Rene Meijer, CEO of Food Works talks to us about the social enterprise saving food from being wasted and making it available to the people of Sheffield.
What does your social enterprise do?
We are building a more sustainable and fair food system for Sheffield. Most of that currently focuses on redistributing surplus food for us in our cafes, market, catering and education programmes.
What made you start your business up?
The business was started by Jo Hercberg. I joined as a volunteer director at the start as we were tackling a complicated problem in a very straightforward and direct way that made an immediate difference to peoples lives.
How do you measure your impact?
We measure how much food we redirect from landfill (which translates into CO2 emission reductions), and we measure how many people we feed.
What help did you have to start your social enterprise?
We exchanged a lot of ideas and experiences with similar projects in The Real Junk Food Project network. We also got valuable social investment and support through Key Fund. Most importantly though, we immediately got the support from people in Sheffield, and currently, over 200 of them volunteer with us to help us make an impact.
How did you decide on what legal form would work best for your business?
We got advice from several people who had started similar ventures before. Most importantly, we chose something that didn’t lock us in too much so we could make further choices and refinements as the business developed.
What’s the best thing about being a social entrepreneur?
There is no replacement for doing something meaningful that you believe in.
What has been your biggest challenge when setting up and running your social enterprise?
The lack of understanding about what a social enterprise is!
What advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?
Build relationships and partnerships prolifically. Nothing succeeds in isolation, and a business with a relevant and inspiring mission will get invaluable support if you take the time to share your story.
What information sources would you recommend to help someone just starting their social enterprise journey?
I would definitely recommend working with Key Fund if you are looking for social investment and support with business development. Also, local business organisations (chamber of commerce, growth hubs etc.) often provide fantastic advice, small grants and networking opportunities.
What are your plans for the next 2-5 years?
We have just relaunched as Food Works (formerly The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield) and are moving to a new and more permanent home after having been meanwhile-let-nomads for years. From there will be working on expanding our redistribution work to include local farms and producers and scale up our existing work in education, communities and hospitality.
The UK Social Entrepreneur Index, sponsored by UBS, is a celebration of social entrepreneurship across the UK.
Open to social entrepreneurs tackling a social or environmental issue at any scale, entrants will act as beacons of inspiration for others to encompass positive social impact.
For more info visit www.socialentsindex.co.uk.
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