Well this is a new experience!
This is my first ever attempt at a blog, not sure who’s going to read it but I thought I’d give it a go. Well I suppose I’d best introduce myself! I’m Ali. I’m a mum to 2 lovely boys and partner to a great man. I work full time for the women’s organisation Platform 51 and live in Liverpool. I have loved my job for years, working with young women to enable them to make changes for themselves and also change the world for the better has been a privilege and I have learnt so much from them. But right now my work doesn’t fulfil me like it used to. The outside world is pretty grim- unemployment, debt and a feeling of hopelessness seems to be gripping our communities. It makes me angry and motivates me to want more for myself and for the people who live in my city.
I have been a Christian for a number of years and struggle to talk about my faith to others. I am worried that they might have prejudices and stereotypes about what Christians are and that will affect how they see me. It’s time to come out of the closet!
In May 2011 I begun to make and sell chutney to fundraise for Platform 51. As the month went on I couldn’t shake the feeling that this could be the start of something bigger. How amazing would it be if this became a ‘proper’ profit making business? The thought grew some more. I was struck when out volunteering with ‘streetlights’ ( a church based project working with sex workers in Liverpool city centre) that the girls we met needed more than a brew and a trite ‘God loves you’. What they needed was a route out of desperation, addiction and oppression. What if the chutney empire as I had begun to call I could be that route? I realised how crazy the thought was but I just couldn’t shake it. One Sunday morning I prayed ‘OK God if this is from you, give someone else the same vision’. Later on at church I found myself chatting to Jan and I tentatively shared my thoughts with her. She started to beam. She had a similar vision but her ideas centred around making and selling crafts. She wanted a place where people could experience God’s love in a practical way and eventually get employment as a result of training and working in the business but she felt that she wanted a business partner to work with. Coincidence? You might think it is but I believe it was God moment that put us together.
So the journey began! We made chutney, jams and soaps to sell at Christmas markets. We got insurance and had a plan drawn on a piece of flip chart paper! We got a name ‘The Gateway Collective’ coming from the notion that this could be a gateway to better lives and a gateway to God. The collective bit was added by Jan’s husband Pete and we loved it. It gave a sense of the fact that collectively we are stronger than on our own and that we both have different skills to bring. We didn’t do as well as we’d hoped at the Christmas markets but we ended 2011 about £200 in profit. If we’d took any money out I think we would have been earning about £1.50 an hour for the time we’d put in but we left the money in the business and decided to grow it in 2012.
This blog is intended to capture our journey in making a vision a reality. It is going to be difficult, we both work full time and have a gazillion other things to fill our time with but we both feel that now is the time for this. I have to try.