Basil is the most lovely dog and, while short of brainpower and prone to social gaffes, is the most trusting and straightforward soul. It’s a cheap shot to put him in a post about Black Dog (as opposed to Liver Dog, or Curly Coated Retriever Dog), but on the other hand, why not.
I don’t tend to do many shows as an exhibitor – most are just too expensive and/or irrelevant – but I have enjoyed the couple I’ve done this year. On my way back from the catchily named Stock Gaylard Oak Show in Dorset yesterday (blog to follow) I was positively glowing after meeting some really genuine, caring, and unremittingly bullish folk. Like Basil, they’re a good antidote to the occasional reaction I’ve had since setting up Habitat Aid.
Over the last year or so most people have been very onside and some incredibly supportive, but I’ve been surprised by a residue of suspicion. It can – frankly – be dispiriting if you’ve had a few days stuck behind a computer and the orders aren’t coming in. Social Enterprises are a new concept for a lot of folk, who will get the idea in time that there are an increasing number of businesses for whom financial profit is not the main objective. I’m occasionally even asked who funds us (Barclays, I guess!), which always seems an odd question and indicative of a state of mind that’s very odd to someone with my background. I also regularly get people asking if this blog is commercial or not… I’ve no idea!
One of the reasons I set this business up is that it is absolutely clear to me that, despite the RSPB’s best efforts, public sector funding for conservation is rapidly disappearing and is not coming back any time soon. As the tide goes out many conservation charities will be left high and dry. Many related good quality small businesses will also go bust. Everyone has to look for alternative sources of revenue.
At this critical juncture and in this financial environment it is imperative that we forget ego and get on with it. There is absolutely no point founding another charity to help bees or hedgehogs or whatever. Help or help to change an existing one – there are really good organizations out there really short of funds. There is absolutely no point in specialist charities working in the same area competing with each other for diminishing funding and membership. There is absolutely no point people slagging off commentators or organizations who are trying to promote the same agenda.
There’s no hidden subtext to what I’m saying here or what we’re doing. I’m just a new kid on the block, but I’m not a hobbyist, or an egotist (arguably!). I’m no expert either; all I want to do is promote the right messages, the right suppliers, and the right people. There are lots of brilliant causes, products and experts out there that the internet is exquisitely equipped to help. Our business model might just be a fantastic way for small charities, specialist companies, and highly skilled consultants to benefit. To say nothing of the environment. Who knows – I might even make a living out of it, touch wood. Time to walk the dog.