Tales of a start-up social enterprise...

Like all good things, Bloom was started in a moment of combined inspiration and madness. I’d been working in my ‘day job’ with a large number of people facing unemployment, particularly those who had been unemployed for a considerable amount of time. I came across many who wanted to go back into work, but there usually wasn’t a very clear or helpful way for them to build back up the skills, knowledge and confidence they needed to do so. Instead, I saw people who had the desire and ability to work, remain unemployed and their chances of entering the job market becoming a more distant reality day by day.

‘Let’s do something about it!’, I said… But what…?

Well, I’d always loved baking and cooking, right back since they days when I won Young Tesco Vegetarian Chef of the Year (true story, still got my certificate). ‘So’, I said ‘Let’s use food, to help tackle social exclusion and long-term unemployment!’

And that was about the extent of the plan on day one, and off I started down this crazy road wondering at the back of my mind just how a loaf of bread might solve such a big social issue…

Since then - Bloom has evolved through many twists and turns. We started out with a pop-up community cafe, and we then got onto the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs scheme which really kickstarted our journey. Since then we’ve baked thousands of bakes, run market stalls, catered for community events, parties, and even weddings. And along the way we’ve met some incredible people who are experiencing unemployment, who’ve joined in with what we’re doing and it’s been a real privilege to see them thrive in the process.

I’ve become wholly convinced that the act of making, preparing and sharing food is a powerful personal and social experience. I’ve seen it bring together diverse groups of people within the community, spark hidden creative talents and rebuild long-lost confidence and self-esteem.

We’ve made what we do a bit more formal, now offering structured training programmes over 10 weeks. And we’ve also started to identify the main types of trading we want to do, that we think will keep us sustained financially and generate enough income to support the community training schemes that we want to run.

Right now, 15 months after we embarked on this journey, life is a little crazy… A standard week consists of running our two Autumn training programmes with 10 local people; writing one, two or three funding bids to try and get the funds we need to grow; planning for Christmas trading opportunities; having a smattering of meetings with mentors, advisors or people who have done what we’re trying to do; oh and then there’s getting round to our accounting/ legals or other administrative work… (And did I mention I have another job too..?)

We’re supported by some amazing volunteers to achieve all this, but we really are now like a butterfly ready to break out of the cocoon. We just need to get our wings strong enough to fly. In 2018 we’re hoping to expand both our training and trading activities. We want to double the amount of community training we offer, and to significantly increase our trading activities to generate the income we need to run these courses. But like all micro-enterprises, even social enterprises, we need to raise the necessary funds to get over the starting line and make this happen. This month we’ve got two opportunities to pitch for funding coming up:

Do join us at one of these events at you can. Every ££ raised will help us that little bit closer to making our plans for 2018 happen. We really think we’re on the brink of something special - we’d love you to come and be part of it…

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