Blend, Our First Year

29.10.17

It’s a year since we registered Blend as a community interest company and began what’s been an amazing year. 1 year ago we had around £10 in our bank account, were in the process of bringing people with enough spare time, relevant skills and experiences together to form our board of trustees and weren’t employing anyone on a permanent basis. Ahead of our first AGM in just over a week, I wanted to share some of our key achievements as I’m proud of what we’ve achieved and hope that we can inspire others to get the right people around them and take a risk on something new.

Achievement 1 – We now provide paid employment to 8 people
One of things we wanted to do when we created Blend was to create employment opportunities for people. While employment can provide challenges to people in certain settings, we believe that the satisfaction of working in a team, the sense of achievement you feel and the financial reward far outweigh any negatives. Being able to employ people who when we first met them really undervalued themselves and the skills they had then, that we have been able develop since, we regard as a massive achievement. Saz (pictured below), is the latest member of our team and now prepares delicious home made bread at Blend Kitchen. She embodies everything we’re about in terms of providing training, building her confidence and helping her to realise the potential she has.

Achievement 2 – 3 year funding to feed children and support families
Earlier this year we were fortunate enough to secure 3 years funding from Children in Need to develop a programme of family cookery clubs in primary schools in Shiregreen, Firth Park and Darnall. The project will provide children with a free meal after school and during the school holidays, along with enabling us to work with their parents and carers to provide appropriate practical and emotional support. Since securing the funding, we are now in the process of expanding the work into other communities and applying to a range of funders to do this. In the first year of the project at the current rate of sign up, we estimate that we will work with in excess of 100 families.

Achievement 3 – Opening Blend Kitchen
We’ve always aspired to running a centrally located venue serving food to the general public, providing training to people and organising events that bring communities together. Our perspective has always been that having projects embedded in local communities (such as our family cookery clubs) and having a central base for our more commercial activities is necessary in terms of ensuring our long term financial sustainability. After months of looking, in August this year we heard about The Printhouse, on North Church Street in the city centre. Approaching St Phillips Church who manage the building, we felt that we had found the ideal venue to combine the office space we needed, space for training and meetings and space needed to operate Blend Kitchen from. Following meetings with St Phillips, we reached an agreement to a 3 month trial of Blend Kitchen @ The Printhouse and moving into the office on a 6 month trial.In September we moved into our new office and have since opened Blend Kitchen. In addition we have been able to recruit new participants to our employability programme, take a number of reservations for lunch and dinner and organise the official launch of Blend Kitchen. We now envisage extending our agreement for Blend Kitchen beyond the end of the year and remaining in the office indefinitely. We hope that by having a central base will enable us to generate more income (and profit) through our food sales and expand our free employability and health and wellbeing activities and hopefully create more jobs.

There have been a number of other successes (on track to turn over £40k+ in our first year of trading, organising or participating in events that have engaged with over 1000 people, accredited training and work experience to 40 clients) but I wanted to focus on these 3. I’d like to encourage anyone out there who has an idea but is nervous about taking the first step, to get the right people around you and do it! Risks are fine as long as they’re calculated and you have people involved who you respect and can pull you up when you have a daft idea (we all do at times). To get in touch with Blend, visit the contact us page of the website http://www.blendcookeatshare.com/contact-us/

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