Community projects

Highland BlindCraft

Highland BlindCraft (HBC) was founded 140 years ago as a factory to provide employment for blind children when they were ready to leave the blind school in Inverness.  Today as a registered charity and social enterprise, HBC is still run on the same founding principles, although included are people with a variety of disabilities from all over the Highlands and Islands.

The business designs, manufactures and sells bespoke quality beds, mattresses and other niche products to the highest of standards. HBC also supply traditional and contemporary pine beds, headboards, bedroom and occasional furniture, pillows and mattress protectors.

Clients include 3 chimney’s, Castle Stuart, The Palace Hotel Inverness and Achnagairn along with many more of this calibre.

HBC were also included in the Scottish Government directory to showcase the work of supported businesses across the country and they won a contract via Momentum Scotland which has been extended until April 2017.

Expansion

In its full production factory in Inverness, HBC employs 19 highly skilled visually impaired and disabled people, along with 4 other able-bodied individuals. 

In September 2016 HBC launched the new extended showroom, attended by Inverness and Nairn MSP Fergus Ewing.

HBC were also finalists for Best Social Enterprise in the Highland Business Awards 2016.

HIE’s contribution and role

HIE’s account management approach involves working intensively with communities or social enterprises over a sustained period of time to support and deliver sustainable growth. HBC is currently supported by one of HIE’s local account managers, Peter Allen.

In 2015 a digital health check was completed with HBC using PA Consulting, which offered recommendations and advice on their website performance, social media presence and e-commerce solutions.

Plans for the future

HBC aims to continue to balance sustainability with purpose – providing a supportive work environment for people with disabilities, while ensuring that they have a commercially focused and sustainable business model.

The next phase of the company’s development plan is to create a small training area for employees to receive training in IT, literacy, job coaching and interview skills to help them with moving into open employment. They would also like to carry out first aid and health and safety training in-house so they can make the training as relevant as possible to their employees.

HIE is exploring the possibility of helping the company meet some of the costs associated with the training area and has arranged a meeting with Skills Development Scotland to offer HBC the Skills for Growth programme.

 

Picture at top: Store Supervisor Neil Thomson and Stores Assistant George Gplel;
Pictured above: Highland Blindcraft's new showroom opening, Sept. 2016. L-R Iain MacKay, Denise Clark,Diane Dicks, Allan Juroszek,,Peter Wilson,Fergus Ewing, Paul Dicks,Evan MacDonald,Thomas Ward, Michael Fleming,and Geoff Sweetman. PIC Trevor Martin/HIE

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