Gerard received a £12,500 Build It award from Firstport to help grow his business, The Blankfaces - a UK fashion label aimed at ending homelessness. Build It awards support social entrepreneurs, who have proven their business concept and social impact, to commit to their business full time by helping to cover living costs.
The Blankfaces brand gives the homeless community a platform to tell their story, with designs developed in workshops run by fashion students alongside homeless individuals. Gerard set up the enterprise in 2017, initially running ad-hoc classes by himself and engaging with people in a local shelter. He now works alongside 15 volunteers to run weekly classes for up to 20 homeless people.
Gerard McKenzie-Govan, Founder of The Blankfaces, said: “Our aim is to reverse social decay and change perceptions of homelessness. For too long people have thrown money at the issue and this hasn’t helped. We want to tell stories through our brand and get people thinking and talking about homelessness, at the same time as being on trend. People will buy our brand because it looks good and they want the item, instead of buying us out of pity. I see The Blankfaces becoming a global premium brand, changing perceptions throughout the world.
“The Blankfaces was just a little idea I had. It would still be a little idea if it wasn't for Firstport.”
A case study on Gerard and The Blankfaces is available on the Firstport website.
Gerard was one of 20 individuals from across Scotland to share a total of £196,390 grant funding as part of this latest round of awards.
Other successful social enterprises to receive funding include: a multimedia production company specialising in the translation of material for deaf, deafblind, blind and hard of hearing; a hairdresser providing counselling services, as well as a route to employment for young women from disadvantaged backgrounds; and a training service for passenger transport operations with profits funding a community transport provision in Aberdeenshire.
Josiah Lockhart, Chief Executive of Firstport, said: “Congratulations to Gerard and all of the individuals who successfully secured funding to progress their ideas. It’s fantastic to see such a diverse range of businesses supported in this latest round, proving that almost any business can be set up as a social enterprise, using profit to create positive social impact.”
For further information, including details on other award winners, please contact Jess Gray, Communications Officer (0131 558 2724, firstname.lastname@example.org)