Caro Wawrick-Evans, The Cornish Seaweed Company

What does your social enterprise do?

The Cornish Seaweed Company sustainably harvest, process and package a number of different Cornish seaweeds using traditional means to be used as a Superfood, vegan thickener or artisanal ingredient.

How do you create social impact?

We run workshops on local, nutritional and sustainable foods. We have worked with thousands of individuals in the last two and a half years. We have created employment for eight people who were otherwise looking for work and will be starting training with Job Centre Plus later this year to help others overcome the barriers to employment.

What motivated you to start Cornish Seaweed Company?

I started Cornish Seaweed Company  in 2012 in response to the lack of work in Cornwall. I was working scrubbing the boats in Falmouth and my business partner was working as a waiter. We are both qualified in renewable energy engineering but were unable to find work. There just was not anything about.

After hearing a radio program about the seaweed industry we went to work with a seaweed company in Ireland to learn about the seaweeds, sustainable harvesting and traditional processing. We then came back to Cornwall ready to start our own business.

Few people know about seaweed in this country but we have the most wonderful variety of species which are not only a superfood but are the most nutrient rich foods on earth.

Currently the UK imports most of their seaweed for eating disregarding what we have available here on our coasts. In this time of climate change and growing awareness of where our food comes from, there is more and more emphasis being placed on foods that are grown and harvested locally and sustainably.

Why are you passionate about this cause?

Both my partner Tim and I are very aware of the environmental challenges that face our world and the negative impacts we are leaving for future generations to clean up. By focussing on local, healthy and sustainable foods and the workshops that surround them we are hoping to increase awareness about our fragile environment and the food routes that we choose to use.

We have both also been really stuck with the lack of work in the south west and the tough times that you can experience when you slip out of the daily routine of regular employment. Through our 4 stage courses we aim to help bridge the gap to employment for others. Many different factors can build up which create barriers to work and we aim to help individuals through these such as overcoming anxiety, building confidence, getting back to working in a team environment or getting used to working to a schedule again.

How has the School for Social Entrepreneurs supported you?

SSE picked us up right at the beginning when we were still planning The Cornish Seaweed Company. They not only gave us the business support and training that we needed but they were a solid, friendly and highly experienced support network. Even having finished the program over a year ago, they have continued to help us find expert help, directed us to new and exciting opportunities and offer guidance when the going gets tough. The experience that SSE gave us was invaluable.

What are your plans for the future?

We aim to increase the awareness surrounding local, healthy and sustainable foods by running educational workshops in schools, colleges and at events as well as creating local employment which is much needed in Cornwall.

We are growing the business organically at the moment, adding to our team when we need to but this will change in the near future as we look to scale up so watch this space!

What would your advice be to a budding social entrepreneur?

Believe in yourself deeply and trust your instinct on business people, ideas and general flow. Remember if anyone can do it, you can!