops and ‘Splash Mobs’ at festivals and events.
Our panellists agreed that the trickiest part of setting up the social enterprises was turning their passion into a business. They spend a lot of time applying for grants and filling in paperwork. Time is also a major constraint, along with the challenges of making their businesses profitable. However the benefits of working in creative fields that they love evidently outweighs the difficulties they face. The ladies boost their income by taking on a variety of jobs that also compliment their businesses. For example, Lucy has learned how to market Yorkshire Life Aquatic, and now occasionally acts as a consultant and provides marketing for other similar organisations. Looking for avenues to create opportunities is a thread that ran through all of the stories at the panel – for example they can re-brand themselves to suit their customers' needs. Fun, flexibility and bundles of enthusiasm were extremely evident in this fascinating panel.
Dr Angela Carradus closed the event by reminding students that research can be rich and diverse.
Listening to the stories of the people and businesses that we are interested in can give us insight into the difficulties and joys surrounding running a social enterprise.