The journey of our social enterprise through images
My name is Karis Gill and I am the co-founder of Social Stories Club. We started with a cardboard box and we grew this into an award-winning social enterprise gifting company. To date, we have introduced over 1 million people to social enterprise, we have created thousands of hours of employment for individuals with barriers to employment, and we have invested hundreds of thousands into the social enterprise economy.
What do Social Stories Club do? We aim to spread the word about social enterprise and its positive impact on society. Social enterprises are changing the world and can be the driving change in transforming communities if people know about them. We can accomplish this by introducing the UK to social enterprises through curating gift boxes and hampers that feature products created by social enterprises. Every item in our boxes contributes to a social or environmental cause; for example, hot chocolate that supports refugees. With every gift, the recipient receives a story booklet to read the stories behind the products and understand the impact of the gift and the causes it supports. We hire individuals with barriers to employment who pack our gifts.
I was chatting with my friend Aayush Goyal during my final year of study at Edinburgh University. He was interested in both charity and business during his first year of study. I sat him down and told him all about social enterprises. He was surprised when he found out that social entrepreneurship was not a new concept and that there were thousands of such enterprises across the United Kingdom. I suggested to Aayush right there in the kitchen of his student flat that we join together to introduce the UK to social enterprises. We decided that we would both no longer be applying for graduate jobs, as we would instead pursue a joint venture in the form of a social enterprise. In July 2018, we registered Social Stories Club.
After discovering social enterprises, we were filled with excitement, these companies were changing the world in a financially sustainable way. We found cafes hiring homeless people, chocolates supporting farming communities, teas educating girls, and honey-saving bee populations. We were drawn in by the inspiring social stories. After chatting with over 300 people on the streets of Edinburgh and Glasgow, we were shocked to find only about 1% of people knew what a social enterprise was and could identify one. We knew that we had to introduce the world to these amazing social enterprises and their incredible social stories.
This is our first sustainable gift box which was hand decorated by myself. I used to stay up until the early hours of the morning hand-stamping the boxes individually. The first logo we created was hand painted and modified on PowerPoint.
Picking Up Stock
In the early days, we used to pick up stock from wholesalers by ourselves. We would bring Ikea bags and suitcases and catch the bus to save on delivery fees. We also dropped off all the orders at the post office, no matter the weather.
This was what our gifts looked like on a market stall. In the early days, we held Christmas market stalls around Edinburgh and Glasgow and chatted with as many people as possible about Social Stories Club, social enterprises, and how we could improve our gift.
We travelled all over the UK showcasing our sustainable gift boxes to corporates and orders started to come in. It was the early days and we were learning everything about social enterprises and serving the corporate market.
As we started gaining traction, we hired our first team members and leased premises. We were able to fit the whole business into this van six times over.
During Christmas 2020, there was a cardboard shortage and gift boxes were longer going to arrive on time from the cardboard company. We had to be creative and redesign our box around what other companies could offer, as a result, we had to pay a 600% premium. Our customers were delighted with the result and as Christmas orders started to be fulfilled, our whole office was filled with bags for pick up. Each day, we had over 50-100 bags to be collected.
We soon grew out of that premises and had to move again. We had a van double the size this time and moved out in five loads. Just nine months later, we would outgrow this premises and need multiple vans to move into a 2,700 sq. ft. warehouse.
Outside the warehouse at Christmas, we grew to 13 staff members in 2021. We had introduced over 1 million people to social enterprise and had served over 100 corporates.
In November 2021, we were awarded the Scottish Edge Award of £65k. On the day we collected this award we were very tired after seven consecutive 12-hour days but we were so excited to be recognised.
In December 2021 we had an advert out on STV and over 1 million people saw our social enterprise gift hampers on TV. It was very exciting.
To date, we have provided over 4000 hours of employment to individuals with barriers to employment and invested £350,000 in the social enterprise economy.
We have sent gifts all across the world to over 50 countries. We have received hundreds of five-star reviews across multiple platforms.
It has been a fantastic journey and we are so excited about everything the future holds. We are very thankful to everyone who has helped us get to this stage. We have had an incredible journey over the last four years and here you have just seen brief snapshots. We are grateful to have been supported by The Big Issue Invest, Edinburgh Innovations and Scottish Edge. We are grateful to the 100 corporates who have brought sustainable employee gift hampers for their staff, corporate Christmas gifts for clients, and other ethical gift hampers throughout the year. If you know of anyone needing sustainable corporate gifts this Christmas please put them in touch with us and we are happy to help with ethical employee gifts.
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If you are looking to show your team how much they are appreciated, attract and retain clients, or you have a corporate event and you want to create an impression, then our sustainable corporate hampers are just what you need. We have created the most exciting gift to give and receive which are packaged beautifully using sustainable materials, filled with delicious products made by social enterprises, and also include a storybook starting conversations about sustainability.
"Social Stories Club is a fantastic initiative that enables social enterprises to collaborate in such a creative way. The perfect way to buy gifts with a social impact" - David Adair, Head of Community Engagement, PwC