Life in lockdown: Nine video postcards from social enterprise champions

How is life in lockdown for the UK’s best in social enterprise? This year’s NatWest SE100 Social Business Award winners reveal how the pandemic has affected them and their businesses – in a series of personal video postcards filmed from their homes.

Filmed from a Lancashire workshop, a windswept Hebridean island and a London swimming pool, this year’s NatWest Social Business Champions have been sending us virtual ‘postcards’, summarising the most poignant moments for their businesses since Covid-19 hit the UK.

Last month, ten outstanding social businesses and entrepreneurs took home the NatWest Social Business Awards – and ranged from a gym in Edinburgh offering mental health support to locals, to a Lancashire-based textiles business that employs former prisoners and domestic abuse survivors.

Like many other social ventures in the UK, none of this year’s winners have escaped the cloud of the coronavirus. 

So, among celebrations for their outstanding achievements, we asked each of them to send us a selfie video to share some insight into how they have been coping.

The videos reveal that these times have not been easy – even for award-winning enterprises like these. However, in true SE100 Champion fashion, all have been finding ways to stay resilient so that they can continue to support the communities and people that depend on them.


Environmental Champion: Point and Sandwick Trust

The UK’s biggest community-owned wind farm, whose three turbines stand majestically on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, not only helps the UK to reduce its CO2 emissions. It also uses the income from electricity generated to support local environmental projects.

Below, general manager Donald John Macsween explains how the team has been tackling recent challenges. 

“We gave £40,000 to the local NHS to help with comforts for their staff,” he says. “And we’ve been working with the local college to make masks and PPE equipment.” 

Read more about Point and Sandwick here.


Growth Champion: Hubbub Enterprise

Hubbub Enterprise aims to inspire greener living by campaigning and collaborating with local authorities, businesses and community groups. It does this through initiatives like the Ballot Bin – the world’s first voting ashtray – which has been sold in 39 countries and cuts cigarette litter by up to 46%.

Below, managing director Alex Robinson explains how Hubbub has been innovating through tough times. “When the chips are down, people can be incredibly creative and find new ways of having an impact,” he says.

Read more about Hubbub Enterprise here.


Impact Management Champion: Shared Interest Society (joint winner)

Shared Interest Society pools investment from people living in the UK and lends it to coffee, handcraft and other – primarily fair trade – businesses all over the world. 

Investors include community groups and small businesses, but also individuals: anyone can set up a Share Account with as little as £100. The financial co-operative is now in its 30th year, has 10,000 accounts and £43m in share capital.

In her video postcard, managing director Patricia Alexander explains why she has been blown away by the manner in which her team has adapted to recent changes.

Read more about Shared Interest Society.


Impact Management Champion: Skills Builder Partnership (joint winner)

The Skills Builder Partnership is a group of more than 750 organisations which work together to help children and young people develop essential employability skills, such as teamwork and leadership. 

Below, founder and CEO Tom Ravenscroft reflects on what has inspired him during the pandemic. “Social enterprises have really stepped up to the challenge,” he says.

Read more about Skills Builder Partnership.



Leadership Award winner: Mark Simms, CEO, P3 Charity

“I couldn’t ask for a better team, I couldn’t wish for a better team, I don’t think there is a better team,” says P3 Charity’s Mark Simms.

In recent weeks, the charity rapidly switched its 450 staff to mobile working, ensured that vulnerable staff stayed safely at home, and stepped up its support to homeless people. 

Mark explains how it feels to lead a team through this time below.

Read more about Mark Simms, CEO, P3 Charity.



Resilience Award winner: The Sewing Rooms

The Sewing Rooms opened in 2015, giving vulnerable people training and jobs in producing textiles and soft furnishings while also making good use of fabric destined for landfill.

The business has been through many ups and downs, says founder Paula Gamester, not least the current pandemic. Below, she explains how the team has continued to show resilience through tough times.

Read more about The Sewing Rooms.



Social Investment Award winner: The Social and Sustainable Housing fund created by Social and Sustainable Capital and Hull Women’s Network

The Social and Sustainable Housing fund was launched in May 2019 to provide 10-year loans of between £2m and £5m to UK charities to help them buy homes for the vulnerable people they serve.

It was co-designed by investor Social and Sustainable Capital and investee Hull Women’s Network – which, thanks to the investment, will be able to buy 49 new properties to house women escaping domestic violence.

Below, SASC managing director Ben Rick explains why he has been inspired by the actions of social enterprises in times of crisis.

Read more about Social and Sustainable Capital and Hull Women’s Network.


Storyteller Award winner: GLL

GLL (also known by its consumer-facing brand, Better) is the UK’s largest social enterprise leisure provider, with 400 facilities across the UK. 

It took home the top prize for storytelling, for its 2019 ‘I Choose’ campaign – which aimed to lure millennials away from commercial competitors, by raising awareness of the brand’s USP as a social business.

In his video postcard, corporate communications manager Charles Dean joins us from one of the Better swimming pools to explain how GLL has changed its business model to adapt to the crisis.

Read more about GLL.


Trailblazing Newcomer: Projekt 42

Projekt 42 is a not-for-profit gym and wellness centre in Leith, Edinburgh. Since it was founded in 2017 it has grown to a team of 79 staff offering yoga, physiotherapy, cancer rehabilitation, counselling, friendship and much more through a pay what you can model.

Below, founder Sara Hawkins reflects on recent difficulties for Projekt 42, which overnight lost 80% of its revenue as the Covid-19 crisis forced gyms to shut their doors across the UK.

Read more about Projekt 42.