Promise in Store and Interestingly Different Team members
Karen Stewart

When Two Dreams To Create Opportunities for Adults With Learning Disabilities Merge To Become An Even Bigger Reality

This morning as I sat having my morning coffee and scrolling through the news, I found myself reflecting on the fact that most of us carry an inner sense of justice, but the causes we each feel passionate about can be so diverse. Whether you are an eco-warrior at heart, or you feel that deep wrenching in your gut when you read news about the oppression of women, or you always make sure you drop food into the foodbank to help fight poverty…there’s something that gets us all. The causes are so very many, and the reasons we feel the way we do are also plentiful, be it a personal experience or an unshakeable interest. However the truth is that for one reason or another, this doesn’t always spur us onto action. But when this sense of justice does move us to make changes and to tackle it head on, it is so often impactful in ways we can’t even imagine when we first get involved.

You may be wondering why I’m getting so deep and meaningful with you, when you’ve stumbled across this blog post on a gift shop. You see, Interestingly Different is a gift shop. But the truth is that Interestingly Different is so much more than that. Sure, it is a beautiful and eclectic collection of products; and yes, it’s a shop with a social conscience. But what makes it so truly different stems from the various individuals who have been involved with its creation. At Interestingly Different’s heart are three amazing individuals who have all channelled their passion for seeing a fair and inclusive world for adults with learning disabilities. Bear with me, as I give you a little bit of the history of Interestingly Different! 

Nick & Elena set up Nickel Support (Interestingly Different’s parent organisation) after becoming disillusioned by the learning disability sector as a whole. They believed that adults with learning disabilities deserved opportunities to live a fulfilled and whole life, but just as importantly, they took that passion and turned it into action. Over the years Nickel Support has grown from strength to strength and now supports over 100 trainees. As things grew and expanded, it became clear that the Nickel Support’s shop, Interestingly Different, needed to change and adapt so it could better meet the needs of the trainees, and provide opportunities for paid employment. 

This desire for a fairer society for adults with learning disabilities was also shared by an amazing lady called Sue, but her reasons were slightly different. Sue has three children, one of whom has Down’s Syndrome. Sue made a promise that she would do everything she could to ensure that all of her children grew up with equal life opportunities, however she soon realised that employment opportunities were virtually non-existent for adults with disabilities. This injustice led Sue to set up Promise in Store, an online shop that sold beautiful gifts, designed, produced or packaged by people with learning difficulties, disabilities and/or life challenges. 

Promise in Store began to stock Interestingly Different’s jams and chutneys, which led to Promise in Store and Nickel Support developing a fantastic working relationship. Over time, it became clear that these two amazing social enterprises, which were only a handful of miles apart, shared many of the same hopes and aspirations for adults with disabilities. And a large part of this was that Sue had always dreamt of one day having a physical shop which would provide a safe and inclusive space for employing adults with disabilities. So when the team at Nickel mentioned their desire to revamp their existing shop, it seemed like an amazing opportunity for both organisations. 

This led to talks about merging the two organisations, and it quickly became obvious that this could only lead to even bigger and better things for all of the trainees at Nickel Support (and hopefully in time, for so many more adults with learning disabilities). Interestingly Different in its current form was re-born from this merger and is now a stunning shop and website, selling a vast range of products, all of which support the greater goal of truly working towards a society which is inclusive, fair and respectful of all individuals, regardless of any differences or challenges they may face. 

So you may be wondering why I started with my philosophical ramblings about our sense of justice, and what can happen when we translate that into action?! I guess my hope is that the very fact that you are reading this means that you too share our passion for a world in which learning disabilities are not seen as a negative. And if that is the case, then please can I ask you to take some action? Obviously purchasing items in our shop is a quick and easy way to help. But, could you tell friends and family about Interestingly Different? A simple link shared, or an instagram story have the possibility to reach people far and wide. Or do you own a company or are you involved in hiring people? Could you think about hiring someone with a learning disability? Could you do a fundraiser? Or do you know someone who might benefit from exploring joining Nickel Support? There are so many ways you can get involved and help us to make a difference, we’d love you to be a part of our story.