Instead of adopting the crouch position during lockdown, Media Savvy looked at investment and expansion in a bid to ensure that when business confidence returns, those on society’s margins might also prosper.
Longer-term, though, the key to success will be the business communities of the Wear region spotting the heart-warming social value companies like theirs can deliver.
If there has been one optimistic call to action amid the carnage of Covid-19 these last few months, it has been the constant call to ‘Build Back Better’.
Dan Makaveli, founder of Sunderland-based Media Savvy, is hoping that call will be heeded most by businesses, big and small, when they begin re-assessing their approach to corporate social responsibility.
A vague term, ‘corporate social responsibility’, but its meaning could hardly be simpler – the idea that successful businesses which have profited from a community, should help give a little back to that community.
The most common (and easiest) way to do that, of course, is by simply donating to a charity.
But Dan wants companies to consider supporting and partnering with not-for-profit agencies like Media Savvy because in that way, not only do those companies give something back but, in some cases, they also get something in return.
Dan, who founded the multiple award-winning Media Savvy CIC almost a decade ago, is hopeful that third sector organisations like his will enjoy new-found popularity once the business community begins to get back on its feet.
His organisation, based in the historic Sunniside quarter of Sunderland city centre, delivers an impressive, high-quality range of commercial services to companies.
Through their team of experienced videographers, designers, illustrators, web/app developers, animators and even personal trainers, they deliver positive benefits to companies and have already worked with impressive clients including Tait Walker Chartered Accountants, NHS England and the University of Sunderland.
But where they differ from limited companies, is that any profits raised from delivering those projects are then reinvested in their core purpose, rather than dispersed to shareholders via dividends.
Their vision is “a society where each individual feels valued, has access to suitable education and the opportunity to realise their potential.”
Their mission is “to unite and empower the community through creativity, innovation and education”.
Post-lockdown, and with the issues likely to face society in the inevitable recession that follows, that’s surely a smarter way to invest in community benefit and cohesion.
Dan said: “The idea behind businesses commissioning a social enterprise for work is that it is a great way for them to support a community while at the same time getting something back from it and a more mutually beneficial exchange as opposed to a donation.
“If you’re looking for production of a video, an animation, a website designed, or almost any service that can be considered ‘digital’, you know that by hiring us, you’re directly helping to provide essential training and education for people who need it most.
“These are individuals who may have fallen through the cracks of society for any one of numerous reasons.
“Our beneficiaries are often diagnosed with a serious mental illness; some have a learning disability and/or autism, and perhaps other physical health issues that have contributed towards keeping them out of the workforce for a long time – the vast majority of our learners are desperate to learn new skills and make a positive contribution to society.
“It’s our job to help them along this sometimes very challenging pathway.”
Media Savvy seeks neither donations nor charity but, instead, a working relationship with local businesses to the benefit of both.
And using their services certainly does not mean settling for an inferior service, just for the sake of burnishing community credentials.
More than that, Dan and the team at Media Savvy will be putting their money where their heart is with the launch of a coffee shop in their premises at 27/28 Norfolk Street, Sunniside.
At the time of Wear Business going to print, planning permission had just been given for renovations to create a new coffee shop, Diego’s.
The coffee shop with licensed bar will provide volunteering, training and employment opportunities for individuals dealing with multiple, complex barriers, who will, in turn, be able to build their CV in three-month to year-long spells before making way for others in need to take their place – ideally leaving with a glowing reference in hand.
Dan said: “We’re hoping to partner with local cafes, bars and restaurants so that people can prove themselves at Diego’s, build their CV and then find employment at companies who can see the value in supporting what we’re trying to achieve.
“Importantly we want a candidate’s successful time with us to act somewhat as risk mitigation for potential long-term employers.”
The plans will see the ground floor units of the buildings converted into a coffee shop with alterations to create a new attractive shop front.
And once up and running the coffee shop will be 80-90% staffed by former learners at the organisation.
Diego’s would also provide bespoke employment and mentoring programmes as part of their socially added value.
In that way, Media Savvy aims to tackle the ‘employment gap’ faced by some businesses.
For the company, this new initiative is another way of tackling the challenges faced by those who are marginalised and come from vulnerable, forgotten about communities.
“We have nearly 10 years behind us building a successful social enterprise and the one consistent issue that has frustrated the team is the lack of realistic progression opportunities available for many of the individuals we work with,” said Dan.
“We want to tackle this by offering these opportunities and partnering with established local employers to create a working model which we hope will help directly address this employment gap faced by many of our learners, which is sure to be further exacerbated post-Covid.
“We guarantee there has been nothing like this in Sunderland before and we are determined to make this business pivot a huge success, perhaps even becoming a model suitable to be replicated elsewhere.”
Businesses can support this initiative, too.
Dan added: “We would really appreciate their support as we get closer to launching and there will be lots of corporate sponsorship opportunities. Keep an eye on our social media channels and watch this space.”