Interestingly Different Shop front with window displays
Nick Walsh

The Journey To Opening Our Shop Doors

By virtue of the fact that you are reading this blog means that you have discovered our wonderful little social enterprise; Interestingly Different. However what many of you won’t know is the journey of how we got here, or even why we exist. 

Our background

Interestingly Different is a project which has borne out Nickel Support, its parent social enterprise. Nickel Support focuses on three key areas in the lives of the people with learning disabilities and/or autism we support: employment, health, and relationships, which we refer to as ‘Purpose Pods’. It is these three areas that we have identified as key to helping people with learning disabilities find their purpose in their lives, ultimately leading to a deeper, more fulfilled life.

It is the ‘Employment Pod’ that inspired us to create and develop Interestingly Different many years ago. Its intention was to simply create more paid employment opportunities for adults with learning disabilities. We started off by asking for furniture donations from the local community we could up-cycle and sell and we were blown away by the support we have received over the years. It has enabled us to keep the shop steady enough to offer paid employment for five trainees.

However, in the last six months, we have decided that this social enterprise needs to be taken in a different, more dynamic direction, maximising the potential it has! We needed to make the shop even more accessible for our trainees, as previously you needed to be able to lift heavy furniture, customer face and have a strong understanding of literacy and numeracy. Out of this a new vision and a new concept was born!

Social Enterprise Support Funding

To help us realise this new vision, we were delighted to receive some funding from the ‘Social Enterprise Support Fund’, which enabled us to implement phase one of the plan involving completely refurbishing the shop. It is now a wonderful space which reflects the wonderful products we have for sale in it. A few months after this we received some further funding from the ’Sutton Innovation Fund’, which meant that we were able to start the website development, by commissioning the brilliant team at ‘CreativeHutch’ to undertake this. It looks amazing and we are excited to get it in front of as many eyes as possible. We were also able to start to purchase stock with the grant from the ‘Sutton Innovation Fund’ and get things moving along!

Promise in Store

We were also humbled and blown away by the opportunity to merge with ‘Promise in Store’, a wonderful organisation set up by Sue Prisk with aligned ambitions for paid employment for adults with learning disabilities. This joining of teams is worthy of a blog in itself and we will tell you all about this in more detail in the future!

The shop now still stocks our beautiful up-cycled furniture and our jams & chutneys, but sitting alongside these now we have beautiful products from other social enterprises from up and down the country. For example, we have hand lotions from an organisation based in Wales supporting people with learning disabilities, through to ceramics produced by people with mental health issues operating out of a base in Surrey! This has been a wonderful opportunity to partner up with other socially impactful organisations from all over the U.K.

Although all products will of course be on sale in our beautifully furnished physical shop, the beautiful products will also be on the new website and seen by many more eyes, with purchases hopefully from much further afield. This will not only put the amazing organisations we are working within the spotlight more, it will also mean that we will generate more sales, ensuring we can employ many more people with learning disabilities.

Creating opportunities

We will also be able to offer a far wider variety of jobs for our trainees. For example, trainees who are not comfortable with a customer facing role can get involved with the picking and packing of items sold online. 

We are truly excited and proud of this revolutionary shopping experience, for both customers and staff alike, which will hopefully lead to more and more joined up working for social enterprises in the future. 

“It was a busy few months of planning and decorating.”

– Ashley Walsh

Communications Manager

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