My Journey to Social Enterprise
Eddie Birks is CEO of Green Oak Clearance CIC – a community interest company dedicated to hiring ex-military; those recovering from alcohol/drug abuse; homeless and ex-prisoners in domestic waste clearance.
In March 2017, Eddie attended his first meeting with Groundwork South Yorkshire’s (GWSY) and attended the Accelerate workshop as part of Social Enterprise Exchange (SEE), which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund 2014-2020. This is his experience of growing his organisation, from the idea stage to a sustainable social enterprise.
Homeless charities estimate that there are about 7,000 ex-servicemen and women living rough in the UK. Many of these people scarred by the trauma of war; spiral into alcohol, violence, crime and substance addiction. Being ex-military, Eddie decided to set up a social enterprise, to help tackle this issue and help those in need.
Green Oak Clearance CIC helps give people a second chance, giving people back their independence; self-respect and self-worth through offering them stable and prolonged work, in a safe environment. In return employees must refrain from drugs/alcohol/violent behaviour and to work to the best of the ability in the waste clearance business.
In the beginning of his enterprise journey, Eddie faced some challenges, saying himself that he had “every door slammed in my face” and was told that “It can’t be done” without help from banks or financial institutions.
Eddie overcame these challenges through dogged determination and drive. Eddie gives some very sound advice to would-be entrepreneurs: “There is no such thing as good luck. You make your own luck and only you can make it happen. Keep pushing until it happens.”
Eddie worked with Voluntary Action Rotherham (VAR) and the Work and Learning Coach at Crisis. VAR referred Eddie to the SEE programme. SEE is a project designed to offer a comprehensive programme of support for social enterprises in the Sheffield City Region.
SEE appointed an Enterprise Coach to work with Eddie, offering support and guidance. Shortly after the initial meeting, at the Accelerate Workshop in Rotherham, Eddie worked alongside Specialist Advisers and Enterprise Coaches and learnt how to: choose the right business structure; develop a strong business case; understand his business process & customer journey; how to deliver a great business pitch; building a successful marketing campaign and accessing social finance/finance. Eddie was very impressed with the workshop, not only with the opportunity to network with other enthusiastic entrepreneurs, but also in the professionalism of the GWSY staff in running of the event.
Eddie continued to work on his business case with his Enterprise Coach and they helped him to revamp his business plan and financial models; register his CIC as well as signposting him to appropriate people who could push his business forward. More importantly, Eddie was given valuable insight into what he could achieve.
Eddie was put in touch with Shokat Lol, the Assistant Chief Executive at Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC). It is fair to say that Rotherham MBC were impressed – telling Eddie that this was the best business plan and financial model that Rotherham MBC had ever seen and that they had never had this level of service presented to them before. After several meetings, Rotherham MBC decided to back Green Oak Clearance CIC all the way and are currently in the process of putting together a package: offering a grant; property and an office space for the business.
Not wanting to stay still for long – Eddie’s future plans are to acquire some land in Rotherham adjacent or near to the business, where accommodation will be offered to employees. This well help reduce the housing pressure on local councils; reduce homelessness in the city and help individuals become a valuable member of society once again.