Hi, Jenny here (founder at Hip Hip Hooray).
I've been asked a lot about how our new journey as a social enterprise came about and so I wanted to share my story with you via this blog post. I'd love to hear from you so if you have any queries about anything or would like to support what we're doing through collaboration, please get in touch with me.
The late spring and summer months usually see us STACKED with rushed and last minute wedding orders - it’s an ‘all hands on deck’ team effort. This year, 2020, was different in every way. We had very few orders on the wedding front and our other main product line - parties - wasn't happening either!! Covid-19 really threw a spanner in the works and brought pretty much everything to a halt. One gift that came out of this was that there was also a bit of peace, a little quiet and something I haven’t had a lot of over the years - time to think. It’s been a time to pause, to reflect and to listen to that inner voice that has never really had space to be heard in recent times.
Have you discovered anything new in this strange and uncertain time?
I know I’m not alone when I tell you that I evaluated and reflected on my purpose.
(Stick with me here, I promise this is relevant!) …Rewind 12 years and I was living out a very different purpose in my career. Pre business (and pre babies), I worked with young offenders as a one-to-one key worker, supporting them in reducing offending and breaking down the many barriers they faced. The vast majority of young people I had the privilege of working with had lived through neglect and/or abuse and were often the children of parents suffering from addiction. Leading me to that job was a two year period volunteering in drug rehabilitation homes and studying for a diploma in drugs counselling, including a year at the incredible Trevi House, a mother and child rehab here in Plymouth, Devon. Let me say this, I was totally out of my depth, but boy did I have the heart for it.
Life took some twists and turns and after having children of my own, I needed to do something I could fit around my young family. The foundations of the career I’d made for myself were built whilst volunteering (no formal training) and, looking back, I now see that I simply didn’t ever learn how to switch off at the end of the day, when I’d go home with the heaviest of hearts and be unable to sleep for knowing the desperate reality that people were living. In simple terms, I burnt out.
That’s when I sought a new path - I decided I wanted to use my creativity to contribute to our household bills and I looked at different ideas for my own small business. I played around with a few ideas (had plenty of bad ones), and eventually decided that printing was something I wanted to explore because I liked the scalability of it. My amazing brother sat down with me and gave me a two hour masterclass on Photoshop and I was off. I worked at my little computer in our utility room (wedged in between the washing machine and tumble dryer). While our baby napped, and until the small hours of the morning, I pinged off emails to customers, created new designs and even packed orders fuelled by coffee and the excitement that comes from growing your own little business from nothing.
It wasn’t long before I was making those exciting and scary steps of taking on help, renting an office and doing things on a bigger scale.
10 years (and 2 more babies) later and it’s been the typical whirlwind rollercoaster that I’m sure any small business owner can relate to. There have been ups and downs, scary moments, proud moments and everything in between. My family and I are incredibly blessed by this business, which allows me to do the school run every day, take the school holidays off to have adventures and put food on the table for our 3 girls.
So what’s the catch?
Here’s the honesty moment. I love what we do. I love the invitations we create and I LOVE that they’re representing a little piece of someone’s love story. BUT, it wasn't enough for me. Deep within I had a stirring need to use whatever gifts I have for a different purpose - that same one I caught a glimpse of in my earlier career. I wanted this business to be a force for good beyond the joy it already brings. I believe it can transform lives by opening doors that have always been firmly locked for some people.
I had a penny-drop, lightbulb moment during that crazy COVID lockdown - a new vision of this business as a social enterprise. And ever since, I have barely thought about anything else. An excitement that I haven’t felt for a long time has welled up in me and is bubbling over.
This autumn we are launching a 6 month training and employment programme for women in recovery from addiction and ongoing trauma. Alongside gaining experience in all aspects of our operations - from customer service, to design, print and dispatch - there’ll also be an emphasis on life skills such as confidence, money management and budgeting, employability and more. This will all be achieved in the context of living wage paid employment while studying for an NVQ in business administration. On completion of the programme, with a host of new skills, confidence, experience and a qualification, women will be supported into long term employment or further education. In the first year we’re offering placements for 4 women on our programme, and we'll also be working with many more women in a group setting to focus on aspirations and employability.
Transforming this business into a social enterprise is not going to be easy - there are many things to learn, plan for and change. I’m grateful that I have a team of people around me who are incredibly aligned with this vision, both in heart and in knowledge. We are going to need all the support we can get and we are so grateful that you are here, reading until the end, and taking this journey with us.
A couple of simple ways you can support us in this new mission:
Thank you so much, it really does mean the world!
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