Enlightenings: The Story Behind the New Social Enterprise

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“On the back of the research, families are now spending as little as four hours a week together sharing quality time,” said Helen Kennedy, the owner of Enlightenings. “Instead of giving your child something to do at the dinner table whilst you’re busy with all your other jobs, my ethos is to try and put some time in the diary for the whole family to come together.”

Enlightenings is a new social enterprise based on Helen’s experience and learning from being a youth worker, specifically through the pandemic. The idea and concept of it is income generated from family well-being activity packs, and that be fed back into the longer-term plan, which is a wellness space for Redcar and Cleveland.

Helen’s activity boxes are filled with all sorts of crafts that allow families to spend quality time together and make a real connection not only by doing something fun but also by discussing important things and proving that everyone in the family has a voice.

According to Helen, it’s especially beneficial for new families, such as foster carers, adoptive parents or grandparents who have taken on their children’s children.

One of the examples is a gratefulness box, that allows families to design their own superhero masks.

“It’s designed for a slightly younger child, but I’ve never known anyone not to have fun making their own superhero masks,” Helen said. “You get some instructions – but not too prescriptive. There’s also a notebook to write the do’s and don’ts and what your family stands for, and let everyone share their thoughts.”

One of the examples of activity boxes that Enlightenings offer
Gratefulness Box

About Helen

Helen is a qualified mental health counsellor and was previously employed in schools to help young people. However, Helen noticed that short sessions with those struggling weren’t enough and she wanted to do something that would allow her to spend more time with those who needed her support.

“Therefore I got headhunted by a youth work charity and they wanted me to deliver a pre-employability programme. I did that but then I saw that it wasn’t the employability that these young people wanted. They wanted support with life in general,” Helen remembered. “So I moved quickly into well-being and developed my skill from counselling into a well-being awareness.”

Coming up with the business idea

“It wasn’t until I got my daughter’s friends and their parents along to a play day and I found that I and two other moms were doing face glitter bits on people’s arms and we were talking about how expensive they were to buy and how we could do something like that ourselves. Maybe even get glitter that’s better for the skin. That’s how I came up with the idea originally.”

Helen revealed that the original plan was to start a subscription service. However, she realised that she needs real connection with people:

“I don’t deal well without humans in front of me. So I decided to deliver it to an actual person, so they are able to see the benefit of what they’re taking part in.”

To have more interaction with people, Helen is hoping to open a wellness space for Redcar and Cleveland in the future.

“My hope is to have a space, so I can invite people to that space and we can do things together and then discuss the purpose behind them. This way people can still come along and have fun at my sessions but they can also sustain it themselves at home,” she explained.

No perfect time to start a business

When asked when she realised it was the perfect time to start a business, Helen revealed that there’s no such thing as a perfect time.

“I’m still working full time. I still have children. I actually now have parents who have moved in with me and who I care for. So there’s no perfect time. If you’re passionate about it, just try and get it done. Even if it’s a bit this month and a bit more next month and then maybe change your mind the month after and go off in a different direction!”

The main reason Helen wanted to start a business was to make a positive impact in the local community:

“I wanted to get off the hamster wheel and do something more impactful for my own family.”

One of the examples of activity boxes that Enlightenings offer
The packaging of the Gratefulness Box

Experience working with the business advisor

“I am an all-or-nothing kind of person and I didn’t want to do it half-hearted. I needed some guidance and support in regards to the business planning side of things,” Helen explained why she decided to come to EMS instead of starting the business by herself.

Helen started her business journey with Barbara Pugh, one of the business advisors at EMS. According to Helen, Barbara has been very helpful and is easy to relate to.

“Barbara is super friendly and incredibly passionate about what she’s trying to achieve – to help people set up independently. She just connects well with people and makes the experience very personalised. She’s helping me spread my reach a bit and link with other people. And I like the fact that she’s offered me the opportunity of showcasing my business model to other new business startups.”

Apart from business advice, Helen named acknowledgement as another benefit of working with Barbara.

“She just got it straight away. And she’s a mum herself which is a good bonus. I get the feeling that from all her experience, she would say if something wasn’t going to work,” Heled said. “I can just pick up the phone or drop her a message and she’s back straight away.”

Advice to others starting a business

When asked what advice she would give to someone else who is thinking about starting a business, Helen said:

“Come to EMS. Definitely. Even if it’s not a really formed concept and idea yet. If you’ve got that spark, the people here have got the knowledge you need to be able to head in the right direction. And they support you with the foundations of everything. You can always come back to them afterwards and like me, you can change your mind three times and they’ll still be there to help.”

Festival of Thrift

This year Helen is taking part in the Festival of Thrift, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary.

Helen has revealed that she is a big fan of the festival and hasn’t missed it once since it’s been held at Kirkleatham.

“I go there every year and it actually falls on the exact same weekend as my mum’s birthday,” she said. “It’s an easy birthday gift for my mum but I’ll actually be working this time, which is strange. But I’m excited!”

While it’s the first time Helen is getting involved in the festival independently, she has supported other organisations a few years ago.

“I ran a project with Marske Community Partnership and the local police cadet team and they designed a scarecrow,” Helen said. “It wasn’t actually a scarecrow but it was a whale. It was a whale at the front and then you walked around and you saw the rubbish on the inside. It was a message for people to pick up on the seaside.”

Helen believes that participating in the Festival of Thrift will be great a great opportunity for her and her business:

“It’s one of the biggest if not the biggest event in the local area. And everything it stands for is around the community and coming together. It’s the same as my business idea!”

One of the examples of activity boxes that Enlightenings offer
Contents of Gratefulness Box

You can find Helen and Enlightenings at the Festival of Thrift, Thrive Hive zone.

Thrive Hive zone showcases local independent and early-stage businesses and provides a place for people to come together and participate in entrepreneurial activities promoting self-employment and enterprise skills.

Festival of Thrift is taking place on 24-25th September in Redcar. Find more information about the festival here.

And if you’re interested in starting your own business, we’re always here to help! Visit our stand at the Festival of Thrift or contact us to find out what support is available to you!