I live in Wandsworth with my husband Graham and our three children Olivia, Tom and Amy. Tom, who was born in 1996, has Down Syndrome. People ask if I was surprised when I found out, and I can honestly say that I didn’t have a moment of concern. We were just delighted and thankful to have our little boy, and we made a promise that we’d do everything we could to ensure that he and his sisters grew up with equal life opportunities.Fast forward 19 years and Tom went off to a residential college in Shropshire called Derwen College. I started to research the pathways to employment that would be open to Tom. I had to confront the fact that for people with learning difficulties, disabilities or life challenges, job opportunities are often limited and for many do not exist at all.
Tom, in the meantime, was thriving at Derwen College. A highlight of his time there was learning to produce and sell Derwen’s range of delicious jams, chutneys and stationery products. Every time we visited Tom, we were struck by the dedication and potential of the students, and by the quality of the products themselves. In this moment, the seed of an idea was sown!
Over the next three years I set out to find people across the UK who were designing and producing high-quality gifts and household goods. To my delight, I met amazingly able and talented people in special needs colleges, supported living communities, small businesses, social enterprises and charities.
With my partners and products in place, I launched Promise in Store in September 2018:
“A retail social enterprise that sources and sells beautiful gifts designed, produced or packaged by incredibly talented people with learning difficulties, disabilities or life challenges. Our long-term vision is to train, develop and provide paid employment to people with learning difficulties, disabilities and/or life challenges to sell our products.We focus on ability and the art of the possible.”
Why the name Promise in Store? Names matter. When we think of a person or place by name it comes with so many associations and we wanted the name of the company to be full of hope and potential. Promise in Store not only refers to the promise within each of us, or the quality of potential excellence, but promise also means to ‘forward send’ in Latin. We hope to help people develop customer service retail skills and send them forward confidently into the retail sector to fulfil their potential.
We’re a small organisation with big dreams, and we value positive collaboration, communication and connections. If you’d like to support our mission, there are four ways you can help:
To explore our range and buy beautiful gifts, you can visit our website at www.promiseinstore.org.
If you’re interested in hosting an event or sale at your home, school, college or workplace, please get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you can volunteer skills, services, concession spaces, premises or know about any new products we should be looking at, please do send an email.
And if you would like to give financially, we are ring-fencing money which will go directly to pay for employment costs for those with learning difficulties or disabilities training and working with us. You can donate via the website.
I really hope you’ll be part of our story, shop with a difference and help to change lives.
Sue Prisk Founder