Client Case Study - Virtual Assistant support for Grow Wild CIC
Posted on 12th February 2023 at 11:59
Alchemy VA Client Case Study - Grow Wild
Providing environmental outreach projects for people with disabilities, Grow Wild is the brainchild of Founder Oliver Connolly, whose knowledge, passion and intense sense of purpose are entrenched in the business.
Oliver grew up in a nurturing family with a background in mental health services, offering foster and respite for children with disabilities and, with it, a lifelong affinity and understanding with people in the disabled and SEN communities. Woven into the fabric of his life from such a young age, it seems only natural that he would embark on the journey he has.
Oliver's knowledge and desire to keep learning are unwavering, with extensive experience in day service provisions, the National Autistic Society, agencies, youth outreach, social services, youth offending, charities, and mainstream education. But it was as Head of Department for a specialist SEN college, overseeing work placements for colleges across London, that Oliver found the critical gap in support for the adults he was working with. Once work placements finished, so did the support at a critically important stage of their lives. And COVID brought more chaos.
But, here is where he could help...
Seeing the opportunity to make a difference, Oliver set up the service for volunteering outside and to instill a passion for outdoor experiences. The post-college service supports people to engage with the outdoors, connect with the community, and, importantly, contribute to their confidence, health and well-being.
An ongoing service, participants/clients can come for as long as they need it and when they need it. Grow Wild is a different offer to traditional day service. They pick participants up from home, an essential service element when transport is a big issue for these types of services. Moreover, they provide variation and excitement and enable them to be proud of what they do.
On offer are seasonal activities, for which participants can join the program seasonally or all year round. With different options each week and input from participants, they can truly enjoy and feel accomplishment from activities and partnerships. Activities include cider apple harvesting at Saxby’s, nature path clearing for the winter, tree seed collecting, pumpkin carving, and working with the Hedgehog Trust, to name a few.
The business splits between the South East (Surrey and South London) and Northamptonshire. From the beginnings of one and a half days a week, Grow Wild can now operate five days a week in Northampton with plans to go full service for all areas.
Grow Wild was growing. Initially set up with support from the University of Northampton with their business support service and advice, they helped significantly in enabling Oliver to create a structure for the company and signposting him to areas to implement. Bringing on a Co-Director, Mike Beadle, in 2020, the growth was steady but slower than they wanted.
Day-to-day, Oliver and the team are outside working with their participants. The result of this, however, was leaving the office and administrative work to the last. Bid writing was a particular challenge - what to include, layout, tone and copy and how to convey as much value to the prospect as possible. And while marketing efforts were made, there simply was not enough time or brain space in the bank to take it where they wanted it to go.
Oliver reached out again to the University of Northampton. Through the SEMSUP programme, Grow Wild were assigned Business Advisor Adam Lawton. Held in high regard as a mentor as much as an advisor, and with regular developmental check-ins with Oliver, Adam recommended Grow Wild as an ideal candidate for the Knowledge Exchange for Better Business (KE4BB) Programme and Alchemy VA.
Not having considered VA services before, Oliver was initially unsure how they could help, but he quickly got on board and has never looked back. Working with a dedicated VA from the Alchemy family, Oliver was now able to outsource and grow areas of the business that so desperately needed the care and attention to succeed.
Working with Alchemy Virtual Assistance, Oliver realised he needed support more than ever.
Through the KE4BB, Alchemy helped Oliver define and refine his bid writing, knowing what to include and how to get his value and vision across in the best way.
Alchemy took Grow Wild’s marketing to another level with quality artwork, copy and impressive growth in social media presence and reach.
They were also instrumental in supporting an application to the DWP for Access to Work.
And more than just the actionable strategies and knowledge, but the accountability, valuable check-ins, a sounding board for ideas and external validation from someone who understood him and the business. His confidence to grow the business and leverage his extensive knowledge, experience and passion for outreach work grew thanks to working with Alchemy.
Grow Wild was able to secure a much-needed five thousand pound grant thanks to the improved bid writing. Social media outreach started with 100 followers, reaching over 2,300 Instagram followers in three months and has now hit 827 Followers on Twitter and counting. And the team are trained in online support apps such as Canva thanks to the valuable knowledge-sharing Alchemy provided.
The relationship between Grow Wild and Alchemy was relaxed, comfortable, reliable and caring, and communication was the key. When asked where he would be without the KE4BB and Alchemy, Oliver says he would absolutely have carried on - and always will, as the service is so critical. But what this partnership has provided is knowledge, experience, speed and professionalism to help Grow Wild get where they need to be. As a result, the business is sourcing funding to continue working with Alchemy as the KE4BB comes to a close, enabling them to reach more people who need their services and build on their achievements so far.
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