Adele Sweeney, owner of Crafting4Good, describes her Community Interest Company’s work as “Robin Hood Creativity”.
“By that, we mean encouraging those who can afford it to help those who can’t,” she explains. “We do this in a few ways, one of which is via our online store which sells downloadable craft supplies that can be printed at home or by groups, such as card making kits to make handmade cards either for personal use or to be sold by our customers.”
Crafting4Good CIC is a not-for-profit distribution business which uses revenue generated by its online store to fund community work.
“We also receive donations,” explains Adele. “These mostly come from customers and the public who send us their unwanted supplies, but we have a few companies who send us their end-of-line stock and it’s a win-win for both of us. With permission from the donors we might sell some of this stock, and the rest is used for community purposes to allow people the chance to be creative – for example, supporting community groups and organisations to be sustainable with reduced cost supplies. We know that creativity helps with wellbeing and that’s our overall aim, especially for those who can least afford fancy, expensive supplies.”
Adele has big plans for Crafting4Good, including a community shop and new line of eco-friendly supplies that have a greater social purpose, along with partnerships with other social enterprises.
“We were inspired by the new partnership between MIND and Trimcraft,” explains Adele. “We’re keen to partner with Trimcraft ourselves, so that we can sell items that ultimately benefit the MIND charity.”
The discovery of social enterprise
Crafting4Good isn’t Adele’s first foray into online retail. For ten years she operated an online store, but it was always about more than just turning a profit.
“I ran that business with a ‘people first’ mindset, which practically made it a not-for-profit organisation!” she says. “for example we had customers who I knew had Alzheimer’s and who would sometimes order the same thing twice; we’d spot it and refund them, resending the files they’d originally bought but forgot about. Being small meant we ‘knew’ many of our regulars and could see patterns like this – it usually resulted in us refunding instead of keeping the sale.”
Adele decided to seek advice from her accountant, who suggested she needed to be more aggressive with sales. But with an affection for her customer base, that was a change she wasn’t prepared to make.
“That conversation left me feeling a little bit fed up, to be honest; I’m not a cut-throat-business person. This prompted me to start researching charitable businesses, and I came across Social Enterprise UK (SEUK). It was an absolute revelation!”
The discovery that there were already thousands of businesses in the UK putting society and people before profits was a turning point for Adele.
“I realised it was what I should have been doing all along.”
Finding Inspire2Enterprise; an extended member of the team
Adele spent the next year readying herself to set up a community interest company (CIC), a decision that ultimately led her to seek assistance from Inspire2Enterprise.
“I’ve spent hours on the phone with Andrew and the team at Inspire2Enterprise,” she says. “If I have a question, I know I’ve got somebody to talk to, and it doesn’t cost me a penny to receive the wonderful advice that comes back!”
Inspire2Enterprise helped Adele setup her CIC and review the business plan for Crafting4Good, but the assistance continues to this day.
“One of the first things Andrew said to me during those early days has stuck in my mind ever since; ‘turnover for vanity, profit for sanity and cash is the reality’,” says Adele, who still has the post-it note containing the saying in her office. “One of the best things about Inspire2Enterprise is that they’re about far more than just helping you start up. For instance, right Andrew helped me review what I thought was a big opportunity to work with a large organisation, but as he pointed out, the effort and time it was taking on just one possible client simply wasn’t practical. Sometimes, it’s the simple advice that’s the most beneficial. He saved me a lot of stress and worry; I just finished the quote and then got on with the rest of our business – which is just as well because we never heard anything back from them!”
Learning about full cost recovery, cashflow forecasts, business processes and the importance of saying “no” has helped Adele change the direction for Crafting4Good on a number of occasions.
“This is why I view Inspire2Enterprise as an invaluable, extended member of our team – we’d be lost without them!”
If you’d like to talk to Inspire2Enterprise about your own idea for a business where society profits, we’d love to hear from you – just give us a call!