I am Rosie Oglesby, the founder of Page & Bloom, a social enterprise transforming recycled paper into stunning floral displays. I employ women who have experienced domestic abuse to make the flowers, helping to build their financial independence and confidence.
Page & Bloom was founded after more than a decade of working in charities, both in the UK and overseas. From refugee camps in Jordan, to the Typhoon Haiyan response in the Philippines, to the Gaza strip, my work with international humanitarian NGOs focussed on building women’s leadership.
I was inspired to set up Page & Bloom from my experience working with women affected by violence and poverty. The impacts of violence on women’s lives, and their children, are devastating, and it takes huge resilience to rebuild and start again.
For women fleeing domestic abuse, having economic independence is critical to start building a new life and reducing the likelihood of returning to the abuser. Practical barriers such as childcare, transport and uncertainty about living location, as well as a lack of confidence can make it really difficult for women to take up a job.
It was important to me that Page & Bloom took a different approach to a traditional charity project, and the structure of a social enterprise was an exciting new path.
We’re a brand that creates and sells beautiful products that people want to buy, irrespective of the social purpose behind it. It’s really important to us to offer women a job at a brand they can feel proud of, with the dignity of knowing they are creating something that people really want and are willing to pay good money for.
Page & Bloom have just recruited the first member of staff, who has now completed the training and is busy creating beautiful flowers for sale. When she left her partner, this lady also had to leave her job and move to a new area. With little family support in the new location and no childcare support for her two young children, taking up a job in a traditional workplace was virtually impossible. Instead she works part time for Page & Bloom, working at the studio for a few hours each week to learn new techniques and products, and working the remaining hours at home in the evenings.
It’s been amazing to see her learning the new skills and bringing her own creativity and talent to the process. On a practical level, being in work is helping her in the search for a private rented flat, which is really difficult in London. Being able to tell landlords that she is in paid work makes a real difference to her chances of being accepted as a tenant.
As well as taking on paid staff, Page & Bloom have also started running free flower making workshops for women living in domestic violence refuges. The initial aim of the enterprise was to create employment opportunities, but the creative side of the work, seeing something beautiful emerge from the pages of an unloved book or map, has turned out to be equally as important.
I’ve been really moved by the small things; one lady said it was the first time in ages she had been able to relax and focus on something creative. Another lady was so proud of what she made that she changed her profile picture to a photo of her paper rose.
I am keen to recruit more women, and build up the sales to be able to support more makers. In the longer term, the hope is to offer the women training and skills that will help them in their career development. We’re looking at ways to get our makers involved in other areas of the business such as sales, marketing and admin, and are also working with corporate partners to offer training and work experience.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing. Working with women at a hugely difficult time in their life can be challenging. It’s been a huge step recruiting our first employee, but we had to overcome some hurdles to get there. There were several women we had identified who wanted to work, but we discovered various issues which meant we couldn’t take them on at that point, such as not having the right to work in the UK yet, and concerns that paid work would affect their eligibility for benefits or legal aid support.
As well as working closely with charity partners, I would advise other social entrepreneurs to reach out widely for support. There’s a huge amount of help out there if you ask for it. People really like the idea of a business with a social purpose and want to get behind something new and exciting.”
Page & Bloom have benefited from pro bono support from all sorts of places – including design and branding from a London design agency Fit Creative, as well as free legal support and accountancy services. We have recently been taken on as a pro bono client of BrainLabs, a digital marketing agency who work with clients like Deliveroo and the Royal Academy. As a small start-up, being able to draw on the support of experts in their fields has helped us grow faster, and make sure that we get things right from the start. Alongside the funding support from UnLtd these partnerships have really helped us get off the ground.
After a busy Valentines’ Day, Page & Bloom are now hard at work creating beautiful bouquets for Mother’s Day and Easter.
You can support their work by buying your next flowers from www.pageandbloom.com
We host a series of events throughout the UK each year. From classes and conferences, seminars and workshops to networking events and training sessions.
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