I’ve always liked business and been interested in it, ever since I started up my first business when I was 13, a car washing enterprise with my friend Jim Lawrence.
We would go around Heathfield and knock on people’s doors offering a wash and wax for £5 (Not that kind…)
I think quite often the business we received was more out of sympathy, than actual market demand. But it was exhilarating creating money out of some basic capital (a bucket, sponge, car shampoo and a shami leather) and a little bit of endeavour.
My entrepreneurial instincts then went dormant for about 15 years! I decided that I needed to learn, learn, learn about business and once I’d worked for some big companies I would be knowledgeable and ready to start my own business (I think this is the same for a lot of people, it’s logical right?)
30 hit and I realised I needed to start something, anything… immediately…. I started a digital marketing business called Sumo marketing! I jumped!
You haven’t heard of it because it was a FLOP, personally and professionally, hardly the mount Vesuvius eruption of entrepreneurial impact that these 15 years had waited for…
Back to the drawing board, I thought about what hadn’t worked with my first venture and realised that while I was interested in digital marketing, I had no passion for it. I ended up doing work for some companies whose ethics I didn’t particularly like and there was no purpose for me, why would I want to help companies I don’t really like get, more business? Because they had the money…
I looked deeper into this quandary and with the help of the Happy Startup School in Brighton realised it wasn’t just me who felt this way. In fact, there is a whole lot of people who feel that running a traditional business, where you provide a value added product, to a market in return for some profit, a bit dry and frankly, pointless….
Then I found out about a whole (new-ish) industry called social enterprise! Businesses where being setup to make money but that wasn’t the aim of the business, the aim was to have a social impact! This was in the words of Sam L Jackson in Pulp Fiction, “A moment of clarity” for me. I’d found the answer, businesses that have a purpose but also work as a business! Hallelujah ????????
So, I decided I’d start a social enterprise!! Community Oven was born to try and see if it could have an impact, our noble cause:
“We would reduce Social Isolation through rekindling community spirit through food and eating and cooking together…”
This had and still has a very personal connection with me and it’s been the fuel that keeps the business going despite many, many hurdles behind and in front of us…
If this were a fairy tale, I think I’d now say that Community Oven went on to be a successful business and helped lots of people come together giving much needed friendship and community to the masses.
Well, we still might achieve this but, the first 18 months have really been about trying to make the business work financially (real world ???? Alert) and when I get some time trying to climb the mountain of improving communities, which at times feels like I’m climbing Mount Everest in flip flops!!
To be continued….