How Amy Win, economics student turned social entrepreneur, is breaking the mould using food as a way to improve lives and build communities.
“I’m from a background that’s not rich or poor. My mum and dad are immigrants, and I was brought up in London. I was taught to behave well and work hard, and I
agreed with and went along with that. As I realised that not getting the really good, straight-forward job after uni was not for me, I somehow knew deep down that my career needed to be dedicated to helping people in an enterprising way, and not necessarily in a charitable way.
There is a distinct difference between charity and social enterprise. For example, I soon experienced a clash with the charity I was working with. I was desperate to move forward straight away with this project, but there were delays, as it had to be passed through trustees, meetings and regulations.
This really frustrated me. I was a brand new, bright eyed, bushy tailed graduate, and felt quite knocked down by the limitations put on me by that environment. I was challenged over an email I had written to a group of young people with “hi guys” as the greeting, due to it sounding too informal.
It was little things like this, as well as sometimes being told I was running away with ideas. From a realistic perspective, I get it. There just wasn’t the kind of finance available that was needed to fully get something like that off the ground. The services I was offering were additional, and a luxury, and they had to protect what existing provisions they run, which I completely understand”.
Amy slowly began to realise that she was outgrowing her place within that charity. It had served a fantastic purpose in getting her to her lightbulb moment, and it kick started the inspiration that would drive her forward. It offered the support she needed to start with, but she knew without a doubt that her vision lay beyond it. Amy needed space, autonomy and room to push forward in the way she wanted to. The decision to cut ties with the charity was a tough one, as they had given her a form of security in their structured approach. She had to dig deep to make the final decision, but she finally did. And by no means was it easy…
When Amy took on the tough decision to reach out and start conversations about her idea, she was pleasantly surprised. She discovered that the people she approached were receptive and positive towards her and seemed happy to give their time and advice to a cause they saw as worthwhile. As Amy put it, “you just have to have the guts to ask”. This phase of reaching out lasted a month, and it involved, as well as communicating, testing her self-made recipes, making business plans, and freaking out!
Soon, it all began to pay off little by little. One of the first doors to open was a youth centre providing her with free space to hold her workshop, which was a valuable chance to grow her reputation, start to gather her first testimonials, and generally put her plans into action.
Around the end of this eight month stretch, Amy finally secured her first major contract through a government benefits program designed to assist people back into work. This involved getting the chance to teach five young people about delivering good customer service skills, as well as the practicalities of running a market stall, how to design a menu, and other basic skills that would get them ready for the workplace. Amy thrived in this role, and this further cemented in her mind that this was what she wanted to continue to do. That difficult time of patience and hard work more than paid off. This was the result of some calling and emailing she had done months before. At the time, it may have seemed fruitless, but further down the line, a need for her services did arise, meaning none of her time went to waste. From there, things became more profitable for the fledgeling organisation.
After another year of hard graft, but this time with a better income, Amy was finally able to take a month-long holiday in Thailand that she had waited and worked so long for.
Amy admits that the first two months after returning from Thailand were tough, as she was back in at the deep end with her business, and it needed so much attention.
“You’ve just got to have faith that people know you, and that you did a good job, and that you will be recommended to others.
I just kept emailing and calling, saying something along the lines of ‘hi, I enjoyed working with you before, do youhave anything happening this year I could help with?’
join us next week, for the third part of the fourth Lunch story.
We hope you are enjoying it!
Curricula & Co Magazine 2018
Published annually, which features original articles on entrepreneurship, enterprise, employability, and professional partnerships. Curricula & Co also reports on related subjects such as fashion, leisure, education, finance, law and communities. (Interviews & featured content has been edited and published internally by Curricula & Co's editors)
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