I love being a staff writer for 3BL Media/Justmeans on topics - Social Innovation, Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurs. When I am not writing for 3BL Media/Justmeans, I wear my other hat as owner of Serendipity PR. Over the years I have worked with high-profile, big, powerful brands and organisations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from my industry....
Rubies in the Rubble, the Unique Award Winning U.K. Social Enterprise
Every now and again we hear about someone doing amazing things in social enterprise; meet 27 year-old Jenny Dawson, founder of Rubies in the Rubble (which produces jams and chutneys), who this August 2012 won the U.K. prize in a European-wide social enterprise competition run by ice cream company, Ben & Jerry's. The ethos of Rubies in the Rubble products is, 'it believes that what you put into life is what you get out'. So, it makes everything by hand, is committed to its community and sources all its fruit and vegetables from surplus, fresh from the market before they're discarded, using it all.
Jenny Dawson also integrated her other passion in life in her business model; which is helping disadvantaged women who have fallen on hard times and need a helping hand to rebuild their lives. She recruits people who are struggling to get back into work, investing time and talent in training them to be experts. So far Jenny Dawson has employed two people and hopes to increase her head count once she secures a major retail contract. Ben & Jerry's has offered to help her approach big U.K. supermarket chains.
The prize from Ben & Jerry's has also be received by four other country winners in Denmark, Holland, Sweden and Ireland, is 10,000 plus six months' mentoring from the social enterprise network Ashoka. The social entrepreneurs' logos will also appear on a special tub of the company's ice cream next year.
As part of this competition, the 14 short-listed candidates had to live a week in Uganda where they stayed with farmers who supply Fairtrade organic vanilla to Ben & Jerry's and also spend time with their Ugandan counterparts, who too are seeking to start their own businesses. Jenny Dawson says she went through a huge learning curve, and was a real eye opener. However, it was the extraordinary warmth of the local people and the fact that being able to sell at Fairtrade prices has transformed their lives that she remembers most. This competition highlighted the huge difficulties of setting up a business in rural Uganda.
In Africa Jenny Dawson shared accommodation with a young Ugandan woman, who hopes to set up her own social enterprise. At the start of the week, the woman wanted to create jam out of avocados, which are freely available, but it became clear that glass jars are not available and there is no custom of eating jam in the community. By the end of the week she had decided to focus on briquettes, the equivalent to charcoal but cheaper to produce as they are created from dried out waste farming products and help prevent deforestation. Being a social entrepreneur is full of twists and turns; luckily Ben & Jerry's have found their bright sparks who are creating new business models that are making a difference in communities.
Photo Credit: Rubies in the Rubble website