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Community workers mean business

Singer Sarah Blasko, Biddy Bag founder Samantha Jockel, and Biddy Bag team member Ivy Turner.  Photo by Jason Zambelli

When Samantha Jockel thought about engaging her local community, it wasn’t in the normal way one would think.

Ms Jockel wanted to connect with local isolated elderly ladies, use the skills they already had and share them with the world. She did this through handbags, though not your average bag.

Biddy Bag is a non-profit public company “limited by guarantee”, said Ms Jockel.  It is a social enterprise that fuses the crochet skills of a group of mature-aged women from Logan City to Redcliffe and the designs of young women. The result is a one-of-a-kind bag and the creation of a community for the women who are involved.

The makers of the bags receive over half of the profits and each bag tells the personal story of its maker on a tag sewn into the seam.  The bags have been featured in The Courier Mail and fashion magazine Frankie as well as Triple J radio and other publications around the country.  Ms Jockel said buying a Biddy Bag is more than buying just another handbag.  “It is about realising that behind every product there are people,” Ms Jockel told Triple J.  “It is about connecting you to the person who made the bag.”

Not only does the business provide unique and fun fashion pieces, it also provides a social activity for the makers.

The initiative even caught the attention of ARIA Award winning singer Sarah Blasko who is now the official Biddy Bags spokesperson after being approached by Ms Jockel.

Alleviating the social isolation for certain groups in society is also one of the aims for another micro-business called Blackstar Coffee. 

Blackstar Coffee director Martin Richards said there are a few key elements at work in his company that provides Fair Trade organic coffee.  One of those elements is creating ways for people from disadvantaged backgrounds to earn an income and develop business skills. “We are about multicultural inclusivity, worker ownership, sustainability, and promoting and supporting local community,” he said.

Blackstar don’t just trade in coffee though, they have also started a multicultural soccer team they call Blackstar FC.  The company actively employs and trains people from a variety of backgrounds and looks forward to that commitment growing with the company.  By freshly roasting 100% certified Fair Trade organic coffee, Blackstar Coffee is not only assisting international coffee growers but is also providing a coffee that both tastes good and feels good for the growing speciality coffee market in Brisbane.

Both Biddy Bag and Blackstar Coffee have been assisted by the Vision for Mission program.

For more information on these social enterprises or to place an order visit www.biddybags.com.au  and www.blackstarcoffee.com.au  

Photo : Singer Sarah Blasko, Biddy Bag founder Samantha Jockel, and Biddy Bag team member Ivy Turner. Photo by Jason Zambelli