A recent art graduate has been using her baking skills to fund access to essential art therapy and craft boxes for children during lockdown with the launch of a new social enterprise – The Palette.
Rebecca Perry (23) from North Shields, graduated in 2019 with a degree in Fine Art from Newcastle University and launched a baking business just months later. Using the profits generated from her first 6 weeks of trading from a mobile van on Newcastle Quayside market, Rebecca was able to create and deliver over 100 free arts and craft boxes every single week to children during the recent Covid-19 lockdown period.
Rebecca Perry, founder of The Palette said: “During my three years at University, I volunteered for the likes of schools, hospitals and managed care facilities. I was always keen to use art as a tool to promote wellbeing, improve confidence, deal with anxiety and open up avenues for disadvantaged children and adults to engage in the creative arts.
“When I graduated, it quickly became clear that art therapy in the community is an under-funded and under-valued service. Securing financial assistance to deliver art therapy sessions to individuals would be incredibly difficult to manage.”
Rebecca decided to set up a social enterprise, where profits generated through one side of the business would fund the community outreach programme for art therapy. With a passion and superior skill for baking, Rebecca launched a bakery business to help fund access to art therapy through cake.
Initially setting up on Newcastle Quayside, Rebecca was able to secure a permanent site for her mobile takeaway van at St Peters Basin during lockdown. The new base allows local people to access her Covid-friendly takeaway service as well as utilise the new socially distanced outdoor seating area.
Rebecca continues: “Our cocktail cakes and range of vegan cakes are hugely popular, but we are also in the process of expanding into warm and savoury items. The key advantage of being at St Peter’s Basin has been we can access a workshop room where we can soon start delivering group art sessions to children and hopefully, socially distant art sessions for the elderly. We have applied for grant funding to support the latter, but this is a vital support session to help with post-lockdown isolation for many elderly people in the community.”
Thanks to her army of volunteers, Rebecca and her team became a lifeline for children and parents during lockdown by delivering free art boxes using profits from her business. The art boxes, along with free videos and live workshops on youtube, helped Rebecca reach children who may not have been able to purchase art supplies during the lockdown period. Delivering from Newcastle all the way up to Morpeth, Rebecca used community Facebook groups to find families in need of supplies and was recently supported with an additional £700 grant from START UP at Newcastle University via a grant from their partnership with Santander Universities UK to help fund the ongoing costs associated with the community art programme.
Rebecca continues: “I’ve been lucky to set up the Palette thanks to the help and support of some key individuals. Through START UP, the University’s offer to Newcastle students and recent graduates interested in self-employment and starting a business, I was introduced to business advisor, Nicky Burke. Nicky has been incredibly effective, guiding me through the business planning and launch process and I’ve been able to use her as a solid sounding board for ideas. She has also introduced me to a variety of connections and partner organisations but most importantly, she signposted me to the North Tyneside Business Factory and their specialist social enterprise team.
“The Business Factory is supported by the ERDF and helped me get my social enterprise up and running as well as finetune my business skills with a number of specialist workshops in everything from accountancy to HR processes.”
Rebecca received support to launch and grow the business from the Newcastle University START UP team, who have partnered with TEDCO business advisers to deliver bespoke, one-to-one business advice and coaching
Nicky Burke, business advisor at START UP Newcastle University & TEDCO comments: “Through my work with START UP and the North Tyneside Business Factory team, I offer guidance on the many areas to be considered when setting up a business, but I also help suggest other support and complementary organisations which could be of benefit. In the case of Rebecca, it was clear from the outset that the service she ultimately wants to provide needs to be funded through other means which she has demonstrated perfectly during lockdown.
“I wish her the best of luck with The Palette and look forward to continuing our working relationship as the business develops.”