Refurnish, a charity and social enterprise based in Doncaster, provide affordable furniture for local people. Their main objectives are centred around social, environmental and economic issues.
Tell us about your journey so far with Refurnish
Refurnish is a registered charity and social enterprise with a difference. Working with the local community, retailers and public sector agencies, Refurnish prides itself on selling quality new, used and rebranded furniture and electrical goods at a truly affordable price for their customers. The life of Refurnish began on 8th January 2003 and since then, the not for private-profit social enterprise has excelled in providing a greener and more sustainable answer to the manufacture and distribution of furniture and other household goods.
What social problem have you identified and how are you responding?
Born out of five thriving community groups central to furniture production and delivery in Doncaster, Refurnish recognised the opportunity to divert the increasing amounts of goods sent to landfill sites into the successful environmentally friendly project you now see. We do not see ‘waste’ we see an opportunity to recycle, reuse and create high quality goods to sell to the local community at low costs. And at the heart of it: People!
Refurnish has been heavily involved in the flood recovery programme and providing Covid 19 support services, working with its partners sourcing and delivering essential resources to the community.
As CEO of the organisation I have been making deliveries of DIY products and PPE out into the community during the pandemic, this has enabled me to understand and appreciate the pains and strains that people have been feeling.
Our Expressions side of the charity has grown through Covid 19 as people have been in desperate need to maintain their mental health by undertaking practical projects. Expressions is the creative arm of the charity. It uses the medium of recycling furniture and household goods to inspire people’s creativity and self-expression. We have a small dedicated staff team and group of volunteers who beaver away creating beautiful up-cycled products for your home and take individual commissions. It is a great learning environment to be in, where everyone thrives and is encouraged to grow. Our people transform as individuals as they express themselves and create amazing things.
What do you think has been your biggest achievement?
For me, it’s all about the people. It’s about seeing them grow and develop and enhance the quality of their lives and then give back to the wider community. Everyone at Refurnish has their own story. Some have come from the very depths of despair, having suicidal tendencies and have found solace in Refurnish in our little community. They have given of themselves freely, grown their social support networks, acknowledged their situations and taken ownership of their lives. Opportunities have been presented and they have grasped them with both hands and made things work for the benefit of themselves and others. Everyone needs to have purpose and to feel valued.
"Everyone needs to have purpose and to feel valued." - Refurnish spokesperson
What has been your biggest challenge?
Keeping going in this climate has been very tough. When the first shutdown was announced, we lost most of our retail income overnight. We were still trying to maintain services, and people needed to isolate so we kept open for longer and kept doing bulky household waste collections, but we have struggled without the retail income. Because we give 100% back to the community, we had very little cash in reserve. We still have staff on furlough, and we don’t know what to expect in the coming months. The second lockdown has in ways been tougher because we were starting to see sun shine before someone virtually came and pulled shut the blackout curtains. We are now in December, usually our worst performing month and with another potential lockdown in January.
Where do you see your Charity / Social Enterprise in the future?
We are streamlining our activity and we are making changes in the way we work, for example we have downsized our retail units and are now offering click and collect. We also want to try our best to stay open through any future Government restrictions, because many of the people who come to us don’t have internet access and can’t access click and collect services.
The demand for our services will increase but income streams are decreasing as the true depth of economic crisis continually unfolds. Local Authorities budgets are getting cut to beyond the bone. We will have to lose staff to try and balance the seesaw and stretch resources as best we can to maximise public benefit as we always do. There are plenty of opportunities in crisis, however the risks are higher and the work is harder too.
What top tip would you give to other social enterprises or anyone thinking of starting one?
There are always opportunities and lots of needs and demands to be met, but the number one thing is to make sure you’re in it for the right reasons. Family comes first, look after your health, keep things simple, be prepared to work hard and lead from the front.
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