Ellen Green founded Blue Badge company in 2011 in the bedroom of a small house in Bristol, hand stitching specially designed wallets for disabled parking permits alongside her friend, a Blue Badge holder. Fed up with what they saw as the universally dull, clinical products available to disabled consumers, Ellen and her friend aimed to create colourful display wallets that would inject some style into the disability market. Since then Blue Badge Company has undergone rapid growth, with Ellen appearing on BBC2’s Dragons’ Den in 2015, before opening a new manufacturing facility in August 2016 and providing inclusive employment opportunities for those who struggle to find work due to their personal circumstances.
“…we may need to make reasonable adjustments. In our experience these adjustments often cost very little, as we have discovered that being flexible and accommodating is key to employing anyone with a disability…”
Blue Badge Company background
My appearance on Dragons’ Den was a great stepping stone in terms of raising awareness of the company, and orders have increased month on month since the show aired and our online business has increased by 50%. We are now selling through many large retailers including Argos, Boots and Lloyds and all these contributing factors made the move to larger, purpose-built premises – a necessity to accommodate this growth and our future plans.
However, I really believe that a company is only as strong as the team behind it. The one thing that has driven me the most is the idea that business has a responsibility to be good for society and I’ve discovered that a rewarding, sustainable job can change someone’s life. I’ve seen it first hand and it’s the part of my company that I am most proud of.
I passionately believe in our Inclusive Employment Programme (IEP) and here at Blue Badge Company – over half our workforce is either registered disabled or a full time carer.
Why we are a values-driven business
Our clear values underpin everything we do at Blue Badge Company and they form a fundamental part of our business model. We are also passionate about quality and British provenance and all our products are made in the UK. We work closely with British suppliers to get the best quality fabrics and component parts and all of our parking permit holders are handmade in our workroom in Bristol.
I truly believe that a company is only as strong as the team behind it. The one thing that has driven me the most is the idea that business has a responsibility to be good for society and I have discovered that a rewarding, sustainable job can change someone’s life. I’ve seen it first hand and it’s the part of my company that I am most proud of. Through promoting the benefits and positive outcomes of our Inclusive Employment Programme, we aim to lead business change and encourage other organisations to develop and implement similar programmes.
Blue Badge Company is proud to stand for inclusion and equal opportunities, so we offer specialist employment and training for people with learning disabilities, mental health issues, physical disabilities and long-term health issues. Our flexible outworker scheme is also ideal for primary caregivers and those with domestic responsibilities.
Inclusive Employment Programme: Being flexible and accommodating is key
We work with local social enterprises to recruit employees with disabilities, which requires a commitment of resources from our HR team and each time we take on a new employee we undertake a 16-week training programme. This includes action plans, job coaches and regular reviews to monitor progress and resolve any work related issues.
Through initial assessments we ascertain if there is a little extra help the employee may require to enable them to carry out their job duties, and we may need to make reasonable adjustments. In our experience these adjustments often cost very little, as we have discovered that being flexible and accommodating is key to employing anyone with a disability.
When one of our employees starts their new job we support them continually for the duration of the Inclusive Employment Programme. We offer a platform for ongoing development, mentoring and advice and this is done through regular contact and meetings. We can offer job coaching through external resources that provide ‘on the job’ training, which helps the employee learn work tasks.
Providing purpose and building confidence
The programme gives our employees purpose and builds their confidence. This breaks the cycle of unemployment and creates clear goals to work towards, as well as the satisfaction of contributing to a productive team. Our committed staff also gain a wealth of soft skills such as timekeeping, problem solving and team working, which will contribute to their long-term success with the company and in future roles.
As we also engage our team in the product development process, we can offer a fantastic level of job satisfaction and personal fulfillment. Along with gaining valuable skills and experience, our staff benefit from flexible working arrangements that fit around their personal commitments.
Creating a positive impact on the economy, environment and society
We have clear guidelines around our Corporate Social Responsibility and aim to continue our positive impact on the economy, the environment and society. We have a commitment to improving the life chances of local people, their families and their local communities.
The success of our programme is ensured by our ability to offer a wide variety of job roles and working environments, thus enabling our employees to gain skills and experience, accredited qualifications and a recent work history for their CVs. Although the impact on peoples’ lives is far greater than just job experience.
Increasing engagement and keeping track of progress
A large portion of our employees work from home, so we increase engagement through regular get-togethers and sewing classes at the workroom. Targets are set at both an individual and team level. During the 16-week programme time trials are given to help the new employee log progress and attain target levels. These targets are then monitored monthly and included in the overall manufacturing productivity report, which is assessed by the management team. Feedback and evaluation is offered and communicated back to the employee.
For example, we operate a bonus scheme for the outworkers, which guarantees quality control. If the weekly target of 200 pieces are all passable quality, the employee receives a 2% bonus. However, if more than 2% of the pieces produced are faulty the company will charge for the cost of goods. This ensures that our commitment to quality is delivered and appreciated by our whole team.
Promoting inclusive employment to others
We are proud to promote our Inclusive Employment Programme on our website and across all of our social media platforms, as well as through regular speaking engagements at conferences, trade shows and networking events. We hope that by sharing the story of our success in implementing our company values in everything we do, we will encourage other businesses to make a commitment to inclusion and equal opportunities.
Coming up next
We will be exhibiting at two forthcoming exhibitions: Trade Days (Birmingham NEC, 25th and 26th September- stand TE 95) and Rehacare (Dusseldorf, 28th September to 1st October – Hall 03, stand A74/VI). At both events Blue Badge Company will be showcasing our full portfolio of products and looking to recruit new UK and international retailers, so do come and see us if you’ll be there.