Upcycling for community benefit

gIn August 2012 the Glad Cafe started trading in the southside of Glasgow. Set up as a Community Interest Company its aim was to run a busy cafe with a well equipped venue for live music and other arts events. Its social objective was that eventually its profits would be used to provide affordable music lessons for local young people through the Glad Foundation.

By June 2013 the Glad Cafe was busy and building its reputation for good food and quality gigs. But the challenges of running a business in an old building that we had to spend so much money on was throwing up questions about our long term viability – would we ever break even? And would we ever have those all important profits to put into the development of the Glad Foundation?

Then Linda, one of our regulars, came to speak to me. Weren’t we going to do something about the empty shop right next door she asked? Wouldn’t it give us more presence on the high street to have the additional frontage? And furthermore wouldn’t it make sense to run it as a charity shop to provide funds for the Glad Cafe and the Glad Foundation? It so happened that the charity shop world was Linda’s area of expertise – she could help us get such a venture off the ground, and even run it if we so wished!

Well, this was looking interesting! I started exploring the idea which seemed increasingly attractive. But how could we get the money together to start up another venture? I started looking around, speaking to people, asking questions. One of the people whose door I knocked on was Alan Davidson, about to start heading up the Co-operative Glasgow Business Development team. He asked me if I’d ever thought about starting a co-operative and spelt out the benefits of the model.

I talked to friends already involved in co-operatives. I went to Martin Meteyard at the Cooperative Enterprise Hub. I looked into the different forms that a cooperative could take and was very impressed with the positive spirit that co-operative companies seemed to encourage. Within weeks we had set up a not for profit cooperative limited by guarantee that could plough its profits into supporting the Glad Cafe programme and the Glad Foundation.

By then a talented group of three women joined me to form the Board of Glad Rags Cooperative Limited – Laura with a love and depth of knowledge of fashion, Jennie with her own upcycling fashion business and Karina with her concern for the environment and desire to divert unwanted clothes from landfill. This was going to be no standard second-hand shop! It was going to have a style all of its own that complemented the style of the Glad Cafe. We salvaged what we could from the previous business, upcycling old flooring into new signage and old cafe signs into shelving, creating a quirky, environmentally friendly recycled setting on which to display the range of retro clothes, records, books and bric-a-brac that were donated.
In January we employed Linda and Glad Rags opened its doors!


The Glad Cafe hosted our opening night and was packed to capacity – such was the interest in the shop. We explained to the assembled throng what the purposes of our shop were: that we wanted to provide a mutual learning opportunity for members – to find out about retail, to learn about upcycling; we would gather donated clothes and goods for sale diverting them from landfill; we would bring benefit to the local community by helping families to save money by providing good quality reasonably priced goods and also by supporting the Glad Foundation with our profits; and finally we would create employment for one and a volunteer programme to train up job seekers and enable them to become ready for work.

Glad Rags is now four months old, and has already brought these benefits to our local community. The shop is popular and well supported. We have run fashion events throughout February, and an event for Fashion Revolution Day in April. We are looking forward to a busy summer, and the possibility of taking part in some local festivals.

If you ever make a visit to Glasgow, why not call in at Glad Rags Co-operative Ltd for a bargain!

Glad Rags Glasgow is grateful to Cooperative Glasgow Business Fund for the grant that helped us to get up and running.


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