I decided to start this business after my own personal experience with addiction, eating disorder and recovery. I was admitted into rehab over two and a half years ago and it was there that I began making jewellery. Once a week we attended craft sessions that had an amazing therapeutic effect on me. Engaging in a creative process, using my hands and practicing a mindful activity are all things that contributed to a marked improvement in my self-esteem. I was so shattered and defeated by the time I entered treatment, that the small act of making a bracelet was like a mighty triumph to me, and slowly my confidence began to grow. When I returned to London I was confronted with my old life and all its bad behaviour patterns, however I was so determined not to relapse that I started to create a new life in London, a sober and clean life that focused on the new behaviours I’d been taught. I stuck to my food plan, saw a nutritionist, attended 12 step meetings and did everything they told me to. Amazingly I stayed sober with a healthy weight. I am one of the lucky ones. I watched helplessly as friends relapsed around me and I was haunted with the why. The answer is of course that we all have our own paths, and what works for one does not necessarily work for another. However, I couldn’t help but notice how little aftercare there is in London. For many leaving treatment the idea of returning to full time employment is terrifying, and yet so many have no choice but to get straight back in there. Many with eating disorders have been in a horrifying cycle of inpatient care for years; every time they are returned to the world they last a matter of weeks before they relapse because there is no stepping stone between the cocoon of inpatient care and society. A friend of mine was in this very cycle when I asked her to join me and make jewellery a few times a week. Slowly we added another woman and then another. During one of our sessions one of the women pointed out that we had created a social enterprise, once I had this awareness I knew it had to grow. Six months later we had a limited company, a premises, charitable status, affiliations with two London based treatment centres and a group of five women.
How does the business aim to help people/ what do you wish to achieve?
The business is designed to provide support and employment for women leaving treatment for addictions and eating disorders. We act as a pier led aftercare service that gives women a safe environment to build their self-esteem and adjust to leaving inpatient care. Our main aim is help women stay clean, sober and healthy while they return to society and grow their strength.
What has been your proudest moment in business?
I experience my proudest moment everyday, because everyday one of my colleagues makes something beautiful, and every time they do they seem a little less surprised at themselves. When someone has no self-esteem and has a starting point of “I’m going to be terrible at this”, it is an amazing thing to watch them create something they are proud of. It may seem insignificant, but it is incredibly powerful and always shows me how much this works. We have also won two social enterprise awards, and to be recognized is amazing. It has given us so much collective confidence.
What challenges have you faced in business that you have most learned from?
One of the biggest challenges has been to find the right market for our pieces. As all of our members are paid the London Living Wage, it has been difficult to find to find a market where we are surrounded by a similar price point. Most people have good intentions when it comes to supporting ethical craft, however our marketplace is so saturated by pieces imported from countries where the workers are exploited, that once you tell someone the cost of craft made ethically in the UK, they think it is too expensive.
What’s your idea of success?
When we help one woman to fully return to society, that is success.
How can people contact you about what you do or to view your jewellery?
People can contact me directly on Florence@sweetcavanagh.com
Or follow us on twitter: firstname.lastname@example.org or on facebook as Sweet Cavanagh.
We also sell on folksy.com. Our shop is called Sweet Cavanagh and the address is: http://folksy.com/shops/FlorenceAndGems
Here are some of our pieces: