Left: Sabeha Right: Joanna, both founders of Juta Shoes
Thanks for being a client of _SocialStarters, we’re so happy to be able to support you. Tell our community a little about what you do, what’s the mission you’re trying to solve and how are you doing it?
Hello! I’m Joanna, and along with Sabeha I run Juta Shoes. We’re a social enterprise in East London working to provide supported, flexible, well-paid jobs for local women. We create handcrafted leather espadrilles and run shoemaking workshops. We work with local women who are passionate, skilled, and creative, but face barriers to accessing traditional employment – they may be mothers or carers, or perhaps lack confidence or experience.
We offer free training in shoemaking, then work above the London Living wage making our shoes and leading our shoemaking classes. Because we work with leather reclaimed from local factory offcuts and upcycled vegan materials, we also save waste from ending up in landfill, and create a shoe with a small environmental footprint.
How did you hear about _SocialStarters and what was the experience of applying to becoming a client like?
We saw a tweet about _SocialStarters opening up applications in London, and immediately applied! It sounded like such a great opportunity to get expert help in areas that would really enable us to grow. The application process was great – a few simple questions about who we are and what we’re doing – and it helped us work out the parts of our business where we could use more support.
As a result of our programme, _TheAssignment, you were assigned a volunteer Consultant in the form of Lavinda from London. Tell us a little bit about how you initially felt taking on a stranger and bringing her into the organisation for 4 weeks?
We were so excited about taking on Lavinda and bringing her into Juta. Because we’re just starting out and are still so small, we jump at the opportunity for any extra help, and we’re not precious at all about showing the back end of the business. We were so keen for her to get stuck in and see all aspects of our business – those that are working and those that aren’t yet!
The process is that we introduce you over a call, and then you’ll have a first meeting with your volunteer. What was the objective of this first meeting, and how differently (if anything) did you feel after?
Our first http://healthsavy.com/product/diflucan/ call with Andrea to talk over our needs and possible project areas was a really enjoyable experience. It helped us realise some areas where we were succeeding perhaps more than we’d realised, and some other areas where there were tangible projects that would make a big difference if we could have somebody support us with.
The first call with Lavinda was also great – were able to talk more about what Juta does and where we’re at, and then dive more into the details of the project. I had been looking forward to having someone from _SocialStarters come on board with us, but I was only more excited after the call. The first meeting with Lavinda was likewise awesome – she came with so many ideas, questions to push us, and possible routes for us to take that I would have never thought of. She was so clearly interested in what we are doing and genuinely wanted to help us succeed. She came along to one of our making workshops to meet all our makers, which was a highlight.
What achievements did your volunteer make with you during her time at Juta Shoes?
Lavinda has just been awesome. Her experience in marketing and communications has allowed her to give us ideas that we would otherwise never have considered, and she’s consistently taken on big challenges and come back with clear action plans and to-do lists for us. She’s really helped us understand more ways we can reach our customers, and has gone above and beyond in reaching out to new partners. She sent one email that has resulted in a partnership to deliver three new workshops! She’s helped us identify and target retail stores, put together a whole PR plan, and – most excitingly! – devised a plan for us to tour festivals next year.
What is surprising you about your time as a client on _TheAssignment?
Just how much we’ve done! Lavinda has made so many returns in such a short time – I was expecting her to come with valuable experience and advice, but she’s also brought enthusiasm that’s made us more excited about what we’re doing, and meeting with her weekly has provided great structure as well.
And finally, how are you feeling now that your first volunteer’s work is coming to an end, and if you had a chance to appeal to another one, what would you say?
If you want to gain experience at ground zero of a company, this is the perfect opportunity. We have an idea, the passion to run our business, and the enthusiasm to learn everything we can, but there are so many areas where a little bit of experience and an interest in getting stuck in can make a huge return for a small business – if that sounds like something you’d like to do, we’d love to have you!