Former Remploy worker sets-up social enterprise GreenCap
A social enterprise set-up by a former employee of Remploy has been visited by Education Minister Leighton Andrews.
GreenCap, based at Caerphilly’s Western Industrial Estate, was founded by former Remploy employee, Steven Watts. The company refurbishes and re-upholsters furniture.
Mr Watts was made redundant from the Remploy’s Treforest plant when it closed in 2007 and had worked for the company for 12 years as part of its management team.
When the factory closed, Mr Watts kept in touch with several of his colleagues and discovered that some had suffered a dramatic loss of confidence.
He said: “I used to ring those who I worked with and their lives had stopped. They weren’t going out, they weren’t connecting with anyone and they were finding it hard to find a job.
“I believed in what Remploy was doing with disabled people. We felt cheated when they closed Treforest – it couldn’t be right.”
Mr Watts hit upon the idea of refurbishing old office furniture and selling it on. GreenCap was launched in March this year and the company, which employs five, has not looked back.
It secured funding of £23,000 for equipment costs and an £80,000 grant for staff costs from the Community Economic Development (CED) Programme. Caerphilly County Borough Council offers the firm a peppercorn rent on its second premises used for storage and gives it a 100% business rate relief.
Council leader Harry Andrews said: “GreenCap is a success story. It is a growing opportunity and one that has the support of the Welsh Government, local authorities and other businesses.
“It almost feels like a piece of DNA has broken off from the original concept of Remploy back in the 1940s.”
So far the company has sold 100 desks and 130 chairs, which would have otherwise gone to landfill, and have customers that include 118 118, HSBC, Swalec and Cardiff City Council.
During his visit last week, Education and Skills Minister Leighton Andrews said: “I remember the Treforest Remploy factory closing. It was a very hard time and we’re going through equivalent hard times at the moment with the current closure of Remploy factories – including Croespenmaen in the Caerphilly Borough.
“It’s very good to see something positive coming out of that experience and I want to congratulate Steve on what has been achieved and the council for its support.”
A key development in the formation of the company was a chance meeting between founder Steve and Lucinda Butler, of the Welsh Contact Centre Forum.
Ms Butler, who now sits on the company’s board, said: “It’s fantastic and there is a real need for what they’re doing. My role is to try and get them the influence and the contacts they need.”
St Martins’ ward councillor James Fussell, who also sits on the board in an unpaid capacity, said: “I feel very proud to be part of a company that was established following the demise of Remploy and I will do everything I can to help make it a success for Steve and his business development manager Rocky Worsfold.”Follow @CaerphillyObsvr