It is often a simple gesture that can make a difference like placing an order for lunch or attending a company conference. Mark Ellerby, project manager of Concept Catering and Conference Centre, John Bright Street, Birmingham, explains to Thrive why businesses supporting the not-for-profit venture are enabling individuals to overcome personal challenges.
Concept, set up by RNIB in 2006, is a social firm, offering training and work experience to talented blind and partially sighted people. Mark Ellerby explained: “Our staff includes blind and partially sighted people and initially we only catered for RNIB events and conferences, but now we cater for anyone using the conference centre – around 8,000 delegates a year. We serve only high quality, locally-sourced food, freshly prepared using Fairtrade and organic ingredients as far as possible, yet our prices are very reasonable because we are not trying to make a profit for shareholders.”
This original catering and conference centre has already scooped a top award from Birmingham City Council.
It scored five Hs in the ‘H for Hygiene Awards’, the highest score given by the local authority. But the real proof is still in the eating.
Simon Lee, solicitor at Anthony Collins Solicitors confirmed: “We have used Concept for several events now, including a lunch for the whole office, because we like to support social enterprise where we can.
“We have always been impressed. There is no concession on the quality of the food or the service – both are excellent.”
Mark is keen to develop the outside-catering side of the business, including running in-house cafés and canteens as well as catering for one-off events, to create more jobs and training opportunities for blind and partially sighted people, working alongside sighted colleagues. He said: “CSR is not just about fundraising for charities, saving energy or recycling paper, it’s also about supporting local social enterprises such as ours and getting a high quality product or service in return.
People underestimate what blind and partially sighted people can do. We aim to break down barriers and change perception of what’s possible.”
Both Anthony Collins and RNIB are members of BSSEC, Birmingham and Solihull Social Economy Consortium).
Alun Severn of BSSEC said: “Social enterprise as a business model is growing in popularity.
A recent survey revealed that there are now more than 300 operating in Birmingham and Solihull, and the rate at which they are setting up is increasing. Together they employ around 12,500 staff. Just over half have turnovers of between £100k and £1m a year and the largest eight have an annual turnover of over £5m.
“They are a significant force in the local economy. As they are not in business to make their owners rich, but to deliver a social benefit, doing business with them at a time of recession makes economic sense as well as fulfilling CSR obligations.”
For more information about Concept
Conference Centre in John Bright Street
log onto www.rnib.org.uk/concept