It's easy for big businesses to donate huge amounts to charities and communities, but being a micro business we don't have the same wiggle room in profits, time or manpower to make the big gestures.
We try instead to work with our customers to try and leave the world a little better than how we found it.
Making pins & donating to local Mental Health Charity
Back in August 2019 we were personally sadly reminded once again that mental health issues and suicide are rife in the world; far too often in our home Belfast, and so much so amongst men. We realise that we can't make any great changes ourselves... but we wanted to try to do a little bit to help.
We made a pin; to raise money for charity, and to also possibly be light for someone in crisis. We designed the pin to hopefully be a conversation starter; to create a tiny pause in that person's day, that it might make room for a life-saving conversation. It might not mean much to most, but we hope that it may encourage folk who need it.
This project blew up our Social Media and our Website from the moment we set it live. So many people helped it take a life of it's own; people were asking for handfuls of pins to sell to their friends, others were taking trips around the Country with pocketfuls of pins to leave in crisis locations. Although the donations go to a local charity, folk from all over the world have been getting involved and donating. It's been a moving and privileged experience to see how supportive communities have been.
We sell these pins for £3 each, with £2 of each sale going to PIPS Charity; a life saving Charity based in Belfast, dedicated to offering advice and support to those affected by suicide. The other £1 pays for the materials and allows us to advertise; we want to reach as many people as we can. This will be an ongoing project for us and are touched to see that people are still getting involved years after the launch.
Total raised so far (as of January 2023): £1390
Jenny's Reflection on the Stay Project
A particularly poignant moment in this project happened to me during the Belfast Continental Market in Christmas 2019; I was working a day shift in the chalet alone when a group of teenage boys came tearing through. They were harmless, just incredibly hopped up on energy drinks and the idea of mischief; they went through everything for sale getting more excited and more incomprehensible every moment. We had a box of Stay Pins up for sale, with a blurb about their meaning. As these young whipper-snappers came tearing through the chalet, the 'Loud Leader' of them all immediately stood still and stopped having a laugh. I don't think the other boys noticed, and they all left and continued on their merry way, having the time of their lives and annoying every one over the age of 30. About 15 minutes passed and the Loud Leader came in sheepishly and quickly into the chalet (I think back now to how grateful I am that it was a quiet moment when no-one else was anywhere around)... he came up to me and put 72p on our desk and said he wanted to donate this to the Charity. He gave a sad smile and ran away quickly. There was a lot of fluff and wrappers amongst the money, he'd obviously dug deep in his wee pockets. I don't know what happened to that young fella, but his 72p and his action of coming back meant more to me than anything else in this project. Every time I do anything related to the Stay Project I think about him; I hope that some of this money is going towards keeping teenagers laughing loudly and annoying me, instead of being sad.
PPE for Covid
Making & Donating PPE to Front Line Workers during Lockdown
Yikes, who saw covid coming?! Overnight our business crashed down in front of our eyes. We didn't know if it'd ever survive (or indeed if we would survive ourselves for that matter). It was a downright frightening time for everyone, and looking back on it now, it's not an experience I'm rushing to repeat.
But quickly we realised that our Customers are amazing; we're so beyond grateful for those that rallied to support small local businesses like ours. We truly wouldn't have been able to pay rent if it weren't for the faithfulness of our supporters. It was this immense sense of community support that led us one to talking one night about how we can pass it on. Then one of Anto's friends had mentioned it to him about making PPE and getting contracts with the NHS. I won't bore you with the details of how futile the path of NHS contracts are. We decided instead to combine our community payback with the PPE...
Being a small business working out of a garage and a shed in the middle of a global pandemic, we unfortunately weren't in the position to fund it all ourselves. But we had time. Oodles of it. Time that otherwise would've been spent out for dinner with friends, going on trips, or let's be honest, just being able to go to the shops. Materials were so limited, so we had to make something out of what we had. We knew from the Stay Project that people liked pin badges, and we had enough to get by. So we designed 2 pins; And NHS Superhero Pin & a Rainbow Pin. We sold these and used the profits to buy the materials to make Face Shields.
Neither of us knew anything about plastic; what type to use, how to use it, nothing. The guys at Comco Plastics, and in particular Lynda Kynes gave us a crash course of what we needed to know. And we were off! The rest of the materials were like gold dust, but after chatting to a few businesses, they worked with us to make sure we had what we needed. Between Pins and Face Shields, our laser was running through the night, and so were we.
During the day we were out delivering to mostly Care Homes, Covid Testing Sites, Domiciliary Care Workers and Shop Workers. There didn't seem to be anywhere that had enough PPE. There were scary stories about Hospital Staff and the conditions they were working in. PPE reportedly wasn't arriving for them from the contractors. We drove around delivering boxes when and where we could. We were meeting other Donators in car parks to swap supplies and share PPE. We were getting messages all the time about places in need. And all the time, people continued to buy pins to support the cause. In many ways we were lucky that first wee while in lockdown was quieter with orders, we didn't have time to do anything else!
Total raised (this project is finished): "We raised enough money to make and donate 2000 Face Shields"
Anto's Reflection on PPE for Covid
Although I hope none of us ever have to live through another global pandemic, I feel really fortunate to have lived through this experience. We never dreamt that so many people would jump on this project, and devote their time, their money and their expertise. It was a time when we got to see the power of community from the front row and I'll always remember how fortunate we both felt to be able to help in this way. I'd prefer to never see a face shield ever again haha, but I'm so glad we took the chance on trying to do this.
'Trees on the Land'
Donating profits of Christmas Card sales to planting trees in Ireland
What sort of eco-conscious wood engraving business would we be if we didn't plant some trees?!
Trees on the Land is a cross-border initiative working to establish young native trees across the 32 counties of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. They provide simple schemes for landowners to access quality native tree mixes each season. 'Trees on the Land' work with farmers, smallholders, community groups, councils, schools, colleges, sports clubs and many other landowners to coordinate sites to accommodate trees. Their vision is to establish tree cover and woodland in rural and urban areas that will grow for many years and provide valuable resources, beneficial ecosystem services and a lasting legacy for future generations.
We designed a Christmas Card and accompanying wooden Christmas Bauble on recycled card. For every card sold we plant a tree.
Total trees planted so far (as of January 2023): 132
Jenny's Reflection on 'Trees on the Land'
We always wanted to make sure we were giving back to re-forestation efforts, since we're very aware that our main material is wood. By celebrating our love of wood, we didn't want to only take it and be part of the problem. Being on the Isle of Ireland and coming from Belfast, we were very conscious of not picking sides when it came to where we planted the trees. We wanted to plant them on both sides of the border. 'Trees on the Land' has been such a perfect fit for us and they're such lovely people; we're so proud to have their Charity's name on the back of our Christmas Cards.
Donating pins and all profits to Ukrainians during the War
Our reaction to this war was a bit of a knee-jerk and not as well planned and creative as our previous tree planting project. But didn't we all just jump to attention and throw any support we could when this horrendous war started? It was heartbreaking and frightening, and our privilege and safety was glaringly obvious.
We used our tried and tested concept of pin badges; this time though we made them by the bucketful and handed them out in scoops. We gave hundreds to a remarkable Community Activist Paul Doherty who drove an aid lorry to Ukraine; he gave them out to Ukrainians in Ukraine as a tiny token reminder of all our support. We raised money with them at Ukrainian Peace Rallys in Belfast. We sold them online and donated the money to Redcross Humantarian appeal for Ukraine. We wear them and keep a few extras in our pockets; we've both found ourselves collecting donations with them while out walking the dog. It's been another beautiful opportunity to see how people are desperate to help and show support.
Total raised so far (as of January 2023): £452
Anto's Reflection on Supporting Ukraine
A line from my favourite movie stuck with me when we were thinking about Ukraine, 'What can Men do against such reckless hate?'. Lord of the Rings is full of the triumph of good over evil and the coming together of people and I felt this line from a fictional war in a made up universe encouraged me to act. Even though it's such a small thing that we did, I was glad to be have something to do to help those that are in peril.