With holiday shopping in full swing, some of London’s social enterprises have ideas for how to give back to the community with gift-giving this year.
Social enterprises are businesses that work to address a social or environmental challenge rather than solely turning a profit for the owners or shareholders.
“Those dollars are really staying within the community and supporting the folks that are here,” said Justine Downing, social enterprise business liaison at Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU).
“When you’re supporting those local programs, all of the money is staying right here in London.”
Whether it’s delicious eats, eco-friendly apparel or fashionable home decor, here are some made-in-London products by local social enterprises.
Jams, spreads and sauces build skills for youth
Peach salsa, cranberry chutney and apple spread are just a few of the tasty preserves made by youth facing barriers to employment at Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) in downtown London.
Mushed by YOU is their product line of jams, sauces and spreads. Money from sales goes straight back into their nine-week paid skill-building program for youth, said Downing.
Being part of the program has made a difference for 20-year-old Sara Coatsworth.
“They’ve really just boosted my confidence and given me some skills,” said Coatsworth, now a peer mentor in the program. Her favourite product is the vegan pumpkin butter which “tastes exactly like normal pumpkin pie.”
A variety of preserves and wood products made in YOU’s wood shop are available in their online shop or at YOU Made It Café at 332 Richmond St. in London.
Apparel brand gives new life to recycled textiles
From quilted jackets to cross-body bags, Worth is a social enterprise with sustainability at the forefront.
The apparel brand launched by Goodwill Industries salvages end-of-life textiles to repurpose them into everything from neck warmers and tote bags to pyjamas and doggie beds.
“I love the fact that we can take a youth sweater and make two toques and two neck warmers,” said Michelle Quintyn, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries, Ontario Great Lakes.
“It’s very good for the planet. It’s very good from an ethical and social perspective,” she said.
Thousands are items are salvaged to make the products, and over time it will save tens of thousands of pounds of textiles from going offshore, she said.
Goodwill works with designers at Fanshawe College to develop designs and hires a team for laundering textiles, cutting fabric and industrial sewing at their facility on White Oak Road.
Their goods can be found on Worth’s online shop along with retailers Purdy Natural, Filthy Rebena, Live Chic, the Western Bookstore, and Goodwill Boutique in Hyde Park.
Sewing home decor gives newcomer women a new start
A group of newcomer women in the northwest are using their sewing skills to make home decor and more — all while reducing fabric waste in the interior design industry.
Skilled Accents employs refugee women starting over in Canada without any work experience to make sewing aprons, tote bags, decor pillows, table runners and placemats.
“They have this big barrier of finding employment in the mainstream, so we help them,” said founder and CEO Kay Habib, who was born and raised in Pakistan.
In her work as an interior designer, Habib noticed a lot of fabric waste and a gap in locally-made decor — and started the business four years ago to remedy the problem. The group recently joined forces with World Tailors, a similar social enterprise for newcomer women in London.
In the program, women refine their sewing skills — and develop leadership, language and life skills in the program along the way.
Sewing the products gives the women a sense of pride, Habib said.
“It just gives them confidence, and it just makes them happier because a lot of times when you come into a new country as an immigrant, especially as a refugee, you know, it takes a lot to settle again and to start over,” she said.
Skilled Accent products are sold through their online store and at their showroom at 21-1510 Woodcock St. in London. Local retailers also carry their products, including Edgar and Joe’s, Jill’s Table, Boutique Firenze and London City Store.