Start your own business – and make a difference
Starting your own business can be personally rewarding, but do it ethically and it could help others too.
Saturday 18 July 2009
Paul Barker has a simple goal: to help change people's lives for the better through the power of aikido, a Japanese martial art that combines strong self-defence techniques with the promotion of peace and harmony.
The sixth-dan black belt, who is head of the Aikido Circle and one of this country's highest-ranking practitioners, teaches both individuals and groups of students of all ages at classes in Sussex and Essex.
"I decided to devote all my energies to being an instructor because it's my way of giving something back to a martial art that that has provided me with such a fulfilling way of life," he says. "I want to spread the word about the benefits it can provide."
Barker, 59, who has been an instructor for four decades, has established a website – www.aikidocircle.com – to help promote the art, which combines flowing movements, dynamic throws and weapons training with a more spiritual side.
"Aikido is all about developing the mind as well as the body," he says. "It teaches people to be aware of the environment around them, to become more positive individuals and to treat everyone with a greater degree of respect."
Not only does regular study help them to become more focused in their daily lives, but it also makes them more rounded individuals, insists Sensei Barker, who also champions a vegetarian lifestyle.
"We are simply custodians of this planet and should be doing everything in our power to ensure everyone enjoys a happy and healthy existence," he says. "That is why I am so keen to share my expertise and the skills I have honed over the past 40 years."
According to Emma Jones, founder of www.enterprisenation.com – a site helping people start and grow their own business at home – an increasing number of people are discovering that earning a living and trying to make a difference are not mutually exclusive.
"There are a lot of people who are now righting what they consider wrongs by starting their own businesses," she says. "They have taken something they feel strongly about, followed a vision, and are now earning a living."
People from all walks of life are dreaming up innovative ways to turn their passion for the planet into a viable source of income, whether they simply want to support themselves or have ambitions to build a multi-billion pound empire.
All these ethical businesses are run from a slightly different standpoint. Some are focused on producing or selling environmentally-friendly food, while others are more concerned with Fairtrade or promoting generally healthier lifestyles.
Inspiration can come from anywhere. Whether it is a lifelong passion, triggered by watching a television programme about the impact we are having on our planet, or sparked by a change in circumstances.
Mum-of-two Cheryl Kelly, from Derbyshire, launched Precious Nappies (www.preciousnappies.co.uk) at the beginning of this year after finding the information available for people wanting to use cloth nappies was so confusing. "As a family, we were recycling everything we could – but then putting up to 80 nappies in the bin each week which seemed to defeat the object," she says. "That's when I started looking into the alternatives."
Kelly, who has a business degree and a background in sales, started the business from her home and now sells via her website, as well as at numerous events and groups across the country, from ante-natal classes to baby shows.
Although her nappies are currently made by a manufacturer in Turkey – chosen for their ethical policy – she is keen to modify and expand her range of products and so is on the lookout for a UK-based producer who can help develop her plans.
"Cloth nappies not only save people a lot of money, they also help prevent waste filling up landfills," she says. "I absolutely love what I do and thoroughly enjoy getting out and explaining the benefits to existing and prospective parents."
It is not only individuals who are setting out to make a difference. Some prefer to go into business with others in the belief that combining skills and experiences will make for a stronger proposition.
A prime example is Trinity Wholefoods, a workers' co-operative in Hastings, East Sussex, which offers a huge range of vegetarian and organic produce, including fruit, wine and shampoo.
Everyone involved buys a £1 share to join the co-operative and, to demonstrate their commitment, lends the business £100. In exchange, they receive a salary and the possibility of bonuses if it does really well in any given year.
Its eight current members, who all work part-time at the shop, divide responsibility for running the business between them and take all major decisions – such as setting rates of pay and deciding which goods to sell – as a group.
Rhian Thomas, who is in charge of marketing, says that although the business must make a profit, its driving force is a desire to supply people with the goods they want to buy, and to support other local traders. "Everyone works here because they want to make a difference," she says. "All the items we sell are strictly vegetarian and we also follow a policy of being cruelty-free and supportive of Fairtrade."
The ability to change roles within the organisation, and to be trained in skills such as finance, are also benefits. "We are able to be ourselves without worrying about a corporate image," adds Rhian. "We are free to be individuals and have the added enjoyment of working alongside people who really care about what they are doing."
There is also a growing demand for eco-friendly businesses. Research by the Carbon Trust reveals almost two-thirds of consumers (63 per cent) are more likely to buy a product if they know action is being taken to reduce its carbon footprint.
Euan Murray, general manager for carbon footprinting at the Carbon Trust, wants all firms to follow suit. "They can't ignore the fact that consumers do care about climate change and what a brand is doing to fight it," he says. "Seventy per cent of consumers want help in making the right choices."
So what do you need to know in order to follow in the footsteps of these ethical entrepreneurs? Well, all the usual business ins and outs – and more, according to Stephen Alambritis, spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses.
He says: "Setting up an environmentally-friendly firm requires a lot more thought and questions to be asked than an average business. It won't have the usual business plan that will be aggressively based around cash flow and profit."
All would-be entrepreneurs need to thoroughly analyse their aims for the business, what they are trying to achieve, and what their unique selling point is likely to be. In a "green" business, they also need to "consider whether the suppliers they deal with operate in an ethical manner," says Alambritis. "A business setting itself up to be environmentally-friendly will have to be very conscious of how it is seen by potential customers. The key to success is doing plenty of research and making sure that every decision you make is environmentally proofed."
It might be a lot of hard work, but when everything comes together it can make for a compelling business proposition with benefits for both the owners and their customers, adds Jones. "A lot of entrepreneurs have already proved that they can launch environmentally-friendly and ethical businesses," she says.
"Their sense of conviction leads to a strong commitment to the business – which is what every business owner needs."
Spend and share The shopping website with a twist
Sam Roger, pictured right, is the founder of shopping website Ethics Girls (www.ethicsgirls.co.uk). She is going one step further than most businesses in an attempt to interact directly with her customers.
Not only is she turning her business into a co-operative, she is also encouraging customers to become members and influence its direction.
For a one-off £20 payment – £1 of which will be for a share – they will be able to vote at general meetings, enjoy shopping discounts and join working parties looking at everything from ethical fashion developments to campaigns.
The business, which has been running for two years, enables people to buy a wide variety of products online – all of which have an ethical connection, such as being organic, recycled, chemical-free or following a Fairtrade policy.
"My hope is that people will want to be involved and that the site can be a vehicle that helps people change their behaviour and their lifestyles," explains Roger. "There's a massive amount of work to do but this can be achieved by working together."
Bargain Hunter: Now's your chance to watch the best movies free of charge at home
How much lower will mortgage rates go?
The FTSE 100 is inching closer to its record high but can it maintain these levels?
MPs call for Equitable Life policyholders to be paid £2.8bn owed by government
Fuel poverty could claim 100,000 lives over next 15 years, warns energy charity
- 1 Scarlett Johansson new band 'already hit with legal complaint' from another The Singles
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 5 'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
iJobs Money & Business
£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...
£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...
£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...
£22,000 - £23,000: Beverley James: Are you looking for the opportunity to work...
Day In a Page
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads