Dundee Social Enterprise Network (DSEN) recently celebrated its 10th anniversary by taking a stall at the Festive Market, which ran over a Friday and Saturday. Six DSEN members endured freezing temperatures to showcase their products, in the Slessor Gardens which is located beside the new V&A Museum.
This was the first time that DSEN had supported its members to take part in a city centre market. This was largely because the Social Enterprise Network in Dundee had been predominantly service based, with relatively few organisations producing or selling goods. There was also a view that some of the SE goods might not be of the same standard as those of experienced commercial organisations.
So it was with a wee bit of apprehension that we took our place on the stall as dusk fell on the Friday evening. We had no need to worry however, as the members had put a great deal of thought and effort into ensuring that their products were well produced and professionally branded and packaged. The SEs were also without doubt the most engaging stall holders, chatting with customers and letting them know about what their organisations were all about and the added value that their products offered.
We had a varied range of members present:
The Special Candles Trust design and make bespoke remembrance candles, which are given free to people who are experiencing loss or bereavement. They are produced by ex-service personnel who are facing a range of challenges, and being involved in this work has played a really important part in their recovery journey. SCT were however facing real challenges in terms of funding their work and so have embarked on creating a new commercialised arm, which will produce individualised candles for special occasions, such as retirements and christenings. This has involved working with DSEN to create new branding and packaging as well as creating a more engaging online presence.
Rock Solid is a youth club for young people in Douglas, some of whom are facing a range of challenges. RS run an entrepreneurial scheme, with the young people involved at every stage – from designing the products, to deciding how to distribute the profits. The young folk loved being involved in the market and were demon sales people.
How it Felt is a young social enterprise providing puppet building, drama and film making workshops, focusing mostly on mental and emotional well-being. This can include group workshops, one to one sessions and commissions. Debz and her puppet Little Debz proved really popular with young and old alike.
Dundee & Angus Wood Recycling take old pallets and other unused materials and turn them into a range of fantastic garden furniture, shop fittings and also offer a bespoke design service. They offer everyone the chance to learn new skills, but particularly for those with additional support needs. Richard and his colleagues have faced a lengthy development journey, but now have suitable premises, become incorporated (CIC), a burgeoning order book and an ever increasing range of volunteers wanting to take part. They have just been awarded a development grant from DSEN, which will enable them to buy a van and their next step is looking to finance their first paid member of staff.
Tin Roof is an organisation set up and run by artists in Dundee. They aim to support artists and the wider creative community by providing resources and a collaborative atmosphere. They have just overcome a major barrier this year when they lost their premises, but have co-located with other art initiatives and are back running fantastic pottery and ceramic sessions for the local community.
Uppertunity is a recently formed CIC that offers a skills development and self-determination service to people who might be considered vulnerable. Uppertunity looks at the individual’s strengths and possibilities, and then work with them to create long-term independence. DSEN has supported them with a feasibility grant that allowed them to run a series of trial sessions. Two of the people that take part in the Uppertunity programmes, were part of their sales team and clearly loved the experience.
DSEN has come along way since its inception in 2007, growing from a handful of enterprises, to a dynamic network with 76 members and offering a wide range of goods and services. This Festive Market felt like another step for the Network and it certainly was a success, with a collective sales total of over £1000, with additional orders still coming in. It also helped to spread the message and demonstrate to others what SE is all about.