Self-sustainability can be like a unicorn for most charities – a mythical rarity. For Arc in Somerset and their social enterprise Crescent Cleaning Services, self-sustainability is right around the corner. We spoke to Jordan Canter, Social Enterprise Manager at Crescent about their revenue model and how they got to where they are.
Fulfilling multiple needs
Opening in 2021, Crescent Cleaning Services are the trading arm of Arc, a registered community benefit society working with people experiencing homelessness. With 16 properties to manage, Arc were already paying someone to clean for them, so it made sense to focus their social enterprise on cleaning, filling that gap for them and opening up an employment pathway for service users. Immediately Crescent Cleaning had 60-70 hours of work per week, giving them a solid revenue to build upwards from.
For the year ending March 2023, Crescent Cleaning Service's traded income was £67,483 with a further £41,976 coming in funding and donations. Expenditure for the year totalled £93,960.
Jordan explained, “We clean the hostel and properties and as we’ve grown as a team we can do kitchen and window cleaning and a few outside contracts. Ark had been paying a sperate company to come in and clean before. When we have new employees join we try to be lead by them. For example, we had someone who had experience of window cleaning so we bought them the tools. This is a new revenue stream for us.
“We invoice Arc for the cleaning. The plan is that we will become a CIC at some point but right now we can use Arc’s finance and marketing teams. So once we come out of that we will have to pay for those.”
Moving towards self-sustainability
The organisation, like many social enterprises, have also been able to access grant funding and recently received a grant from the National Lottery and the Somerset Community Foundation. While Crescent Cleaning Services currently run at a slight deficit month to month, covered by grant funding, this is something they envisage being able to close in the near future.
Creating a safe workspace
As well as Crescent Cleaning Services being able to address a need within Arc, it’s main aim is to empower the people who work there. And Crescent Cleaning aren’t nearing self-sustainability from contracts alone; it’s the work of their employees that makes the difference.
As Jordan says, “It’s always been about empowering people and giving them the confidence and self-worth back. By running Crescent Cleaning Services as a business our employees see the impact that this has, like when we get a new van or take on new business. For many, to go back to the spaces they used when they were experiencing homelessness, now as employees, shows their progression to them and their support workers. They are the reason why we are nearly at self-sustainability and gives them an extra boost.”
“In our case it’s a safe space to make mistakes as well. I was conscious, for my employees, some of whom haven’t worked for ten years or still have issues with mental health, so having a space where people can be looked after, people can be monitored, people can be made to feel looked after. It meant that people could be made to feel safe in their work.”
Putting Employees First
Jordan’s advice for organisations starting out on their social enterprise journey is to prioritise employee safety and listening to those employees about how the service is run.
“If you have a safe space [for people to work from], then you should utilise that. You should be led by the employees as much as possible. If there are things the charity has to outsource already, that can be an idea for an income.
“We went after cleaning purely because it’s a good leveller. Everyone at some point has cleaned in their lives, whether it's at home or not. It’s really accessible and it’s something that every company or organisation needs as well. It's a good place to spread out.”
Crescent Cleaning Services in their short existence have built an income and employment opportunities, and vitally, have had an impact on the lives of the people who work there. As Jordan said, it’s about listening to your employees, recognising their skills and giving them a safe space to work in.