We are delighted to announce that Storybox is now an official member of Social Enterprise Northern Ireland (SENI), a representative body for social enterprises and social entrepreneurs across Northern Ireland. SENI’s mission is to support, develop, and sustain vibrant businesses in their objectives to create social change throughout Northern Ireland.
Since first engaging with SENI in October 2020, the group has been vital in helping to get the Storybox idea up and running by making introductions, encouraging collaboration, and providing guidance on getting further business support.
The team at SENI has continued their efforts the whole way through the pandemic to ensure that both new and established social enterprises can not only survive but thrive through the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenging conditions, SENI were able to host over 40 digital events offering support and information to their members whilst at the same time, lobby to the government to ensure the social enterprise sector secured access to COVID support grants. This eventually resulted in a £9.2m fund to support the sustainability and resilience of the sector amidst the pandemic.
What is a social enterprise?
There are many types of socially led businesses within the social enterprise sector. Some of these include Community Interest Companies (C.I.C.), Co-operative, Credit Unions and Non-Governmental Organisations to name a few. They function and operate like businesses by working to generate profit; however the capital raised is reinvested into the activities involved in achieving their social or environmental missions. Some examples of social enterprises within Northern Ireland which we have collaborated with are Now Group, Refuge NI, Bolster Community, HICUP and USEL. All these businesses are driven by their social purpose and every aspect of their business will work toward achieving it. For example, HICUP (Helping Communities cUP) is a social enterprise that has developed eco-friendly reusable coffee cups. Their mission is to support the growing number of people using food banks across NI and further fields - for every sale of a cup, provisions for a care package will be donated to a local food bank with enough supplies to provide a meal for a family of four (HICUP, 2020).
The social enterprise sector is making huge impact on society within Northern Ireland and has played a key part in supporting the most vulnerable during the global pandemic and will continue to #buildbackbetter in the coming years. In fact, the sector has seen significant growth in recent years with the number of social enterprises increasing from 12,200 in 2013 to 24,860 in 2018. Out of the current number of social enterprises operating, 43% were started in the last 5 years highlighting the potential for further growth and expansion (Rebalancing the NI Economy, 2019).
However, like any other business, social enterprises need support to continue to grow, thrive and most importantly fulfil their social missions – we at Storybox hope to go a little way in supporting the sector through offering gifts with purpose.
Storybox and its mission to support social and local
Storybox is collaborating with social enterprises and local independent businesses to bring together boxes made up of #giftswithpurpose and that can be conveniently ordered online and delivered straight to a recipient’s door. Some of the gift box themes have included a ‘Christmasbox’ and ‘Coffeebox’ made up of goods from across 10 social enterprises and local businesses. The boxes have also proved popular in the corporate world as an employee/client appreciation gift that is both personable and supports the local community.
Interestingly, as result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing challenges we face, consumers are revaluating their responsibility to society and how their purchasing decisions can impact this (Forbes, 2020). We hope for Storybox not only to offer another sales channel for consumers to #buysocial but also the opportunity to learn from the inspiring stories behind the businesses and raise awareness of their vital causes.
Interested in using your purchasing power for good? Get in touch here.