I studied a module that enabled me to create a business of my choice, a social enterprise

Aaron Probert wearing a black fleece.
Aaron Probert
Undergraduate alumnus
BA Business Management
Since graduating in 2019, Aaron has been hard at work bringing together his social enterprise, Labre’s Hope. He has partnered with leading charitable organisations Crisis and South Yorkshire Housing Association and won £500,000 of UK Government funding through the Community Renewal Fund.

Throughout my time at University I was part of Enactus Sheffield. Enactus is a student-led society comprising students from various faculties who create non-profit ventures to solve issues in society. I joined in my first year and it flipped my world. I had never heard of social enterprises before and it was life changing. To be able to combine two things I was passionate about, helping people and business, immediately drew me in.

Aaron Probert wearing a black fleece.

In my second year of university, I met a homeless woman whose usual spot was across the street from me.

I usually chatted to her on my way to and from University until one night, when I was on my way home from the library, she shared her story with me. It was a story of domestic abuse in which she had found herself trapped, and her only means of temporary escape had been alcohol. This created a cycle that had led to dependency issues and alcoholism. Her cycle continued until she was faced with a decision: to continue drinking and live a short life, or to leave her abuser with a resilience and determination to move onwards. She chose to leave her abuser and push forward. However, while trapped in the cycle of domestic abuse, her abuser had separated her from her support network. She only had the streets to turn to.

In that moment, while she was telling her story, I never wanted to do something for someone else more in my life, but as a second year university student I didn’t feel I could do anything.

That all changed in my third year of university when Labre’s Hope was born.

I studied a module that enabled me to create a business of my choice, and immediately, I knew it had to be centred around homelessness. The module leader was fantastic. She gave her time and energy advising, guiding, and motivating me to create a sustainable, impact driven business.

Since that module in 2019, I took Labre’s Hope through the ‘Well Rotherham’ Accelerator and it placed first, being awarded £10,000 in 2021.

We then joined the SantanderX 2021 Accelerator, which took us to Wembley Stadium and gave us the chance to meet some of the most incredible people I could think of.

Labre’s Hope formed a partnership with Crisis and South Yorkshire Housing Association, which brought all of the puzzle pieces together, enabling us to create a sustainable, bespoke solution for people experiencing homelessness in South Yorkshire. Together, we spent a lot of time co-ordinating, imagining, and developing the processes involved to make Labre’s Hope come to life.

There are so many others who have also played a part. They were the smaller puzzle pieces who advised, guided, connected and inspired me to keep pushing on during the multitude of challenges I faced on this journey.

Labre’s Hope provides full-time, living wage employment to people experiencing homelessness, in hand-crafting cosmetics like soap, shampoo and body butters.

I wanted to create a product everyone could buy into, and what better than your daily wash routine. So while you’re looking after your skin in the bath or shower using a product from Labre’s Hope, you are indirectly looking after people who experience homelessness.

Then every Wednesday, Crisis comes in to Labre’s Hope’s premises to lead a wellness session which we call ‘Wellbeing Wednesdays’. These sessions teach our employees how to live their best lives, from diet and its impact on mental health to building self-esteem and confidence.

Last but not least, South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA) provides one-to-one employment coaching to our employees under the umbrella of our ‘Future Friday’ workshops. Every Friday, our employees have the opportunity to sit down with their very own employment coach who guides them along their development journey to help them build the skills and find the resources they need to get them to a place in life where they want to be.

SYHA don’t stop there. They offer housing solutions to employees under the umbrella of their social housing projects.

SYHA and Crisis also act as our referral partners by directing people to us who they believe will be a good fit for Labre’s Hope, creating a holistic pathway out of homelessness for their clients.

Ultimately, it’s all about bespoke solutions for people who have different pasts, experiences, and goals. It’s the person-centred approach.

Written by Aaron Probert in March 2022.

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