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Circle 246Circle Collective

From an article in The Big Issue

In 2010, Turly Humphreys found herself at the helm of a local charity shop and was struck by an idea. She went to her nearest job centre and asked for nine young people to come on board as staff. The project grew into Circle Collective.

Circle Collective is a social enterprise running skate and streetwear stores selling items such as hoodies, trainers and bags designed by brands such as Nike, Vans and up and coming designers. They are based in Dalston and Lewisham in London and were created by Turly to help young people break down the barriers keeping them from work. From CV coaching to confidence-building, the support received by young people in her stores goes well beyond the shop floor – and helps an impressive 76 per cent of them into successful working lives.

One store became two; an initial nine young people has become 400 overall; and the team reckons it generates £4.66 of social value from every £1 it spends. 

“Some people might be with us for a week, some might be around for six months,” Turly explains. “Everything we do is tailored to them.” Originally from Bedford, Humphreys forged a career in commercial business and franchising. But there was something missing. “You just get disillusioned. I wanted to make a difference, and I’ve always had a passion for seeing young people reach their potential, regardless of their circumstances.”

She was also tired of mistruths she heard peddled about young people. “They say young people just don’t want to work. Maybe that they’re lazy. It’s nothing like that. Some have mental health problems or huge confidence issues. Loads just don’t have the money to even get to a job interview. And it’s more difficult than ever to get a job without work experience nowadays – which you can’t get without a job.”

Whether referred through services or accepted after applying themselves, 16 to 30 year-olds involved with Circle Collective do two four-hour shifts a week. Nearly half of the people who go to the social enterprise have no work experience at all before heading out to the shop floor. Most are quick to treat it as seriously as they would a job. They learn in-work skills like using a till, visual merchandising, and customer service. Behind the scenes, the 'Get Employed' programme offers one-to-one mentoring, interview practice, employability and confidence-building workshops, personal finance lessons and employee rights classes plus regular opportunities to meet employers. The coaching prepares them for entry-level jobs across all sectors, not just retail.

Several partner companies offer Circle Collective candidates entry-level jobs. The companies have also contributed funding for training courses, talks by their staff on job opportunities, financial wisdom and free retail space to the social enterprise. 

The Circle Collective team is working on holding more events and exhibitions in their stores, looking to create a community space as well as supporting young independent artists. Humphreys, who is Entrepreneur in Residence for London College of Fashion, is leading the development of Circle Collective’s own-brand range, which will offer the opportunity for young creatives to see their work on clothes and will be produced by women at Downview Prison.

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From an article in The Big Issue, 17/07/2019

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