The following is a blog post, an interview with our Executive Director Marilyn Forrest. It was taken from commongoodsolutions.com
Posted on March 7, 2016
For over 30 years Building Future Employment Society (FUTURES) has been offering quality products and services to the public while simultaneously creating a positive impact in the community. The society has a distinct and valuable role to play in helping to create a strong, sustainable and socially inclusive society while also helping to grow the economy. Their businesses serve a socially purposeful mandate – to employ adults who have intellectual challenges. The revenue from their businesses are reinvested for the purposes of fulfilling their mandate.
In a recent interview with one of our newest Buy Social Canada members (FUTURES), we had the opportunity to speak with one of their passionate employees by the name of Marilyn Forrest.
We asked Marilyn if she could tell me about something new and exciting that was going on at Building Future Employment Society (FUTURES).
Marilyn was happy to express that the renovations and expansion that were currently underway on their approximately 40-year-old building which was “in bad need of updates and upgrades” and was “limited in space” as far as for the services that were being offered. This increase and improvement in space will allow us to deliver our services to more clients and to more customers. As an example, the new space comes with “a proper loading deck” which will give the society the ability to grow. The progress of the renovations can be followed on their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/BuildingFuturesBFES/
We went on to ask Marilyn about the society. What they do? How long have their doors been open? and how many staff do they employ?
Marilyn confidently and passionately stated “the mission at FUTURES is to empower the people we support to contribute to their community”. We were surprised to hear that the society had been in operation for over 30 years creating such a positive impact in our communities (Bedford, Sackville, Fall River and surrounding areas), and this was my first time hearing about them.
She went on to explain that the non-profit community based social enterprise was incorporated in 1991 under a different name (Anchor Industries Society). However, the name was changed as Marilyn explained “to reflect what it is we do”. “We feel we are building futures with our clients, and we wanted our name to reflect our work”. FUTURES currently operates four businesses that offer training sites (for their clients) and revenue generation opportunities (for the society). The society employs approximately 22 staff, 25 clients (who have grown into employees) with a payroll that is almost $1,000,000; which is definitely an economic stimulus in the community and province.
Some of BUILDING FUTURES core products and services offered include:
FUTURES Cafe provides skill development in food preparation, cash transactions and customer service. In addition to promoting community employment options, training also facilitates independent living.
FUTURES Café has a great menu that includes JustUs! Fair Trade coffee and chocolate as well as their own delicious HotPots. They also offer catering to business meetings and for personal events.
Information can be found via the following link: https://www.facebook.com/Futures-Cafe-1607054109539916/
The OffShoot Shop
The OffShoot Shop provides work skills training in mail out services, assembly line work, packaging, etc. The OffShoot Shop also completes work sent directly by customers and has established a loyal contingent of customers. Individuals working in the OffShoot Shop gain valuable work skills which are transferable to work elsewhere. Many individuals choose to use their skills in employment placements. For the latest updates on this service and to find out about the new name which will be unveiled in the coming weeks please visit: https://www.facebook.com/TheOffShootShopBFES/
Hand crafted yard folksy art pieces that are made from polyvinyl chloride (pvc) plastic and hand painted by the FUTURES team. In addition to industry specific skills, our clients develop customer service experience, teamwork ability, and demonstrate both respect and initiative in the work setting. FUTURES strives to impart skills that are transferable to employment. Want to see the finished product? Please take a moment to visit: http://buildfutures.ca/futures-birds/
All Wrapped Up
All Wrapped Up is a small business component consisting of the creation of wrapping materials. The business provides the opportunity to develop work, socialization and communication skills. Their product is sold on site at FUTURES as well as at various other venues. Please take a moment to visit: https://www.facebook.com/AllWrappedUpBFES/
Name to be Determined – Copy Center
Last but not least, Marilyn spoke about a Print Shop that had been a traditional part of the society from the very beginning. However, after participating in a Social Enterprise Management Certificate (SEMC) program put on by DIRECTIONS Council and Common Good Solutions Inc., made possible by the Workplace Innovation and Productivity Skills Incentive (WIPSI) program, the Print Shop was now in question.
Marilyn went on to express as a participant in the SEMC course, “we were encouraged to examine our businesses and make the hard decisions,” and as a result the society decided that they could not maintain the Print Shop. “However, we had customers that just wouldn’t take no for an answer”. The society decided to continue to provide the copy services and remove the option of design services. This initiative is currently awaiting a name. Please visit the website for updates: http://buildfutures.ca/
We continued the conversation by asking about a feel good story.
Marilyn went on to speak about the recent renovations and expansion of the organization’s building, which she suggested, “is what is making us all feel good” right now. She pointed out that what was most impressive “is how the community came together and continues to stay together” to help support the renovations, expansion and growth of FUTURES. She spoke to the positive feedback that they received on social media, in the community and from the contractors.
She went on to express the excitement around the rebranding of their café which offered a different menu and created a new environment. Most importantly Marilyn explained that it “allowed us to support our clients by helping them create customer service and business skills” which is a goal of the society. She ended by saying “these are two of the many feel good stories” that are magically created when undertaking such meaningful work.
We went on to talk about how FUTURES supports the social sector either by buying or supplying.
Marilyn quickly pointed out that they always look to buy local. “To me, buying local comes with creating social benefits.” She went on to explain that FUTURES “always looks to other social enterprises to collaborate or partner with” and pointed out their partnership with JustUs! in their café and spoke about other valuable relationships they have developed with other social enterprises to support the sector. She explained that all of the products and services they supply through their social enterprises allow them to continue “Building Futures” with a sustainable business model.
This led us to the conversation about the challenges the society faces in trying to live their social values while continuing to make money.
Right away the topic of perception was brought up. Marilyn explained that the society is “sometimes perceived as fully government funded” which leads people to believe erroneously that “our businesses are not experiencing real costs ; therefore, our products and services should be sold at discounted rates”. She passionately clarified “we want people to use our products and services because of the quality and our ability to compete in the market, not because they are buying social or feel they want to support charitable work—both these things are bonuses to our community. Of course we also have many customers who appreciate our value and fully support us.”
She spoke about “getting people to understand the social cost” and the importance to balance that with the going-market prices. She went on to speak about an on-going challenge “to be competitively priced and still contribute revenues to the society” which is an important component to sustaining the phenomenal work that is taking place at FUTURES.
Finally, we had the opportunity to speak about the expectations of the Buy Social Certification.
Marilyn expressed that she sees Buy Social Canada as a collaborative effort, which gives social enterprises the ability to “acquaint with each other”. She went on to say, “I love to support social enterprises that offer quality products and services, and I know I don’t know all of them.”
Her expectations came down to being able to “inform the general public” about the quality products and services being offered in the sector and the important work that takes place in social enterprises. In the end the conversation came down to customers having the ability to make informed decisions about the products and services they purchase, the impact that comes with such a purchase and being aware whether that impact is negative or positive.