A Salty Reflection

Seabirds Community Interest Company celebrated it’s 2nd birthday this week. A time to reflect on how far we have come and how we have shared salted wellbeing.

It’s been two years since Seabirds Community Interest Company started trading. And it has been far from plain swimming. But we wouldn’t change it for the world.

The story so far……….

Our aim was to operate a small social enterprise that made a difference. Made a difference to us, working for ourselves, choosing our hours, and providing autonomy of role. Made a difference to our customers, giving them the option to give back whilst buying their wild swim kit. Made a difference to our partners, other small start up business and ethical family firms. Made a difference to the environment by offering alternative products and donating to Surfers Against Sewage. Made a difference to our local community by providing people with a means to manage their wellbeing and a safe and inclusive swimming group.

The Story of the Shop

It was all done on a budget and without a bank loan. Instead we launched a Crowd Funder in April 2018 to raise enough funds to start the business, buy inventory and donate to Surf Solace. We did no market research other than we knew what worked for us when we swam in the sea.  There have been sleepless nights and differing directions but two years on we are finally where we want to be. A Wild Swim Shop. We still have much to learn and a long list of things we want to do. But we balance that with our time, making sure we still have time to swim in the sea, Social Media marketing can wait! We still suffer from Impostor Syndrome yet are fiercely protective of our company.

The story of the Social Enterprise

In our first year of trading we donated unrestricted funds to Surf Solace and Hove Surf Life Saving Club – both charities that focus on using the sea safely and health and wellbeing. In our second year of trading we received National Lottery and Paddle Round the Pier funding to run Women Wellbeing and Water (WWW) free community courses. WWW’s aim is to provide a way for local people to manage their wellbeing by using sea swimming and friendship. Our aim is to give participants the skills, confidence and self-belief they need to enjoy sea swimming, no matter what additional challenges they face.

The story of the Salty Seabirds

This is our ever growing kind and inclusive swimming community. This wasn’t in the plan but it has become a massive part of who we are and what we do. We needed somewhere to signpost local swimmers who wanted to join us, swimmers who participated in WWW or our Sea Swimming Taster sessions and Confidence Swimming Lessons. So we set up a closed community group, fed and watered it, and it flourished. We have regular weekly swim meets and ad-hoc smaller ones. We have organised events like Moon Swims, Starling Swims and International Women’s Day celebrations. Firm friendships have been formed with members spending Christmas together, trips away together and working together. It is an incredible community and something we are very proud of.

The story of our highlights

We launched our Women, Water and Wellbeing free community course. This has been a real highlight for us. We know how much being part of a nurturing group and swimming in the sea has helped us through some challenging times and has such a positive impact on our wellbeing. We have been fortunate enough to be able to share that with others.

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We have raised nearly £2000 for Thousand 4 £1000 Covid Emergency Fund Thank you to everyone that bought a donation gift or bought a raffle ticket to the weekly art auction. Both are still running until the end of June so still plenty of time to make a difference.

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We ran film nights, safe swim talks and wellbeing talks all to raise funds for causes close to our hearts. Beneficiaries included Cal Major’s Vitamin Sea project and hosted an evening with her. Hove Life Saving Club’s Training Officer gave a series of safe swim talks at Sea Lanes as a fundraiser. We created the extinction rebellion symbol in the sea. Spelled out words with our bodies on the beach. We also joined the Surfers Against Sewage 250 Club as our birthday present to ourselves!

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We have featured on the radio, TV (This Morning) , podcasts (Mother of all Movement and Growing Wild FM) and in magazines (Coast, Health and Fitness and Outdoor Swimmer). We write our only weekly blogs to share stories of the sea and our experiences of mental health. (This is this weeks :-)) We have been guinea pigs for a lot of research into cold water swimming and subjects for university students.

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We have completed a year of moon swims and collaborated with Salt Images on a photographic exhibition that was due to be revealed on the Onca Barge. We were devastated when Covid 19 meant its postponement as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival. As well as the exhibition we had planned beach cleans with The Deans Beach and Environmental Volunteers, guided swims, yoga sessions and short films and talks to share over the course of the festival. For now we have memories of monumental monthly swims under the full moon, watching her rise as we floated in the sea, howling as a group. Starlings at sunset and 4am winter blood moons to name but a few.

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We joined the Blue-tits in Wales for the Great Tit Weekend. We shared an unforgettable few days in Pembrokeshire, constantly wet and smiling. We swam, we sang, we danced. We jumped off cliffs naked into crystal clear waters. We made friends and memories galore.

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We have run Sea Swimming Tasters and pool based swimming lessons all with the emphasis on confidence building and swimming for wellbeing. We are lucky to be supported by local coaches, trainer and teachers that meet the needs of our nervous swimmers.

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We currently have 1719 members of our supportive Salty Seabirds Community Swim Group! We’ve swum in rivers and lakes and of course the sea, across Sussex together but we’ve also shared lots of love, support and kindness. We draw on each other’s bottoms with lipstick, whilst others swim wearing lipstick. We make up songs and sing them with real gusto. We don a fancy dress costume at the drop of a hat. Some of us, take all our clothes off at the drop of a hat. We have handstand competitions regularly. Fire-pits and food on the beach in the evenings. We regularly rally together for good causes close to our hearts. Our flock have run taster sessions for mental health awareness week providing a range of free activities including body positive workshops, yoga, meditation and beach school. We lend and borrow and gift each other with books, plants, recipes, sourdough starters and secret swim spots. We share lifts, laughter, love and lots of cake! And sometimes we even swim!

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We’ve had a lot of headaches but a lot of fun. We are super grateful for all of the support we have received from the Salty community. None of this would have been possible if it were not for our incredible flock! Here’s to more exciting adventure in the future and an abundance of salted wellbeing.

Lots of salty love

Cath & Kath

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Do Good Deeds in Dark Times

Doing good makes you feel good! How the Seabirds built doing good into their business

The Seabirds became a flotilla as our moral compass points the same way so swimming with each other in the same direction was easy. When we decided to start a business together our decision to be a social enterprise wasn’t even discussed. It was assumed. Registering as Community Interest Company was as fundamentally a part of our company set up as registering with Companies House and signing our Articles of Association. Ultimately we are a business and we need to make money to thrive. But with the money we make we reinvest in our business and donate to causes that share our aims of improving wellbeing and the environment. So why do we do this?

The News is full of unhappy headlines. The impact of austerity on the most vulnerable in society. Leaving Europe with ‘No Deal’. Climate Change and the plight of the Polar Bear. Global Civil War and unrest adding to the Refugee Crisis. I could go on but you get the picture.

I don’t read or watch the News. I bury my head firmly in the sand. It’s a form of Self Care. If I let myself dwell on the day’s news I become overwhelmed at the magnitude of the problems we face as a global community. I am rendered a useless sobbing wreck, devoid of joy. But not devoid of hope. Instead I focus on the small stuff. The daily good deeds that make a difference. The Good News!

There is a viral quote that often circulates in the wake of tragic public events.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

So how does a Seabird do good deeds in dark times? How can we be the people that are helping?

The answer was assumed and simple. We set up a business that gives back!

We have a trading arm webshop that gives supporters the opportunity to give as they live. Giving makes you feel good. So does shopping. So why not combine the two?. The internet is accessible to all and our products are affordable, ethically sourced and sustainable. It’s conscious consumerism. Community Interest Companies are governed the same rigour as any other Company ensuring integrity and honesty in its trading but the profits don’t go to shareholders. They go back into the community.

We have a service that enables people to access the sea in a safe environment with the aim of improving their well being. In an age when modern day living rituals have a profoundly negative impact on mental health, the supporting services are being cut back. People are unable to access state funded services unless they meet certain thresholds. We have received National Lottery Funding to run our first wellbeing service courses aimed at women who lack the confidence to swim outdoors that is accessible to all. Until our trading business is buoyant enough to financially support this service we will continue to raise funds via grants.  This Service provides a contribution to the community.

We have a community of year round sea swimmers and Seabird supporters. These seabirds, sea dogs and sea squids give up their time to read through our business plans, set up Pop Ups, review our accounts, volunteer in the water and provide us with feedback. But most importantly they join us in the sea on a regular basis, so we too get respite from from running a new small business. Being part of a local community group  being part of something bigger, being part of the change keeps our business and our mood buoyant.

 

Doing good really does feel good and whilst it won’t solve the world’s problems, as Vincent Van Gogh said ‘Great things are done by a series of small things brought together’. Together we can do good deeds in dark times.

Author: Seabird Kath

Whilst you are here………Our next fundraiser is the  Aviva Community Fund. We are not asking for money but we are asking for 3 minutes of your time to register and vote via the link above. You get 10 votes and can use different email aliases to vote more than once. 

We hope to receive funds to buy equipment like swim hats and dry robes – to keep participants warm and safe, changing and pool facility hire – to provide a safe environment for participants to get used to open water swimming, administration costs and dedicated coaches and instructors to facilitate the courses to ensure the participants get the best out of the courses. Female-centric courses with participants falling into a similar age bracket in a safe and structured environment may be the only way some women would even consider swimming the sea. We are passionate about encouraging more women into the waves to improve their wellbeing and voting for this project would make this happen

Thank you!!!

The Physics of a Pollution Solution. World Environment Day June 5th 2018

 

Isothermal is a word I associate with my kid’s Physics homework. Wikipedia says ‘An isothermal process is a change of a system, in which the temperature remains constant: ΔT = 0.’ Yep that makes it clearer. Genuinely all Greek to me! I though because I listen to Radio 4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage with Professor Brian Cox I would automatically absorb his knowledge by podcast osmosis. Apparently not.

Undeterred, I have done some research. It is basically a way of keeping something at a constant hot or cold temperature when the temperatures surrounding the something are constantly changing. So in the case of the Seabirds Isothermal bottle , you can leave it in a boiling hot car with the windows wound up for hours on end and the temperature won’t change. (Don’t do this with your dog.)

So what else is good about the Seabirds Isothermal bottle? It’s made from stainless steel, not plastic, with a double wall insulation. It has 3 layers to keep drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 hours. The drip free neck is large enough to for ice cubes to fit through. Its ergonomic design is not only pleasant to hold in the hand but the bottle also fits into a standard cup holder. It’s ideal for enjoying tea or coffee throughout the day, warming up after swimming. It’s perfect for ice cold water to help you stay hydrated during and after exercise. You can even send your kids to school with one. Just make sure you scribble all over it with a sharpie and be prepared to search other kid’s school bags when it goes missing.

Keeping your drink hot or cold isn’t the only great thing about it. At only £15 it is a bargain compared to many other leading brands that sell the very same product. And the lovely colours to choose from. The bling Rose Gold is flying out of the shop and we are looking to order more after just two days of trading. The cool blue and snow white are also available.

At Seabirds we are serious about refusing single use and looking for plastic pollution solutions. This bottle fits the bill and our mission. Here at Seabirds HQ we all have one and are able to refill them at various stations across the city . Sourced from a local company in Hove whose ethos mirrors our own, they have created a drinking bottle that keeps water clean, safe and pure. Stainless steel is a food grade product, tested and trusted by the food and beverage industries. It is easy to clean, toxin free, non-leaking, odour and taste free, recyclable and robust for continued usage. The only down side is you cannot put it in the dishwasher!

So on World Environment Day – refuse single use plastic – and be part of the refill revolution! Get yourself a Seabird’s isothermal bottle.

From wet behind the ears to wet behind the ears!

The Seabird’s natural habitat is the sea in Brighton and Hove. Not behind a desk struggling with software, Social Media and suppliers. As the weather (and sea) have warmed up this is where we have found ourselves more and more. Why? Because after many conversations over post swim cuppas and cake, three of our flock decided to set up a Social Enterprise.

The company name Seabirds was chosen as it reflects the three Company Directors and how the business was conceptualised. Seabirds are a group of women that skin swim in the sea all year round on Brighton beach. Seabirds was born of the sea (and in the sea, literally).

Over the last 6 months we have registered Seabirds Brighton as a Community Interest Company with two aims:

  1. To run a successful trading arm that generates an unrestricted and alternative funding stream for local community groups and small charities. Our beneficiaries must meet our objectives and funding priorities of i) local/community based, ii) sea/beach centred iii) aims to improve well-being and the environment.
  2. Deliver regular women’s water confidence programmes in the local community

All of this sounds great doesn’t it? Being you own boss. Working around family life and other work commitments. And it is, but who knew we were so green.

When setting up the business we thought that the experience from our previous lives, that we bought to the table, ticked all the boxes. Backgrounds in Project Management, Design and Retail. Even so the learning curve has been a very sharp arc. Sometimes a vertical climb.

We navigated our way through understanding which legal structure was right for us. Wrote a Business Plan. Applied for a bank account. Bought domain names. Launched a crowdfunder. Attended webinars and workshops on Marketing and Finance. Lot of lovely friends have helped us every step of the way, providing guidance and expertise.

Today we launched our website and online retail business. This is where the learning became steep. Every supplier we deal with wants our in-house designs in a different format from .ai to .png. Their lead times vary from 2 days to 2 months. We are still waiting for some stock to arrive. Our website host Customer Service team are super friendly and helpful but many of the things we want it to do, it just doesn’t do, or we can’t get it to do. Then we decided to launch the webshop at the same time as GDPR was being rolled out. All the while we are trying to understand twitter.

But we’ve done it! It’s Live. It’s launched. And we’ve had some sales. And we couldn’t have done it without each other. For every wobble there was a cuddle. For every frustration there was a voice of reason. For every ‘I’m going to throw my laptop out of the window’ moment there was company and cup of tea. We doff our caps to every sole trader and entrepreneur that has gone before us. The utmost admiration for people that do this alone without a supportive network of seabirds.

The next few weeks will be spent analysing google analytics and researching meta tags. Not standard language for a seabird. Nothing comes without a hashtag. Everything is a marketing opportunity. All of  it is outside of our comfort zone. But it will also include a return to our habitat. Time to take our own advice and Get In The Sea!