How North East Social Enterprise Festival 2015 Dragons’ Den helped Birkheads wild

Birkheads wild CICIn celebration of the North East Social Enterprise Festival tomorrow I thought I would share with you a letter we received from last year’s winner, Fiona O’Connor director of Birkheads Wild.

Come along to Sage, Gateshead tomorrow to hear other inspirational stories, support our local social enterprises and most of all enjoy a full day of live music and entertainment.

For more information click here


Dear ‘Dragons’


On the eve of the 2016 Social Enterprise Festival I wanted to send you an overview of what we’ve been up to over the past 12 months, and to let you know exactly how your support for our idea last year has enabled us to really move our project forward towards getting Birkheads Wild trading.


We decided to split the prize money between “boring essentials” required for set up, equipment and to help fund at least 1 further camp. Your support helped us to:

·         obtain enhanced DBS certificates for 3 years

·         pay for planning and licensing related fees – to Gateshead Council

·         pay for a proportion of our first year of Public Liability Insurance


We spent several long months trying to get the relevant permissions we needed from the Council and, after revising the scale of our camp site down, we finally obtained a 28 day Camping Licence (for 28 overnight stays spread over a year). This meant that by May 2016 we could finally look at setting up the site….but we still had a long way to go….


Your support also helped us to:

·         buy and set up a parachute covered bushcraft camp fire area on site

·         buy equipment needed for camps and sessions

·         pay for a proportion of Directors training


Our second big milestone this year came in July when we obtained a grant to buy a beautiful composting toilet – which has now been fabricated, delivered to us and should be fully installed on site by end Nov 2016 (we have a very big hole to dig!). Using a chemical portaloo was both financially and environmentally unsustainable and it had prevented us from being able to trade effectively so we are very excited about this development. In the last 12 months we have also:

·         opened a bank account!

·         gained 2 more Directors

·         set up a Facebook page and Twitter account

·         undertaken training, development and lots of further research


Finally in September we managed to host another camp just before the end of the season – a group of teenagers undertaking their Bronze DofE expedition who had a fantastic time in rural Gateshead/County Durham and who loved camping with us.


We are now at a tipping point where Birkheads Wild is moving from being a “hobby” to a functioning business – I am transitioning into freelance work next month so that I can give more of my time on a voluntary basis to having the CIC fully trading by early spring 2017.


Our next steps include; a Crowd Funding Campaign, setting up a website, exploring many options to host different groups on/around the site and testing these out, completing our training – Alison with a Bushcraft Diploma and me as a Guided Walk Leader and being fully ready to welcome visitors as soon as it is warm enough!


We have a stand at the Social Enterprise Festival at Sage tomorrow where we have low/no cost woodland activities for younger kids and a Minecraft vs Bushcraft  hands-on session – learn the 5 C s of Survival – and help make your own Paracord survival bracelet for the older kids. We’ll also be taking booking enquiries for 2017. Please come and say Hi if you are there. We can also help persuade other people with a social enterprise idea to go for it, and give help and advice on facing this year’s Dragons!


I just wanted to say thanks again for believing in our idea – we believe in it too and it’s finally, slowly becoming a reality!


I hope to be able to welcome you on site soon but in the meantime please see our Facebook page Birkheads Wild or find us on Twitter @birkheads_wild