Saturday 15th October is Social Saturday, a UK-wide celebration of the more than 70,000 British social enterprises that reinvest or donate profits to address social and environmental issues.
Westminster City Council is one of the founders of Impact Hub Westminster (IHW), a collaborative workspace that supports organisations and individuals that put positive social and environmental impacts at the heart of their missions.
One of them is Sophie André, founder of Elysia – a catering company that tackles two pressing issue at once: food waste and long-term unemployment.
“I arrived in London earlier this year after having spent some time in the USA. There I was working with a homeless charity, meeting social entrepreneurs who employed people from disadvantaged backgrounds in food related businesses. My experience was really positive and inspiring, and I knew I wanted to do something similar here.
“I spent time talking to other social entrepreneurs, charity directors and food specialists in London. Along the way I discovered a whole new food world: the surplus. Part of the food production is wasted due to the size or shape of the product, even though the quality remains unchanged. It was then clear to me: I would buy artisan food products that would have otherwise been wasted, and make sure everybody could afford it.
“I came across Impact Hub Westminster and applied for its scholarship programme for social entrepreneurs. I had the chance to spend three months meeting with other Impact Hub members, getting feedback on my business and participating in events run at the space. I just started the business so for me it was an amazing opportunity to be able to stay there and build strong relationships with the local business community. On top of that, Westminster is the perfect location to meet with people - very easy to commute and all the facilities are available.
“Alongside the aim of reducing food waste, I want Elysia to provide qualified jobs to people with high barriers to employment. Our goal is to grow their skills and the company at the same time. After two to three years with us, we will support team members to either find a new job thanks to the skills they gained or become self-employed with a franchise model.
“Since June, Elysia is up and running. I am currently in touch with local homelessness charities in Westminster to see how we can work together to provide employment opportunities for their clients who are ready to get back to work.
“I am doing this because I truly respect people who are fighting to get back on their feet while facing difficulties. If I can provide a little bit of help and structure for them to get into the labour market, then I definitely want to make it happen.”
Launched in 2011, IHW offers entrepreneurs flexible access to workspace as well as an unique ecosystem of resources, inspiration, and collaboration opportunities to grow the positive impact of their work. There are currently 337 IHW members who identify as social entrepreneurs or enterprises.
Learn more at westminster.impacthub.net