Successful businesses generate profit, but what they then do with that profit can have a big impact on society. We Make Good is a business that makes money, but the company – which describes itself as a social enterprise – uses that money to create job opportunities for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Joan Ellison from We Make Good joined Ryan Tubridy in studio and she described what the company does:

"We Make Good is a social enterprise, Ireland's first social enterprise design brand. For people out there who may not know clearly what a social enterprise is, we’re a business like any other. We’re profit-driven, we generate traded income, but we’ve a social goal at the end of that. So, it’s really what we do with our profits that makes us different."

Profit with soul, as Ryan described it. We Make Good launched in 2018 and Joan told Ryan that the idea for the business came about from talking to other social enterprises around the country and sharing the frustration arising from the lack of employment opportunities for people coming out of prison, or people from a refugee or traveller background, or people who have struggled with addiction.

"In particular at that time we were talking to organisations working with people who’d come through prison. And they were so sick of seeing the same people coming through the doors because they would come out of prison, go to them and do a CE scheme, and train and upskill, learn woodwork, learn craft, really committed to changing their lives. And they would leave and no one would give them a job."

The problem, as Joan explains it, is that employers want to see proof that a potential employee can do the job and that means getting a reference from a previous employer – which people who’ve come through prison can’t get and so they go back to the organisations they trained with when they came out of prison and the catch-22 scenario starts all over again. This is what We Make Good wants to change.

Ryan was also joined in studio by Nadine, who told him her story and how she took the opportunity that We Make Good offered her:

"I’m from the north side of Dublin and I’ve struggled with addiction, alcohol and drug abuse since the age of 15, so the best part of 19 years. I stopped working in 2011. Struggled over the years, relapses, clean time. And then I was given a great opportunity to start with We Make Good in November last year."

Nadine described the 10 years since she stopped working as "really lonely", with periods of stability, followed by lapses and little sense of belonging or belief. She said she’s currently homeless and struggling, but reckons she’s always going to struggle. We Make Good has provided her with a level of support that has really made a difference. Nadine works on the machines and does some hand sowing as well. The stuff she works on includes cushions, textiles and home furnishings.

"The job is supporting me fully, like. It’s a purpose to get up in the morning. I’m looking at stuff going from paper to products and that gives me more of a goal to get up and get out there and do it."

Nadine has plenty of ambitions: she wants to improve her sowing skills – she had never done it before she started at We Make Good – she also wants to get into sound engineering, and she has a grand plan to open a barber and hairdresser for children with sensory needs:

"Getting your hair cut can be quite distressing for a child, especially kids that wouldn’t be, like verbal, non-verbal kids, kids with hearing problems and eyesight problems and any kind of additional need."

The We Make Good story is, Ryan suggests, a good news story. And that’s something that’s needed in the madness of the world we live in right now. Joan explained that when they launched the business, they weren’t sure how it would be received:

"Do people want a piece of furniture that’s been made by someone who’s spent time in prison, or, you know, has had struggles with addiction, is that something they want, or even, don’t want? But when we did launch, the response was so huge, you know, they really, people loved the idea that they could buy something and have it in their home or give it to somebody as a gift, they knew exactly who had made it, they knew that person was on a journey to change their lives."

You can hear Ryan’s full conversation with Joan and Nadine by going here. And you can find out more about We Make Good by going here.