3 things I didn’t expect in setting up a social enterprise: part 1

Part 1: I would dance like a chicken

My best efforts to entertain our beautiful baby models began with simple renditions of “the wheels on the bus” but deteriorated in to dancing like King Louie from the Jungle Book – which I suspect actually looked more like the chicken dance!

We shot the photos for our homepage in a beautiful townhouse in Manchester.     Our photographer, the amazing Adam Riley, (http://www.adamrileyphotography.com) is an exceptionally kind and calm man – perfect for the job of photographing babies throughout the day.

My instructions were to entertain, hold reflective light panels and make tea.  What should I have expected in setting up a social enterprise?  To use my whole range of skills, and then some I never knew I had!

Our baby models did such a great job, a huge thank you to them and their mums.    Here are a few of the gorgeous shots:

It was one of the most fun days of work I have ever had – dancing like a lunatic had a lot to do with it!  As did the babies’ smiles and laughter.   And for me, at the stage I’m at in setting up www.frombabieswithlove.org it was seeing the clothes in action and being enjoyed by babies and their mums; knowing that our customers are going to get great pleasure from their purchases.

Part 2 coming soon!

Double satisfaction and double benefit

from babies with love provides a double benefit” says Florenece Phiri, SOS Children’s Villages Zambia Director.   “Customers will buy a gift for a baby here, and the profits are a gift to another, vulnerable baby elsewhere.”

Last week I met Florence at the English Speaking Union, a charitable organisation in a beautiful old building in the heart of Mayfair, London.   We discussed how from babies with love’s profits will make a huge difference to orphaned and abandoned children.

Florence explained that the diference a children’s village makes is enormous.   “When an orphaned or abandoned child comes to the village they are given a family – brothers, sisters and a mother to look after them.  They have a home and can begin a new life.”

For example, Florence described a baby girl, Namwene, who was adandoned at a police station.  The policy brought her to a children’s village and since living there she has blossomed.  Now 6 years old, Namwene is a beautiful girl who has grown in confidence – Florence recalled a day that she came in to her office and cheekily took some biscuits!  Such confidence is an enormous change, to a child who was once vulnerable, but who now has a home and is free to walk around the children’s village, her village.

from babies with love is supporting the building and running of a nursery school in a new children’s village in Chipata, Zambia.  In Chipata, the main town in Zambia’s Eastern Province, there is a particularly high rate of family breakdown and child abandonment.  Around 1 in 6 of all children there are orphans, compared to 1 in 12 in the general Zambian population.

The new village will give a safe and  loving home for up to 130 children, and hundreds more will live there in the future.   The nursery will provide day time care for 90 children, from the children’s village itself and neighbouring communities.  Florence explained that “the nursery is important for early childhood education.  It follows the principles of learnng through play, so that the children have confidence as they grow up”.

Our profits will help all these children receive the fair start in life they deserve.  from babies with love sponsors individual babies to be loved and cared for in an SOS Children’s Village, and is supporting Chipata Village to build and run the nursery.  Florence left with a final message to pass on: “buy baby clothes at www.frombabieswithlove.org because you will have double satisfaction!  You buy a great quality, organic product, and at the same time you help a child somewhere else – a double gain – please do that!”

Hard-noses and halos: a new network for social impact investors

My latest blog is on the Guardian website: https://socialenterprise.guardian.co.uk/social-enterprise-network/2012/mar/08/network-social-impact-investors  where you can find lots of other articles about the subject of social investment.

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Angels have been around for a while, but now they have a new network to magnify their contribution to the social enterprise sector. Last night I attended the launch of the UK’s first ‘angel network’ dedicated to businesses that create positive social change, Clearly So Angels, at the Houses of Parliament. At the Terrace Pavilion, the wine flowed, canapés were served, and a group of ‘angels’, along side a few social entrepreneurs, listened to why angels should be investing in social enterprises.Rodney Schwartz from ClearlySo described its role as accelerating capital into extraordinary businesses and talked about the benefits of a network, sharing expertise concerning impact investment and sharing risk.

At the event, social impact angels were described as being patient with capital, whilst impatient for success, and as having a bias for action and a tolerance for risk. One interesting suggestion from a social impact angel was that they understand you can’t measure everything that’s important. Are these social impact angels prepared to take a long-term view and accept an element of social return that can’t be easily measured? If so, the question is whether there are enough out there to fill the gap the banks have left.

As someone starting their own social enterprise, from babies with love, I believe social enterprises can deliver financial and social returns at the same time and that good social entrepreneurs can demonstrate this. However, the social impact angels may need to accept non-traditional metrics they might not be familiar with, but that work in a social context. For example, at from babies with love, we are donating 100% profit to charities supporting orphaned and abandoned children. We can count the profit, we can count the children, but quantifying the real impact on their quality of life is going to be hard to capture in numbers alone.

The audience seemed to regard themselves as people with social awareness. Though looking for a financial return, they are prepared to mix commercial and social objectives. No doubt many of them are hard-nosed people, but the golden halos were there and I felt there was a real appetite to invest. So perhaps, and hopefully, they will make a significant contribution to financing the social enterprise sector. And so, a call to us, the social entrepreneurs, to present ourselves at the gates of financial heaven and to meet the angels!

Meet our first baby!

Exciting news for my first blog! from babies with love has started sponsoring its first baby!  Ousmane*, a 12 month old boy from Guinea in West Africa.

I have an adorable photo; let me try to describe him…   He’s pretty sturdy, much like my own baby boy!  He’s standing well, waving his arms in the air and I would say smiling but he’s using a dummy!  Smiling with his eyes then!  The children’s village where he now lives tells me that his favourite colour is blue.  Also that he has become very attached to his foster mother and loves being cuddled by her.

Sadly, Ousmane’s father died, and his mother was not in a position to care for him.   But he now has a new, permanent home, where he should grow up safely, loved by his foster family and he will receive an education.

Guinea is among the poorest countries in Africa. Maternal mortality is high, as is the under 5 mortality rate – although the good news is that it’s declining.    The children’s village where Ousmane lives has eleven family houses.   There is a school and a nursery, taking children from the neighbourhood as well as the children’s village.   With funds from SOS Children’s Villages, supported by from babies with love, we hope he will get a fairer start to life than would otherwise have been possible.

I am launching from babies with love to help more babies like Ousmane.  From babies with love is a social enterprise, donating 100% of profit to charities supporting orphaned and abandoned children.    Our online shop selling beautiful organic baby clothes is launching soon!

So watch this space!  As we progress we will be using all our profit to help more babies like Ousmane!

* not his real name, I changed it to protect his privacy