It’s not often that you’ll find luxury brand Hermès collaborating with a social enterprise, but at the Goldfinger Factory it seems anything is possible.
We speak to founders Oliver Waddington-Bell and Marie Cudennec to find out what makes this business so special.
At the start of another working week it’s business as usual for the Golborne Road. At the Goldfinger Factory, however, it’s anything but. An award-winning design, build and teaching platform located on the ground floor of the iconic Trellick Tower, the Goldfinger Factory difference is that it’s also a social enterprise – a commercial business with charitable objectives. Founders Oliver Waddington-Ball and his partner Marie Cudennec are both passionate about this model and making it work over the four arms of the business: the factory combines a furniture showroom and a café space on one floor and a woodworking workshop and teaching academy underneath. Here, bespoke furniture and interiors are created by artisans and artisans-in- the-making, with the aim of enabling them to become self-sustaining through craft whilst providing them with the tools to allow them to work and train.
“There are lots of businesses out there masquerading as social enterprises,” says Marie, “but a real social enterprise is an organisation that offers a truly sustainable product, a sustainable process, and a sustainable way of re-distributing profit.” This is activated is by a mechanism called the golden rule of thirds, where a third of profit or distributable reserves are reinvested into the community through free services or building work, for example, a third is saved for staff bonuses and the final third is kept for the investors to grow.
After four years in the building, Goldfinger Factory is now a leading light of social enterprise. Not only has it been approached by other local authorities in London to explain the model, but the factory has also grabbed the attention of some of the biggest brands in the world, including John Lewis, and luxury powerhouse Hermès, a company that now fully sponsors one of the trainees, Jason.
“Jason actually lives in the Trellick Tower and had been working at Tesco for about 10 years before he joined us”, explains Marie. “But ever since we opened he’s been determined to join the program. Initially we had no space but he wouldn’t take no for an answer, first becoming a volunteer before we finally found this incredible opportunity with Hermès.” Jason receives mentorship from the team at Hermès, and he’ll also get taken to Paris to see the workshop where the magic happens. The best bit? The journey will be recorded on film in a series of documentary shorts commissioned by Hermès to showcase their philanthropic projects around the world.
The ground floor retail space is full of treasures from the workshop below with rustic, cheerful furniture, and elegant bronze bowls just some of the highlights. But you’ll also find Goldfinger Factory’s midas touch in Gail’s café chain (they do all the fit-outs) and elements of the American Embassy, the Science Museum and even the Notting Hill Carnival in its work, through the clever use of reclaimed wood. Waste material is always reinvented in creative and innovative ways (think chopping boards and even jewellery), making the Factory a sustainable choice for building jobs and forging a path to a zero waste economy. The café is another community hub, rented out to chefs and kitchens to showcase their own style, and also providing a monthly banquet made from excess produce sourced from local bakeries and markets. Anyone is welcome, from the homeless to locals who fancy a good chinwag with their neighbours. Long term the vision is to roll the model out through boroughs across the capital, and to increase capacity with a bigger studio capable of helping even more people sustain themselves. As Oliver points out, “waste is just a resource in the wrong hands.”