Give and gain. It’s Natalie Brown’s mantra for living. She’s here by royal appointment, on secondment from family bakers Warburtons to one of Prince Charles’ charities, out to make a difference in breadline Blackpool.
Natalie is the link between Blackpool’s business world and charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups and the Prince’s Business In The Community charity, now operating locally.
She’s already helped coordinate a voluntary workforce of local businesses who cleaned a section of beach and Promenade at South Shore - and conducted a nature survey along the way – for the recent Give and Gain day.
Natalie, BITC’s Business Connector in Blackpool, explains: “By working together, the group had a bigger impact than any of the businesses could have achieved individually. Everyone valued the opportunity to make a difference in their local community.”
The event was organised by Natalie by way of introduction to the business community.
She normally works as a human resources manager for Warburtons which was itself forced to make redundancies among its resort workforce earlier this year.
Natalie stresses: “We are a company which values people, understands the difference they make. I wasn’t directly involved in the redundancies but in terms of supporting people as much as could be done was done – it’s how Warburtons work.”
Natalie joined the family bakers 10 years ago on a graduate scheme. She’s now won 12 months out with her boss’s blessing to help community services supporting employability, enterprise and education.
She’s one of 700 business connectors working with BITC over the next five years in hundreds of deprived areas.
The project places trained professionals in areas of social and economic need to help transform communities.
Troubleshooters have come from the ranks of BT, Carillion, Dairy Crest, E-On, Greggs, Lloyds Banking Group, M&S, Royal Mail, Sainsbury’s, United Utilities , Waitrose - and Warburtons.
Natalie works with the Social Enterprise Solutions team at the Enterprise Centre on Lytham Road.
Tony Carr, managing director of the community interest company, adds: “Natalie is a great ambassador. I would urge all private sector firms that want to do more in their local community to make contact with her.”
Natalie’s worked with a similar project in Burnley.
“It gave me a taste for hands-on community work. At one event we got 28 volunteers from different companies to help a local cricket club which put on activities and events for young people. Those helped said it was the best thing that happened in 10 years.”
The BITC, over which Prince Charles presides, has helped young entrepreneurs set up 14 new retail businesses in Middlesbrough, created 150 new jobs for young people in Lambeth, assisted 60-riot hit small businesses in Tottenham, and rebuilt a community centre on a deprived south London estate.
Natalie’s assessing the challenge in Blackpool, a town with high rates of young people not in education, training or employment.
“I’ve met some fantastic people and there’s a real will to make a difference here.
“My aim is to match businesses with the right charities, social enterprises and voluntary projects.
“I want to involve primary schools and youth groups. Our aim is to achieve sustainable outcomes – but it’s all about finding the right mix.
“Everyone’s heard of the Prince’s Trust but this is a business-led charity.
“There are 850 member companies nationally who understand the mutual benefit of working in their communities. Locally, I can help more make that start.
“It’s not my HR knowledge that will make the difference but communication and interpersonal skills and thinking differently, identifying opportunities and networking.”
Natalie’s already involved with a Blackpool food bank, His Provision, at the Life centre, on Raikes Parade. “They provide food parcels and other items needed and are passionate about supporting people.
Warburtons have committed to supporting them through regular product donations – I’ll also be looking to see how I can work with them in my business connector role.”
Stephen Howard, Business in the Community chief executive, concludes: “The scheme is based on the proven impact of taking business resource, skills and time into the heart of communities.
“We’re delighted Warburtons has placed Natalie with us to work full time on supporting local community services in Blackpool and look forward to the valuable connections she will make.
“We’re out to celebrate the powerful, positive role business plays in society, we hope other organisations are inspired by the leadership shown by our supporting businesses to also take a stand to build prosperous cohesive communities at this critical time. It’s exciting that so many businesses are backing this movement.”
Natalie’s appointment comes almost a year since the Big Lottery Fund awarded £4.8m to kickstart the Business Connectors programme in disadvantaged areas of England.
The BITC says the talent pool adds up to £39m worth of talent – and £52m worth of impact to local communities.”