Good skate shops: more than hoodies and trainers

Circle Collective
United Kingdom (London)

In a sea of pharmacies, stationery sellers and coffee shops, one social enterprise in a swarming Lewisham shopping centre, London, stands out. Streetwear and skateboarding gear brand Circle Collective’s unique style is obvious from one glance at the shop windows, but something else they offer young people in the borough is less so: opportunity.

At Circle Collective’s branches in south-east London and across the river in Hackney, locals looking to improve their lives and grab a rung on the job ladder are given more than just a chance. They’re given the skills they need to go on and succeed in the fashion, retail and creative industries.

Turly Humphreys is the founder and CEO of Circle Collective. Turly wanted to give young people more opportunities in life, and over the past nine years the team at Circle Collective have done just that, helping to develop workplace skills, confidence, positivity and the self-discipline required to succeed in any permanent employment.

The social enterprise side comprises two streetwear and skateboard shops, created to provide training and customer service-based jobs for young people, while ploughing the profits back into the Circle Collective charity. And the charity itself meanwhile helps young people with career advice through their Get Employed programme, which includes CV support, confidence-building workshops, one-to-one mentoring and the opportunity to meet potential employers – all in the back of a skate shop.

The only common denominator between the people Circle Collective aims to help is that they’re aged between 18 and 30 and they want to work. Matthew Lewendon, the director of operations at Circle Collective, explains:

“We help people from a huge variety of backgrounds. They have high anxiety or low confidence, maybe they’re an ex-offender or they’ve got family problems, maybe they’ve come from the job centre or they’ve got issues with mental health. We don’t discriminate.”

It makes a massive difference. “Finding people a job will increase their mental health, it gives them a bigger network, and it will make their life better as well as putting money in their pocket.”

20-year-old Jennifer Ogwuda is one of those people:

“I had no work experience and Circle Collective helped by giving me experience in the retail store. Being interested in fashion I was also given an opportunity to work on their new women’s clothing line and help out on a fashion shoot. I now have a job working as a sales assistant at Hawes and Curtis, which I was put forward for through Circle Collective’s contacts. They really helped me when I was in a dark place in my life.”

In all, Circle Collective have helped over 300 young people to find permanent work, and over 75 percent of those who complete the Get Employed programme end up with full-time employment. It’s a figure that looks likely to rise, with Circle Collective aiming to help over 500 young people to get into work by the end of 2020.

Circle Collective also have a track record of helping people to find their entrepreneurial side, and it was one of their young employees that helped the streetwear shop to become exactly what it is today.

“We had a young person on the programme who wanted to open a skateboard shop,” says Matthew. “Turly gave him £200 pounds (€234) to buy some bits and pieces, giving him the opportunity to make money. It’s become a really sizeable part of the business, and the important part is that it was grown by somebody who came through the Circle Collective.”

Circle Collective themselves have also grown through a collaborative approach, teaming up with other companies, social enterprises and local authorities.

“We’re not experts in mental health. We’re not experts on ex-offenders, so we work with lots of other teams who support us, and we support them along the entire journey that makes up a young person’s journey into work.” 

Not content to rest on their laurels, the Circle Collective have even bigger plans in the pipeline, and they’re currently working on creating their very own skateboards to sell through the shops. The boards are designed by the Circle Collective’s own Louis Bruce, and profits from the boards will go back into helping young people to find sustainable employment.

AtlasAction: If you’d like to know more about the Get Employed programme get in touch here.

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Adapted from a piece on Red Bull Amaphiko (08 July 2019)

Bio

Red Bull Amaphiko is a global platform that supports social entrepreneurs – those pioneers, change makers, innovators who use their talent, creativity, and energy to make a positive change in their corner of the world, in a sustainable way. And spreads these stories to inspire a wider audience.

Project leader

Turly Humphreys, Founder and CEO

Partners

This project has been selected as part of CultureFutures, a new storytelling project that maps creative and cultural projects with a social mission – and the artists, collectives and entrepreneurs behind them.

Atlas of the Future is excited to join forces with Goldsmiths Institute of Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship and the British Council Creative Economy.

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