How to support your community through collaboration

One of the driving ideas behind Connect4SuccessRCT is how local businesses can collaborate to improve their community. A great example of this is Play It Again Sport, a social enterprise in Rhondda Cynon Taf , who work alongside the Too Good to Waste charity to make sport more accessible. We spoke to Enterprise Manager Natasha Burnell on how their relationship works:

Play It Again Sport was founded in 2016 by Steffan Rees, a karate instructor from Ynyshir, Rhondda.  He knew children weren’t attending his (or other sports) classes due to the financial costs of the kit required. He also knew that many, many people have sports kit and equipment gathering dust at the back of their wardrobes: outgrown, unwanted or simply not used any more.  

There was the solution to the problem: take donations of no longer needed sportswear and sell it at an affordable price for everyone.

Four years later and Play It Again Sport is now operating out of Too Good to Waste in Ynyshir, where white goods, furniture and bric a brac are donated, diverted from landfill, sold and given a second lease of life.

The relationship between Play It Again Sport and Too Good To Waste works symbiotically: the donated washing machines and driers need to be tested rigorously, whilst washing the sports clothing which has been donated to Play It Again Sport.  

The result? Safe washing machines and clean clothes.

As a social enterprise, Play It Again Sport would be unable to afford a commercial space to sell from. Working with Too Good To Waste enables a perfect space while providing product diversity to customers.

Our objective is to remove barriers to participation in sport, whether running, football, gymnastics or whatever it is that gets your heart beating! Sport is so important, not only for physical health, but also mental health and wellbeing. It provides opportunities to alleviate loneliness and social isolation for people of all ages.

We rely on donations from local people and businesses of items that are no longer required. We’ve gratefully received water-damaged stock from Cardiff City Football Club, sample items from Quatro gymnastics, team kits from Cambrian, and more. These items would have ended up in landfill, or shipped over-seas as ‘Cash for Clothes’ (increasing carbon footprint and damaging local textile industries). By diverting this stock to Play It Again Sport, it not only benefits the environment, but supports the foundational economy as well.

We have donation bins in all RCT leisure centres, in Cwmbran & Pontypool leisure centres, and also at Sport Wales HQ in Cardiff. Please visit our website http://www.playitagainsport.wales/ for more information and to find our contact details. 

How Hensol Castle Distillery thrived by adapting to changing demands

Hensol Castle Distillery in the Vale of Glamorgan was due to open the doors of its gin-making visitor centre in March this year. The family-run distillery, based in the dungeon of the historic Hensol Castle, began trading its own blend of gins in August 2019 to retailers, and was on the verge of becoming one of the first distilleries in South Wales to invite the public behind the scenes. That was until the Covid-19 pandemic forced it and many thousands of businesses across the globe to temporarily cease operations.

Managing Director, Andy Mallows said the company was faced with the decision to either furlough the factory, or to respond positively to the crisis by drastically changing its product line to make much needed hand-sanitiser for frontline workers. The company’s strong sense of social responsibility and its close-knit management team meant they were able to quickly decide on the latter course and began producing hand sanitizer to clients nationwide.

“My son and I set about opening up a new supply chain,” explained Andy. “It was one of the hardest things we’ve done, but we persevered and succeeded in doing. Within two weeks we started producing sanitiser. 

“Initially we wanted to source ingredients locally, but our aim was to make the hand-sanitizers as accessible as possible to public services so we had to go further afield within the UK to achieve the right volume and costs.”

Impact

90,000L

hand sanitiser produced per week

150,000

100ml bottles per week, to clients including the Met Police

3900%

increase in impressions on social media due to raise profile

Utilizing Local Resources

With contracts coming in to supply hand-sanitizer to large organisations including the Welsh Parliament, the MET Police, Transport for Wales, the Vale Hotel, John Lewis, local authorities and health boards, the company found they were unable to cope with the high demand for product. Using their connections to the local high school, they enlisted the help of several teachers who were not working due to the lockdown to fulfil the large orders.  

Since then, the distillery has gone on to create more than 12 additional jobs, employing high school students aged 17-18 to continue to help meet the demand. This employment has given the teenagers opportunities to stay occupied through this unsettling period and has allowed them to make some earnings for their lives post-lockdown.

“We’ve worked 16-hour days, seven days a week for the last six weeks,” said Andy. “But we’ve got on and done it because people need it on the frontline.

“What we’ve learned is to be agile and flexible in our approach. When adversity comes, think creatively and openly about how you can deploy and repurpose yourself. There’s always opportunity, you just have to find it; and being a small, tight-knit team enables us to react nimbly to changes in the marketplace.”

The Result

Though there have been some significant costs incurred as a result of adapting the business (such as the need to service the distillery equipment which has become disrupted by producing sanitiser), the company has also seen real benefits to the short-term changes it’s made. 

By turning its attention to manufacturing a product that has been in such critical demand, the company has raised its profile nationally, and consequently increased demand for its gins and liquors. The rate of sale for its gins currently on the market has increased, and the distillery now has 6-8 weeks of full production orders waiting for when it returns to gin-making in the near future. 

The company isn’t taking for granted the goodwill it’s created as a result of working to support frontline workers, and plans to ensure this spirit of social responsibility feeds into the company’s ethos when distilling spirits of the gin variety become its main focus once again.