My name is Amanda and with my sister, Teresa, we formed the social enterprise GAP Learning CIC. As sisters from a broken home, we have always been very close. We even became pregnant at the same time. We relocated from Kent and Surrey respectively, attracted by the schools and work opportunities. We formed a children’s jewellery-making business called Butterfly Party – and it became a great commercial success, enabling us to work around our growing families. Following this success we thought about what we could do to make a positive social contribution to the world.
I was working as an adult education tutor and I have a background in product design – having set-up a design studio in Kent before becoming pregnant. Teresa is a talented designer and jewellery maker and also an early years teacher. We realised that teaching, caring and design were at the heart of everything we had ever enjoyed and achieved so we decided to pool our talents and set up GAP Learning in February 2014.
GAP Learning stands for Generating Alternative Possibilities through learning to encourage positive life changes for excluded people. We provide two training courses – Craftworks and Fullspoon. Both courses establish a non-threatening environment in which to be creative. For many of our learners it is their first positive experience of learning. We discover hidden talents and allow people to shine.
Progression is the most important aspect of our training. We provide volunteering and employment opportunities, signpost to further learning courses and link learners with our partnership learning networks.
We are currently grant funded by Cambridge County Council, Cambridge City Council and Ramsey Million. We have also won funding from TCHC and Comic Relief. We won places at the School of Social Entrepreneurs and are currently on the Social Incubator East programme run in conjunction with Allia and the Judge Business School.
We have provided free training for around 150 people since we launched. 2 learners are now employed by us; another 3 have volunteered as teaching assistants and we are supporting them through their level 3 teaching and learning qualification. At successful completion will offer them employment too; 10 more learners are our general volunteers for various office tasks and events. The craft group in Ramsey (set-up after the Craftworks course there) continues to meet and sell their crafts with the sponsorship of GAP Learning. It is continually growing and addressing rural social isolation.
We have supported individuals who are in recovery and rehabilitation. We engage and encourage people that have had a tough time of things – they may be suffering from mental or physical health issues or have self-esteem or anxiety problems. They may not have worked for a long time. Craftworks graduates have the opportunity to become artisans and sell their work through us. Check out sheloveshim.co.uk and go to Our Artisans to see some of the work they are producing.
Our Craftworks and Fullspoon courses are for people aged 19+ and who work less than 16 hours a week.
Some courses are area specific so please check the course summary for eligibility criteria. Please visit our website or facebook pages and go to the course calendar to see what’s on in your area. www.gaplearning.co.uk or www.facebook.com/GAPLearning
GAP Learning is a social enterprise. This means the profit from the goods and services we sell goes towards funding our free community courses. Our message is: when you buy any of our ethical products or services you’re helping make someone’s life better too. We are as sustainable as we can be, using recycled materials wherever possible.
We launched our wedding range – She Loves Him Tho’ in September and are getting together a crowdfunding campaign to make the point of sale boxes for Craftworks Rocks magnets . She Loves Him Tho’ wedding range is born out of our mission to create beautiful, meaningful products. As a social enterprise, all the profits from the sale of our goods and services support our free courses in the community. The range is fashionably old-fashioned with a smidge of rock and roll. Each piece has enough personality to stand alone or work together to create a crafted and co-ordinated look for a wedding. Our expert tutors take brides half-way by teaching the skills needed for a professional finish for their bespoke DIY products.
We also have a B2B side selling our promotional magnets – Craftworks Rocks directly to businesses. Promotion has never been so attractive! Companies buying our wonderful magnets can feel good supporting the free Craftworks courses in the community.
In September we ran our fundraiser – Enchanted Days at the Milton Country Fair Festival. We ran a series of 6 children’s crafting workshops throughout the day such as whizzy wand making, spells and potions and had a storyteller and knights on hand to inspire the children. It was an amazing success and you can see the photos on our Facebook pages.
Our partnerships with community groups are very important to make connections and enable us to reach our learners. We couldn’t do the work we do without them. We are also very grateful for the opportunities opened up through attending GET Group and WAVET meetings.
We are always looking for new partners to help with our mission. Please contact us.
Setting up GAP Learning has led to many sleepless nights for both me and Teresa. We have a huge mission and sometimes the enormity of this can be overwhelming. We have limited resources and time and this means we are always struggling with strategy priorities. Our free community courses are the mainstay of our business but without selling the products and services we will not be able to become sustainable. We have only just started to take a small salary after working for nothing since November. Without the continued support of our friends and family we would not have been able to come this far. We hope we can become totally sustainable selling our wedding range and promotional magnets. Our long term goal is to have an all in one manufacturing unit, school and community cafe based in Cambridge.
We were originally attracted to Cambridge by the schools, the pretty villages and the great mix of art and history in Cambridge . We love the area around Mill Road – the arts scene there is wonderful which is why we have two free Craftworks running there in November and January 2015.
Our favourite, free thing to do in Cambridge has to be the Fitz – it’s so amazing to have such a wonderful museum and gallery and exhibition space on our doorstep. We also spend a lot of leisure time eating out and socialising in the pubs and eateries around the City. River walks from Paradise to Grantchester are a fave with the kids.
A couple of fun facts about us would be that I recently got married in fact the inspiration behind our own wedding range was that I couldn’t find the products I wanted so I designed and made my own – my family now includes 5 kids and 3 small ginger animals. Teresa is really into body art and has designed all her tattoos. She jokes that coming away from mainstream education she is able to express her identity how she wishes – she has blue hair.
For more information about GAP Learning CIC events;