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Individual Skills For Collective Good


By gatewaycollective, Aug 24 2014 09:06PM

So I’m getting better at blogging because this time it’s only been 4 months since my last attempt!

This blog is all about SSE .. the School for Social Entrepreneurs. I have been attending the SSE North West Start Up program since Oct 2013 and I can’t believe how much I have learnt in such a small amount of time. I have visited other successful social enterprises, listened to ‘expert witnesses’ talk about their experiences and have finally got my head around legal structures and the best one for us. Jan and I have started spending the money too! We now have business cards and our branded clothing is on the way (beyond excited about that and I might have to wear all of it at once when it arrives!). But by far the biggest achievement in my mind is the creation of our own website. We did it ourselves – with the help of the lovely Pete – and to us it’s awesome. This will now be a way for people to catch up with what we are doing and eventually a place for on-line sales. Jan is working hard at getting the right card designs and hopefully these can go to print relatively quickly. I’ve still not found the right industrial kitchen yet for chutney making but I’m convinced I need to hold on for the right one at the right time. We are also looking at an allotment this weekend ..Whoooooppppeeee!!! I will be so made up if this happens. Then we can start recruiting volunteers and start growing our own organic, fresh produce. It really is hard work but it is really worth it – I promised myself an early night tonight but instead I’m messing with this! There is so much I know nothing about, the session on tax off-setting today confirmed my lack of business knowledge! However I believe in a God who can work miracles. There’s a verse in the bible that says “You have not because you ask not”. Well I’m asking. I’m asking a lot. “God make this work because we can’t do it without you”.

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

By gatewaycollective, Aug 24 2014 08:55PM

It’s been ages since my last blog about the coldest market ever and at the moment things are feeling good at Gateway Collective towers. We have now got a regular pitch at Prescot Farmers market on the first Saturday of the month and takings are on the up. We have some regular customers and we are learning what sells and what doesn’t (generally people under age 40 ish like Chilli Jam and Red Onion relish and men over 50 are a fan of Traditional Ale Chutney!) The best thing about the markets is they are fun. I love meeting new people and chatting to them about the chutneys available and what they could try it with. I also enjoy continuing the relationship each month – there’s a woman at Prescot who loves the lime marmalade and will come back most months for more. It’s so good to chat to her and find out how she is getting on. It’s time to work out what our next markets should be and how we could staff them. With Christmas coming up we have a few Christmas markets and fairs booked in. The first is at ‘The Foundary’ in Runcorn next Sat on 24th Nov. Please come down and say hi if you are in the area! We still have an eye on developing the social enterprise and training aspect to the Gateway Collective. We’ve attended a few training events (thanks Blackburn House and SSE North West!) and feel more confident about going forward with this. We also recruited 2 fabulous volunteers to work with us in October at the Bootle food festival (Caroline and Rachel you know who you are!) and it was amazing to be able to hook Rachel up with the North Perk cafe social enterprise due to open in the Bootle Strand soon. She has an interview on Thursday for an apprenticeship position and we’re praying that she gets it! Whilst progress has been really slow on our website and online presence we have finally arrived on twitter – @thegatewaycoll – and have at least bought our website domain name! It’s just been so time consuming and difficult to do everything that is needed whilst working full time and being a mum to my 2 gorgeous boys. I’ve come to terms with the fact that progress will be slow but hopefully effective! There have been many times that I’ve questioned why I am doing this! I am very aware that setting up a business that sells chutney and textile products is fundamentally bonkers! It just comes down to the fact that I believe this is what God wants me to do. Times are really tough and people are struggling. Bootle in North Liverpool is an area characterised largely by poverty, substance misuse and crime. This is not how it needs to be. It’s time for the church to stand up and be counted! To say that people are important and that the future is not predetermined to be negative but can be positive and free. To forward this vision we’ll sell chutney and bags and be ready for what the future holds!

By gatewaycollective, Aug 24 2014 08:49PM

Well it’s been 3 days since our first ‘proper’ market. I would have blogged earlier but it’s taken me this long to thaw out! We obediently arrived in Prescot at 8am (like the letter said we had to). That was our first mistake. No-one else arrived till 9am, we could have had an extra hour in bed! (note to self- next time ignore the letter) We set the stall up, made sure everything was labelled correctly and had a bacon butty. Things were initially looking positive. The market was on the high street so we anticipated a decent footfall and we were placed right next to the Liverpool Cheese Company which surely had to be complimentary. We made about £20 in the first hour, even making a sale while we were still setting up. Then the rain started. Well I can’t even say it was rain, more like ice falling from the sky. It was so cold. The ground instantly became an ice rink. At one point I had to just let a man take his change from my money pot as my hands were too cold to give it to him! Precot is hardly chutney capital of the North West as the best of times but on Saturday no one was interested. We made £32.50 all day – ‘all day’ ended at 1pm as we were too cold to stay till the official end time of 2pm. The highlight of the day was an old mans trousers falling down while he was looking at the pie stall- and then not noticing for 30 seconds. Seriously! Not noticing your trousers are round your ankles for 30 seconds in sub-artic temperatures seems a little extreme to me. He probably wanted to show off his rather large used-to-be-white-but-now-they’re-grey pants to cheer us up. Well it worked. Jan and I laughed for 20 minutes over that. (it was probably hysteria due to cold induced temporary insanity)

Anyway needless to say it wasn’t the triumph hoped for. The good thing was that everyone who tried our products bought but I think we’re gonna need more than £32.50 to change the world! Anyway we will still carry on and have faith that this is the right thing. We’ve got a few different markets to try & the red onion marmalade is selling well. We need to get on with getting a website, Facebook page, twitter feed etc and we need to develop our Gateway Collective crafts lines. But there is only so much you can do when working full-time as well so for now we’ll carry on taking one step at a time whilst giggling about a man whose trousers fell down. :)

By gatewaycollective, Aug 24 2014 08:38PM

Been a troublesome week at chutney empire HQ! We’re booked on to do our first non-Christmas farmers market on Saturday. We had a great idea about going with ‘Gateway Collective Food’ – chutney, pickles, jams, chocolate and fudge. We planned the type of handmade chocolates we would make and bought the things needed to make chocolate lollipops. Then the market organisers said we couldn’t go with chocolate as they have existing providers. “What about fudge?” “No. But we’re really keen on chutneys and jams.”. Hmmmmm that gave me 6 days to make about 50 jars. Not impossible but it would be a challenge, especially as my normal day off in work had been cancelled due to a request to meet with my boss.

So Jan put her craft making stuff down, picked up a pinny & came to help! The chilli jam and beetroot relish worked well but tonight I’ve had a nightmare with my tangy marmalade :( it just won’t set! I’ve re-boiled, added more pectin and then jarred it up hopefully, however I suspect in the morning it will be marmalade goo. To top it all today I found out that we need to be on the market for between 7-8am on Saturday. I will repeat; 7-8am ON A SATURDAY!! Now that’s dedication to the cause!

Anyway Rome wasn’t built in a day, all empire building will experience difficulties and I’ll keep smiling. Time to put it all aside and go watch Match of the Day and enjoy the mighty reds give Wolves a 3-0 hiding. You never know when I wake up tomorrow the marmalade may have miraculously set. If not, anyone for Marmalade goo?