Every now and then we like to remind our loyal followers that Startacus -the self start society is not just about starting a business - it’s about all manner of inspiring and passionate folks who have put their best foot forward and worked like crazy to turn their big (or small) ideas into a reality…
...Enter Lisa and Peter Mace
This husband and wife team successfully formed “Autism Birmingham Community Interest Company” back in March 2012 - with the aim of increasing the public’s awareness of Autism and raising funds to help provide support to those with the condition. Neither Lisa nor Peter had any experience of running a community interest company and only very minimal knowledge of how to start and grow an enterprise… but against all the odds they did it!
Their story resembles that of a very successful and rapidly growing startup business - but what's most inspiring is that it has all been achieved, not to boost their own bank accounts, but for the benefit of the community… Lisa shared her story with us.
First of all, could you tell us about Autism Birmingham and the work that you do?
We decided to open up a charity shop benefiting autistic children as there were none in the Midlands at all. In fact the closest is in Yorkshire. We sell donated items just like any other charity shop. Funds generated are used to provide sensory equipment to children in Birmingham who have a diagnosis of an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Our ethos is "we are much more than just a charity shop". We also run parent support groups monthly in Birmingham, fund family trips out and VIP trips for children with Autism and their families.
Now we have two charity shops in Birmingham and our most recent project is the taking over of Rubery Market as Autism Birmingham. It is an indoor Victorian style market where we rent stalls out to independent traders- as far as we know this is the only community interest market so far in the UK.
In August we also delivered Autism Awareness training to management and supervisors at a new Sainsburys store which had since developed into us being supported by Sainsburys which had added to our credibility as a CIC.
What was it that first prompted you to establish Autism Birmingham?
We have two sons - Ben, 15 and George, 10 who both have Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. For the last 5 years we had both stayed at home to care for our sons as the eldest in particular was left without a school placement for 18 months. Once both were eventually settled in their special schools we knew the time was right to do something and we decided we wanted to help others as we had realised how important it is for their to be a network and support for families.
Best case scenario, what do you hope to achieve in 2014?
During 2014 we hope to expand further and open at least another 3 shops in the Birmingham area. We want to organise many more activities for families. In October I will be a fellow of the School of Social Entrepreneurs. We also want to expand our autism awareness training sessions across the Midlands. One of our clients to date is Sainsburys plc.
Also we are hoping to hold our first charity ball this year and we will soon be working at our list of contacts to get sponsorship and so forth!
What has been the most challenging obstacle which you have faced so far?
Funding is I think the most challenging obstacle for us. We have received a very small amount of grant funding - £4.5k. The rest is made up of trading income. Unfortunately finances can be a barrier for so many. We used our own very limited funds to start out.
Is there anyone that has been particularly helpful?
We have received such a tremendous response and have received a huge amount of support from individuals and organisations it would be difficult to name as there have been so many to date.
Is there any advice that you would like to give to someone who is considering doing something similar?
My advice would be is to spend time on researching but ultimately go for it . You can only regret what you didn't do. You will get good days and bad days don't let the bad days put you off.
Thanks Lisa, we wish you and Peter the best of luck with Autism Birmingham.
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