Social Entrepreneurs Making PPE for the NHS

Social entrepreneurs are working with a mission to improve their communities and beyond. During the Covid-19 crisis, they’re adapting their models to deliver immediate support and relief, such as producing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the NHS.

Blackburn-based clothing social enterprise, Community Clothing, has become one of UnLtd’s latest investments on the UnLtd Impact Fund. Their original focus is to revive the British textile industry through sustainable fashion and secure employment, but are currently manufacturing PPE to support the NHS.

Keeping true to their social mission, Founder Patrick Grant has recently turned his Blackburn factory into a production line for much needed medical scrubs, with workers working six days a week to meet demands.

people working in a clothing textile factory to produce PPE

With his extensive experience in the fashion industry, Community Clothing’s simple goal is to sell great quality, affordable clothes that support increasing production in UK textile factories. Grant currently runs Savile Row tailor, Norton & Sons as well as fashion brand, E. Tautz, with his credentials also leading to his appearance as a judge on BBC’s much adored show, ‘Great British Sewing Bee’.

Community Clothing operates a ‘seasonless off-peak model’ to fill factories with orders year-round, easing the significant downtime experienced between traditional fashion seasons.

In 2019, operating through this model created 130,000 hours of employment for workers in textile factories, and Community Clothing hope to increase this to 700,000 hours by 2025. Their model offers consistent hours of work to create job stability for workers, alongside lowering textile production costs and carbon footprints by maintaining a local supply chain.

Community Clothing’s social impact supports employment in the UK while also proving that good, sustainable clothing can be produced entirely on our shores.

Woman working on a sewing machine with Made in Scotland written in red on the wall above her
Credit: Tom Bunning Photography

UnLtd are investing £150,000 of unsecured finance to grow the venture to enable more employment opportunities for people working in under-utilised clothing factories across the UK. The investment will go towards digital marketing and growing their team.

We are so pleased to have been approved for funding under the brilliant UnLtd umbrella. This funding will help Community Clothing build on our fantastic start. Unlike any time over the past two decades, manufacturing jobs are receiving the positive attention and the credit they truly deserve. There is a growing opinion that bringing manufacturing jobs back onshore can only be a positive for the economy as a whole, rebuilding economic prosperity across some of the most deprived regions of the UK”  - Patrick Grant, Founder of Community Clothing

Brown clothing with a navy trim that has a tag which says Community Clothing
Credit: Tom Bunning Photography

In the North East, Grow It Award Winner Alison Matthews is also supporting the NHS with PPE and scrubs production. Her business Izzy Wizzy Roo produces sustainable sanitary items, but within days of the crisis, she had created a network of sewers to help with the NHS resource gaps.

The group, Northeast England Sewing for the Front Line, shares patterns and sends fabric packs out to people wanting to get involved. The packs contain materials and patterns for bags, caps, scrubs, and headbands with buttons to hold face masks.

The slick operation was initially funded through Izzy Wizzy Roo, but they’ve since set up a fundraiser for donations and support.

"It works out at about £7 per scrubs. If everyone could just donate that we can keep sending materials. If people have their own materials, even better. Hunt through the cupboard and you’ll find all sorts of old materials, like bed sheets, that can be used as bags or caps. As long as the material can be washed at 60 degrees, you can upcycle it” - Alison Matthews, Founder of Northeast England Sewing for the Front Line 

The group is in direct contact with hospitals across the North East, offering a reliable and streamlined point of contact to allow staff to focus on supporting their patients.

Pile of patterned protective face masks

Times of crisis truly highlight the importance of individuals, like Alison Matthews and Patrick Grant, who have the passion and experience to improve the UK at every level through innovation and determination.

UnLtd is pleased to continue to support Alison Matthews, and invest in Community Clothing.

Supporting our NHS through this time is crucial, but as we look towards Covid-19 recovery, employment in some of the UK’s most deprived areas will be a key issue where Community Clothing’s opportunities and support will be welcomed.

“With UnLtd’s help we can deliver jobs with purpose, we can build careers that are fulfilling and financially rewarding, and we can help amplify the tangible sense of pride in our textile and garment manufacturing communities that exists across the UK right now” - Patrick Grant, Community Clothing Founder 

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Author Info


Camilla Elwood Portfolio Manager

I started my career in the not-for-profit sector working with grassroots fundraisers who wanted to raise funds and awareness for causes close to their hearts. I helped them form their charities and advised them on the day-to-day running of their organisations, before joining UnLtd in January 2018, where I now work to support the ventures on our social investment fund, The Impact Fund. I love looking at innovative ways of approaching societal issues and I enjoy working with passionate individuals to help them grow their ideas to create sustainable change.

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Find more information on the Impact Fund, which is managed by Access – the Foundation for Social Investment and with finance provided by The National Lottery Community Fund and Big Society Capital.

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