Badur’s grant was used to purchase essential trading materials, a vehicle and insurances associated with the furniture re-purposing venture. Re-covered was able to start trading in May 2015. Sales figures have increased by an average of 22% per month. As relationships with local housing associations strengthen, a new website has been launched and due to the on-going dedication of the enterprise’s student-led team, Re-covered is going from strength to strength. It has become the cheapest furniture option to low-income households in Nottingham and - in 2016 - was a participant of the Enactus UK social enterprise championships, semi-finals of the Enactus World Cup in Toronto.
One of Re-covered’s founders, Cherie White – a University of Nottingham alumna - has remarked that “the funds from Badur Foundation have … dramatically improved our efficiency and … allowed us to break even on running costs each week.”
Re-covered has had 16 paid staff members since its conception. Employees join as part of a paid work placement and are trained up by one permanent member of staff – an experienced furniture restorer. Re-covered has partnered with local furniture organisations who are able to employ them on a permanent basis thereafter.
Re-covered’s directors estimate that the enterprise has saved customers around £49,000 and Nottingham Council £68,000. Re-covered has now established a partnership with Nottingham Credit Union to provide credit options to customers. With 45,000 social houses in Nottingham alone, there appears to be significant potential for the social enterprise to continue to grow.
Re-covered was born out of the international Enactus programme, in which The University of Nottingham participates. Enactus is an international non-profit organisation dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action. It provides a platform for teams of outstanding university students to create community development projects that put people’s own ingenuity and talents at the centre of improving their livelihoods.
Re-covered employs and trains vulnerable adults to refurbish and recycle waste furniture, which can then be sold at a discounted price to local housing association tenants. Housing associations must - by law - remove all furniture from premises including carpets and curtains prior to a new tenant taking possession of the property. A typical tenant is someone on the verge of homelessness, has little or no furniture and also little disposable income with which to purchase necessities such as beds, chairs etc. In some cases, it may lead to tenants turning to pay day loans and debt to finance their furniture.
Nottingham City Council has historically sent around 850 items of furniture each week to be crushed and added to landfill sites. In addition to its social impact through employment and furniture affordability, Re-covered is therefore helping social services to reduce this landfill, mitigate CO2 emissions and save on time wasted in association with the disposal of reusable furniture.
As part of its drive to enable skill-sharing across communities, Badur funded and arranged a workshop for social entrepreneurs in Hungary to which the directors of Re-covered were invited to participate and share their experiences.