Don’t get me wrong, you need to think about your future. But I’m here to tell you that there’s another way: start a Social Enterprise and crowdfund your dreams.
I’m doing just that, with support from UWE. I came up with the idea of crowdfunding t-shirt designs for my coursework in the second year of my Web Design degree. I took a Summer Enterprise Internship which meant I received £1000, desk space and support to help set up the business over eight weeks. It gave me the space and impetus to start Call of the Brave: we’re asking people to fight the unfair fashion industry of sweatshops and exploitation and buy ethical t-shirts from local designers. It’s a Social Enterprise, a business that puts social aims before the commercial interests of shareholders, and since May last year we’ve printed over 200 t-shirts and proved that the crowdfunding model works.
The next stage for Call of the Brave is a crowdfunding campaign of our own working in collaboration with another UWE Enterprise, Crowdreach, on a platform such as IndieGoGo. We plan to reach out to people starting with a Thunderclap campaign on the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza building disaster on 24th April 2013, in which 1134 people in Dhaka, Bangladesh lost their lives. The garment workers knew that the building was unsafe as cracks had appeared in the walls and pillars that morning, but they were threatened with their jobs and forced to return to work. Many of the clothes that they were making were headed for the UK high street, companies like Primark, Bennetton, and Matalan. It’s here in the UK that we need to make a stand against the fashion industry that places so much demand on its supply chain.
The so-called “Fast Fashion” is a change from the past trend of spring/summer and autumn/winter collections that brands traditionally released. These days, collections change after just a few weeks, which places huge pressure on the companies supplying the labour to make the clothes – they cut corners and often sub-contract the work out. The brands use labour in parts of the world where it’s cheapest, such as Bangladesh and Cambodia. It’s a system that sees poor levels of workplace health and safety, and child labour. The crowdfunding campaign will run up to World Day Against Child Slavery on 12th June. With every t-shirt sold we put a donation in the Call of the Brave Foundation Fund, which will be used to help people whose lives have been affected by unfair fashion.
If you are going to start your own business, pick something that you care about, think about what you enjoy doing; it’s important that you capture why it matters to you. If you can show other people this spark then they will get behind your cause. I’ve done this with the help of UWE’s Better Together fund, which has 3 awards: Do-it (£500), Try-it (£2,000) and Build-it (£15,000) for Social Enterprises. If you haven’t got an idea then why not try volunteering and make a positive difference that way.
This article comes with a health warning. Sure you might try something and fail, and learn valuable lessons along the way. Or you might just start something special where you are your own boss, you do something that matters, and you put your own mark on the world. It could take over your life and drive you to better things – but only if you try.
By Dave Martin