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Individual Skills For Collective Good


Beginning the SSE journey (originally posted November 2013)

By gatewaycollective, Aug 24 2014 09:03PM

I seem to start every blog with the sentence “it’s been a long time since my last blog and lots has happened” but this time it really has been ages and lots really has happened! I’ll just give you the headlines to bring you up to speed …

I left my job working for Platform 51 and starting working for Ykids an amazing charity working with children, young people and families in Bootle. I really felt at the time – and still do – that this was the right decision. It meant I could work flexibly around being a mum and working in a Christian organisation really appealed to me. However the big benefit that at the time I didn’t appreciate was that Ykids as a charity owns 2 social enterprises and has a big vision around developing businesses for social good. Claire Morgans the CEO at Ykids had already been through the SSE start up programme a few years ago and is a massive fan and advocate of all things SSE!

When the SSE start up programme was advertised in February Claire encouraged me to apply as did Lisa Mariah the programme manager. We had applied last year but were unsuccessful but apparently we were close! So the night before I flew to Ghana for what turned out to be an amazing trip of self discovery Jan and I were frantically writing the SSE application. An informal team day, interview, scariest selection panel ever and 6 months later The Gateway Collective is on the programme!

So SSE is the school for social entrepreneurs. It is international however the UK North West office is in Blackburne House in Liverpool. The start up programme is a year long programme consisting of study days, sessions with expert witnesses, mentoring, and general business development. In addition there is a £4,000 investment in the business that can be spent on equipment and other expenses. I feel privileged to be on this programme and to be able to benefit from the support, expertise and investment available. However this is also incredibly daunting! There is always a danger in comparing yourself to other people but it’shard not to! Other people’s businesses on the programme are so just so good and so well established. I am in awe of their vision and desire to make a difference. I feel in comparison our chutney making and craft markets are tiny! However I am determined to make the most of this amazing opportunity that the SSE presents. I know that in comparison to others our social enterprise is small, both in terms of turnover and social impact but that is a good place to start. I know we have lots to do, lots to learn and a long way to go but with SSE we're in the best company to do so! I've only attended 2 sessions so far and my list of things to do is off the chart. The session with Agent Marketing blew my mind and made me realise how little I know – but I know have a plan and know where to start … Something else to add to the 'things to do list'!

So where next? I have been made up this year with our team of Gateway Growers and this is definitely something to expand next year. As a result we have had homegrown tomatoes, chilli's, onions, courgettes, beetroot, pears, and apples. The idea is that we buy people the plants and they grow the fruit! Giving half back to us and keeping half for themselves. This means that we benefit from homegrown produce but so do other people! We have also had a lovely gift of apples from a couple who had trees that produced more than they could handle.

Jan my partner in the Gateway madness has recently changed jobs to give her more time to focus on Gateway which means hopefully we can soon expand our cards and crafts ranges and sales. This has been difficult for us as we haven't yet worked out the best markets for this and sales are quite low despite the awesome quality of the product.

I am determined this year to begin the Gateway volunteering and training programmes. We have spoken to the manager of the CAP debt advice centre in Bootle who is keen to link some of her clients with us. This is something we both feel so passionately about. We want to make a difference and for people to grow – both emotionally and practically – as a result of interacting with us.

I think that's enough for now! If you're a praying person please pray for us on this journey. We want to make it a success but we both would like more hours in the day! It's the biggest challenge juggling this on top of full-time work and trying to maintain some form of family life and work-life balance but nothing truly great was ever achieved by sitting on the sofa!

Thanks for reading this. I hope you found it interesting! Feel free to share to spread the word- especially if you know any multi-millionaires looking to invest in a mad chutney and craft business! We love the Gateway Collective and I hope that anyone reading this will catch the vision and love it too!

The Gateway Collective – individual skills for collective good

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