Belfast-based social enterprise Storybox NI has celebrated its first birthday by donating £500 to a local women’s centre to deliver mental health services.
Storybox NI sells tailored consumer and corporate gift boxes, made up of goods from a range of local social enterprises and independent businesses, including Suki Tea, Loaf Pottery, Bolster Community and Refuge Chocolate NI.
Belfast City Council supported owner Rachel McIlgorm to set up her social enterprise during the pandemic.
Councillor Ryan Murphy, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, said: “Our enterprise team was delighted to support Rachel and Storybox NI every step of the way on her journey to set up her company.
“Rachel first of all signed up for our free programme which supports people setting up social enterprises and co-operatives, and then progressed on to the Go For It programme and with help from an expert advisor created a business plan.
“She then had an extra boost of one-to-one specialist mentoring through the Kickstart programme.
“It’s really important to us to support enterprise in the city – and ventures such as Storybox NI are really proving their worth by giving back to the communities that they’re based in.”
Rachel is now reflecting on a successful first year: “We’re delighted to be starting as we mean to go on, not only supporting and raising awareness of social enterprises and local businesses by promoting gifts with purpose, but also by giving back to the community.
“The more gift boxes we sell, the more we’ll be able to increase these donations.
“I’ve always had a passion for local businesses driven by a social, humanitarian or environmental purpose.
“During the pandemic I couldn’t stop thinking about their challenges, so I founded Storybox NI as an online platform to showcase their goods, amplify their causes and make it easier for customers to purchase #GiftsWithPurpose in a box.
“For me, social enterprise is the future of business. At Storybox NI our social purpose is to raise awareness of social enterprises and local businesses and to provide another sales channel by purchasing and distributing their products in gift combinations.
“We even had the chance to showcase these #GiftsWithPurpose in the US earlier this year when we worked to supply the NI Bureau in Washington DC.
“I’ve had amazing support – the team’s passion shines through in the quality of advice they provide.
“They’ve been with me from the start – and haven’t just disappeared after I’ve finished the programmes.
“To have access to this level of expertise, resources and contacts – at no cost – is incredible.
“Before I started, I had no idea of the level or quality of free support available to micro and small organisations from Belfast City Council.
“The mentors and advisors get just as excited about the opportunity as you do, which makes you feel like you have a team of cheerleaders.
“But even more importantly, they bring a wealth of real-life experience to the table.
“I’ve also been awarded £4,000 from Belfast City Council’s Go Social incentive fund and that’s allowed me to develop branded boxes, with a new sleeve design celebrating #Local, in collaboration with Belfast based artist Danni Simpson.
“This will help reduce overheads, increase efficiency and allow us to cater for larger orders.
“And, of course, less packaging is good news for the environment. I’m enhancing the Storybox NI website and we’re always on the look-out for new social enterprises and local independent businesses to support.
“And we’re fulfilling the first of what I hope will be many large export orders.”
n If you’d like to find out how Belfast City Council could help you start or grow your business, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/startups or call 028 9027 0482.
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