Quaker Jo Poole, founder of The Dress Doctor, has been announced as one of the Future 100 Young Social Entrepreneurs of the Year on Social Enterprise Day during Global Entrepreneurship Week 2011. This is a worldwide movement of entrepreneurial people, with millions unleashing their talents and turning their ideas into reality. It began as Enterprise Week in the UK back in 2004. When news spread, other countries got excited about the potential of running similar initiatives and it became global entrepreneurship week, spreading to 115 countries, with nearly 24,000 organisations planning more than 37,000 activities.
The Dress Doctor offers a mobile fitting and alterations service that “ensures the contents of your wardrobe are part of your future as well as your past.”
Jo writes: “I set up The Dress Doctor in the summer of 2006 when I was working as a freelance costumier. I wanted to create something without debt, and going from freelance to sole-trader has served me well, allowing me to learn about marketing and build a solid client base on my own terms, whilst being flexible enough to adapt as necessary. As I am not operating within an established industry there has been much learning involved.
“Within a few months of starting up I had a page feature in The Times, which started me off in the right direction. Since then I had features including the Financial Times, Independent and local press. I’m on local radio as an expert every couple of months, and work with the Ethical Fashion Forum at events where I rework garments live on stage.
“Five years in, around 60% of my business is with repeat clients. As this builds I will continue to be their primary contact, but will buy in help with sewing, marketing and admin. When I started, I underestimated the personal relationship with clients and the amount of trust they hand over to me. I now realize this is my primary asset.
“I live my life and run my business in accordance with my Quakerism that has the testimonies of truth, simplicity, peace, equality and sustainability at its core.
“It has always been the relationship between social and dress history that is my primary interest, with the practical skills associated with them coming a close second. When looking at setting up my own business it soon became apparent that further branded goods and products were not the answer. The nations wardrobes are not bare, yet their owners use a tiny percentage of their contents. There is the world of the image consultant, who will rationalise what you own, align your skin tone with a colour scheme and help you fill the gaps – but where? back on the same High Street that provided the badly cut, unflattering clothes in standard sizes which have little or no relation to most people’s bodies. And as we all know, going out to buy something specific usually results in a compromise, which in turn morphs into another unloved belonging.”
The Future 100 Awards were first launched in 2008 to recognise and profile young entrepreneurs running businesses that have a triple bottom line. The definition of this is a business that considers people, planet and profit. They have a strong commercial foundation as well as a significant social and environmental impact. These awards recognise the success of those aged 18-35 who demonstrate entrepreneurial flair and innovation in progressing a responsible business venture.
Founder of Striding Out and organiser of the Future100 awards, Heather Wilkinson said: “The future of our world is in the hands of individuals who are committed to generating commercial and ethical returns. Challenging economic times can offer opportunities to question the way we operate as both a business community and a society. We have a history of profiling the ‘Future 100’ young entrepreneurs who are changing the face of everyday business and improving commerce’s impact on the wider world.” The Future 100 awards encourages and rewards extraordinary vision, ethical business practice and social responsibility. They aim to showcase businesses that offer innovative and sustainable solutions to social problems. The Future 100 Awards is organized by Striding Out, a social enterprise which is committed to supporting the development and growth of young and ethical entrepreneurs.
As part of her commitment to helping others, Jo recently donated materials to Senior Moments, a group of women prisoners at East Sutton Park prison, via Women in Prison. Senior Moments is a group of women over 60 who have started their own group coming together to talk and do activities. There is currently very little activity geared towards them, so they were the recipients of various sewing box essentials, books, threads, fabric scraps and balls of wool from Jo.
Jo is a member of Cambridge Quakers and has been a trustee of the Quakers & Business group for the past five years.