Volunteers who do really well in this scheme are the first people to be offered full-time roles within the business.
“Currently I’ve got nineteen employees and the vast majority are ex-volunteers,” says Steve. One example is Kieran.
“Kieran is a posterboy for the project. He was homeless and in a really bad way when we met him. He’s put everything in his system possible and was coming off methadone when he started working on our vans. We didn’t know this at the time but he was so desperate to get a job that he walked miles to work everyday. With his first pay packet, he bought a bike so he could cycle here.
He really improved his life and managed to get out of social housing to find a house share. Sadly he’s recently become homeless again but we remain positive about his future.”
The Wood Store also works with volunteers who don’t have any issues, as well as people looking for a career change. It’s a business built on local people. “We always rely on the heart of the community,” says Steve. We get involved with schools and open our doors every weekend, running workshops at cost. This is where we talk about recycling and social responsibility, and let people have a go at making something themselves.”
Part charity, part business, The Wood Store has proven itself to be a shining example of how to create a company with a conscience. However, there is still work to be done.
“I want to make us more than a business that exists,” says Steve. “I want us to expand and succeed, to make more jobs and tell more stories. Since I joined I’ve taken on seven extra people and I’m pushing the boundaries in terms of what we’ve achieved as a business. It’s not easy but we’re getting there – and now I can sleep a bit better at night because I’m trying to make a difference.”