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Saturday, April 20, 2024
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Shropshire Social Enterprises find out how media can help!

The day was organised for local entrepreneurs who were setting up or currently running a social Enterprise in the county who wanted to find out about how the media can help their business.

View from Hampton Hayes Farm

As well as to make a promotional DVD showcasing the diversity of Social Enterprises in Shropshire. The event took place at Hampton Hayes Farm home of the Dragonfly project, west of Shrewsbury at Worthen.

I arrived at the fabulous farm and even though it was November the sun was shining and the view across the Shropshire countryside was simply breathtaking. Michaela Hardwick from Beyond Brilliance greeted my with a smile, she had just delivered a workshop to the group on ‘Promoting Your Business’.

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Michaela, working with 2 other like minded entrepreneurs, runs Beyond Brilliance, a Community Interest Company which was set up to strengthen the links between business, community and education and works hard to help social enterprise projects like the ones attending the day.

I arrived at lunchtime; a great time for me to chat with the attendees.

Nicky Kent getting ready to introduce Jim Hawkins (Shropshire Radio - Jim Hawkins Ltd) for his workshop on Telling your story on the Radio

I noticed Jim Hawkins from Radio Shropshire and Jim Hawkins Ltd, who would be doing a talk after the break about “Telling Your Story On The Radio’. Jim talked about how social enterprises could promote their enterprise using the media and how to get maximum exposure from interviews. He also got the group to discuss how they were now consuming their news and information and it was great to hear how more people were gathering their news from the internet, as well as the more traditional methods. Jim must be admired for the amount of events he attends and joins in with and as a presenter of a local radio show this connection with the community is great thing.

Coffee arrived and I was introduced to Maxine Betts, Head of Rural Services from The Community Council of Shropshire. The Community Council of Shropshire is an independent organisation that has been operating for over 50 years. Maxine explained to me that they are a registered charity working with local communities, identifying needs, developing and supporting voluntary action. The day was organised to promote awareness of the amazing and diverse activities that social enterprises in Shropshire are doing and offer information advice and support to new, existing or anyone thinking of setting up a Social Enterprise.

I think it is at this point I should explain to you what a Social Enterprise is – Social Enterprises are businesses trading for social and environmental purposes, with objectives providing social benefits. Social Enterprises can generate income from their business activities but any surplus is reinvested for social and environmental purposes.

Maxine introduced me to Ann Johnson, a Shropshire Business woman who has embarked on a mission to create a fresh and exciting social marketing company in Shropshire. ‘Wave-Length Social Marketing CIC’ aims to support people with disabilities in employment, it encourages employers to look past an individual’s impairment and recognise them for their talents. Ann is a wheelchair user; she was told nine years ago that she would never walk again. Ann chatted to me about her business and how people can feel awkward around disabled people or act differently. She explained how employers think it will be extra hassle taking on a person in a wheelchair but how her business can advise and help, one great line she told me was “One advantage of employing me is the fact that an employer doesn’t have to pay out for an office chair, I bring my own!” She also offers help to disabled people looking for work. Her aim, as she nicely summed up, is “to disable disability”.

Jean Jarvis MBE – South Shropshire Furniture Scheme holding Ollie Owl from Feather Perfect Falconry CIC. SSFS have provided funding for FPF CIC’s website. Jean also delivered a workshop on Growing your Social Enterprise

Jean Jarvis then wandered over to us; Jean Jarvis MBE is the Chief Executive of the South Shropshire Furniture Scheme that has been a huge success in Shropshire since it launched in the 90s. The South Shropshire Furniture Scheme collects unwanted furniture and household items and refurbishes them for vulnerable people on low incomes, under contract to public and private sector organisations.

The scheme provides a range of services and training through its different social enterprise activities, including furniture restoration, computer refurbishment, craft workshop, cafe, a number of retail outlets including Reviive on the Battlefield Industrial Estate, Shrewsbury. Jean really knows how hard it can be to start a new venture but also sees the huge rewards and satisfaction that can be achieved in helping others. It was clear by her passion in talking to me and later with the attendees of how much the project means to her.

Jean in the photo on the right is holding an African Spotted Eagle Owl – Kevin and Steve are the men behind Feather Perfect Falconry CIC a new social enterprise company that brings the amazing and fascinating world of birds of prey to the community. They offer Bird of Prey experiences including Hawk Walks and Owl Encounters encouraging all ages to see and care about wildlife. They believe the best way to conserve birds of prey is through education and happily visit schools, care homes, clubs and community centres, not only to introduce people to these wonderful birds but also to clear up misconceptions. The business is based in Telford and has a range of birds including Harris Hawks, a Goshawk, a Lanner Falcon and an African Spotted Eagle Owl who volunteer Helen was going to prepare to introduce me to more intimately! Although a little nervous, I am quite good with birds, so I placed the protecting falconry glove on and Ollie the African Spotted Owl came and perched on my arm quite happily! I can honestly say it was the highlight of the day to admire such a wonderful creature! The team at Feather Perfect have a great setup and a fantastic idea and I enjoyed chatting a joking with the them.

Nick Radcliffe from Connecting Minds Psychology CIC being interviewed for the DVD by Appletree Theatre and Film Company

I had noticed that some people had been wandering into a wooden outbuilding looking rather nervous and wondered what was going on. The room was being used as a studio with the social enterprises attending given the opportunity to hone their media skills, appearing on camera during the day.

The filming team were Appletree Theatre and Film Company run by run by two experienced actors and film makers, Jules Woodman and Carl Walker. They had done a talk earlier in the day about the importance of using video and media to promote business. The Appletree Theatre and Film Company has recently worked on a project called Castle Connexions, a youth project aimed at bringing the history of Ludlow Castle to life through theatre and creating awareness amongst local youngsters of the heritage they have on their doorstep.

As I wandered back to were the day’s talks were taking place I asked Beverly Chittern, who owns and runs Hampton Hayes working farm, to have a chat about The Dragon Fly Project CIC which is run from there. Beverly explained to me that her son was born with special needs and she wanted create a haven for him and others at the farm. The Social Enterprise was set up for people with special needs who visit for regular respite breaks and take advantage of the stimulating outdoor environment through outdoor activities, workshops and companionship. The aim is to improve their lives, without interrupting familiar routines. Both the visitors themselves and the carers at home can benefit from the break. This really is a fantastic project and Beverly’s enthusiasm is infectious!

Social Enterprises working together during a facilitated workshop

It was nearly time for me to leave and when I popped back into the barn, Rosemarie Gittings came over to see me, as she wanted to know a little more about shropshirelive.com. I asked her why she had come here today and she explained her interest in setting up her own social enterprise. She had been made redundant from her job as a social worker and wanted to use her knowledge and skills to help others by offering courses in stress management, gaining confidence or whatever might be affecting people’s lives. We had a good chat and talked about some ideas for helping her progress with the project.

It was time to leave and I thanked Nicky Kent, Social Enterprise Business Outreach Coach from the Community Council for inviting me along. The Project is part of the ‘Growing Social Enterprise in the West Midlands’ Programme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund. As well as organising the day Nicky Kent works with organisations and entrepreneurs in a variety of ways to help them get an enterprise activity off the ground. She provides business advice and support and covers areas such as how to the project will work and make money, funding, legalities, business plans, networking and more.

It really was a great day, at a wonderful location and I am excited about finding out how all these new and existing social enterprises develop in the future.

Me (Martin Childs - shropshirelive.com) with Ollie Owl from Feather Perfect Falconry CIC

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