May 15, 2013
I can’t quite believe it’s been 10 years,” says Chris Powell, “and it was all inspired by a child’s imagination.”
Chris is the man behind one of our more unusual projects. It’s our community scrap store, the Cone Exchange, and it has just celebrated its 10th anniversary.
To explain just what it is, let’s go back to how it started.
Chris’ role began when he was showing pupils from Springwater Special School (based just down the road from our Harrogate HQ) around the Yorkshire Tea factory and one pupil spotted a used cone – which had been used to spool the cotton onto tagged tea bags. “She had a vision,” says Chris, “and asked if she could take it home to make an angel.”
Word spread around local parents, schools and groups and the demand for cone angels grew. Eventually they were in put in local shop windows and people paid to ‘adopt’ them. The money raised went towards a Starbeck in Bloom project setting up an after-school gardening club.
“I was really inspired by that,” says Chris, “and it just grew from there.”
It was around that time that Chris’ alter ego – the pirate Captain Rummage – started to appear at school assemblies around the area promoting the ‘three arrrs’ – reduce, reuse recycle and encouraging children to donate glasses, mobiles and stamps to Oxfam.
For a while Chris operated out of a shed at Springwater School, before moving in to his current building near our head office five years ago. The projects the Cone Exchange was playing a part in grew too, with charities using old coffee barrels and sacks to create furniture and bags and mroe and more and more items which had previously been considered to be wasted – from us and other local businesses – being sold through the scrap store.
It was only three years ago that Chris began devoting all his work time to the Cone Exchange and put all his energy into the project, while receiving support from a group of dedicated volunteers.
He’s now busy travelling the country to hold talks with WIs, hosting craft workshops in the local area and acting as a young enterprise advisor – all while helping eight local students with special educational needs to gain work experience in the Cone Exchange itself, producing craft packs that are sold to raise funds for our Yorkshire Rainforest Project.
As well as raising money for that, Chris and his team play an important role in reducing our waste and making a positive impact in our local communities.
Along the way Chris and the Cone Exchange have received various awards and honours. He’s been down to Buckingham Palace twice – first as part of a group collecting the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Business, then again eight months later collecting an MBE. He’s also scooped gold at the prestigious Food and Drink Federation Community Partnership Awards in the Environment Category and won plenty more besides.
“There have been lots of great highlights and milestones,” says Chris. “It’s been an incredible pirate adventure that’s gone a bit crazy, but I’m crazy myself, so it works very well.”