A Berwickshire-based social enterprise that arms women with traditional textile skills is looking to establish a permanent manufacturing base this year (2017).
Since last February, ReTweed, based in Eyemouth, which has been supported by Business Gateway Scottish Borders, has successfully helped 12 women from the town gain confidence and expand their skillset while learning the fundamentals of craft, design and technology in textiles.
Already three of the students have found employment while others have entered further education and two have accessed advice from Business Gateway about potentially starting up their own enterprise.
Now, due to the success of the programme, more women are looking to expand their horizons and ReTweed is searching for new premises to help meet that demand.
Hazel Smith, founder, said: “At the moment we’re working out of a cupboard in a community centre which limits what we can do, so we are searching for fixed premises that would helped us provide opportunities to train more women, take on more volunteers, and potentially create employment. It would also allow us to make more products to sell online, with all funds being re-invested back into the business.
“There is a great tradition of philanthropy in Eyemouth but we are an unknown entity to many local businesses. Hopefully a local company can tell us about a suitable space or have premises they could donate so we can continue to empower local woman to achieve great things.”
The idea for ReTweed arose after Hazel, who has worked with Edinburgh based Women onto Work and as a policy researcher for the European Union, returned from a volunteer role in rural Senegal where she’d helped women set up community enterprises. On moving to Skye she volunteered at a social enterprise which upcycles textiles into artisan furnishings.
“After catching the sewing bug she moved to Berwickshire and came up with the idea for ReTweed.
She said: “Although I’d worked in the third sector for years I’d never set up a social enterprise so I turned to Business Gateway. My adviser, Annie Watt, got what I wanted to do straight away and her support was fundamental in helping ReTweed get started.
“Funding is essential to us and Annie made me write a business plan which helped me successfully apply for a Scottish Borders Business Fund grant. This then helped me attract further funding from the likes of Berwickshire Association for Voluntary Services and First Port Unltd.
“Most recently Annie pushed me to apply for the Lloyds Bank of Scotland School of Social Entrepreneur’s programme, which I was accepted onto. I now have a business mentor and specialist support that will help me grow ReTweed. Regardless of my experience, there have been times when I’ve had a crisis of confidence and Annie has always been there to encourage me; she really has gone the extra five miles for us.”
Annie Watt, Business Gateway, said: “Hazel’s wealth of experience coupled with her passion to help empower woman to learn new skills, producing products using upcycled and donated fabrics and material, has created an enterprise that is already having a positive impact on the local community.
“Understanding the importance of support and encouragement, Hazel came to us for guidance on how to get started and we are delighted our advice played a vital role in helping the enterprise get off the ground.”