My entrepreneurial journey started with a wish to create something life changing – a wish to create something that would make a positive difference in the world. From this very early and well-intentioned wish, my business idea slowly began to take shape...

My idea was to help homeless and vulnerable people build houses out of upcycled materials – by many this was quickly dismissed as a waste of time. Still, to me, the upcycling of shipping containers seemed like a quick, cheap and sustainable way of creating structures that could make a social impact.

I persisted and eventually presented my idea to a social entrepreneur who felt as excited and inspired by the possibilities as I did. Thanks to our joint enthusiasm and belief in the idea my company, EcoBoxes, was born. 

Virgin Unite, EcoBoxes, Next Gen Workspaces

EcoBoxes presents a different approach to the modern workplace – creating a place that is as much about  workers as it is about the work produced. Ecoboxes allows vulnerable members of society – such as ex-servicemen, the homeless population, and ex-convicts – to come into an environment that’s nurturing and that provides a safe space to learn new skills.

EcoBoxes allows participants to work as a team as it increases opportunities for local community members – similar to how micro shelters support homeless people, and how community centres support PTSD soldiers and refugees. 

The business evolved through persistence and through pitching the idea to the right people at the right time. The aforementioned social entrepreneur put me in contact with several charitable organisations and this drove me to gradually tailor the business model and structure. Through a mix of trial and error, and honest conversations with CEOs and representatives from interested organisations, EcoBoxes started taking shape. 

Virgin Unite, EcoBoxes, Next Gen Workspaces

My business pitch evolved to focus less on the means by which the work would be done, and more on the way in which the workplace itself would benefit the people taking part in the work. Once this happened more potential investors and partners saw the true benefits of the workplace model and its potential for wider application.

A great feature of Ecoboxes is that they can fit into pre-existing workplaces – an EcoBox crew can join a commercial build as additional workforce. Companies requesting additional manpower benefit by helping vulnerable members of the local area, whilst the EcoBoxes workers gain valuable experience and potential future employment opportunities should they impress.

In essence, EcoBoxes creates a workplace that focusses as much on the rehabilitation and life-transition of its workers, as it is about the actual work. The model gives vulnerable people who want to work the opportunity to do so. 

A commonly held perception is that people in vulnerable situations – such as homelessness – tend to become somewhat of a drain on the public purse due to their acceptance of the situation. 

However, my experience interacting with vulnerable community members has shown me that this is far from the truth.

I’m proud of EcoBoxes as it presents a new pathway for people looking to do more – a way to give back, whilst regaining control of the future. One of the most important lessons I have learnt through creating Ecoboxes is that despite an often inherent resistance to change, people also have an inherent wish to do good and that therefore, with a little persistence, great disruption can happen.

– This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. To keep up to date on all things EcoBoxes follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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