A decade going from strenght to strength

A leading social enterprise is celebrating after marking a decade of work in the Borders and north Northumberland.

Thursday, 3rd December 2015, 3:26 pm
SBBN-10-12-15 Bookdonors 10th anniversary

Formed in 2005 by Lawrie Hayworth and Rona Strathdee, the company, which trades in used books has gone from strength to strength.

Originally it was set up to provide employment opportunities for long term carers, who could not participate in the traditional workplace, but who could list batches of old books on-line from their own homes. “It soon became clear, that the real demand was for popular modern titles, so we had to move out of the attic and into industrial premises in Selkirk,” remarks founder, Lawrie Hayworth.

Today substantial growth in the business has allowed Bookdonors, a not for profit social enterprise, to relocate to modern industrial premises in Tweedbank, just outside Galashiels, where it employs 32 staff. It trades in used books for the benefit of people, charities and the environment, with 100% of our sales used to fulfil its triple social mission, to provide flexible and adaptable employment opportunities, to help protect the environment by promoting re-use and to provide additional income to a range of charities.  

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To achieve these goals it collects and processes over 600,000 books each month, with the help of its fleet of six dedicated vehicles located in three depots across Scotland. “Typically at any given time we have over 250,000 very good quality second hand books available on-line,” said Managing Director, Tom Murdoch-Kenny. That translates to book sales of over 8,000 per week, which helped the company to a turnover of £1.4m last year, with corresponding payments to charities of over £200k for supply of books in the last 2 years.

To celebrate the support it has received over the years, from a range of individuals and organisations, Bookdonors hosted a celebrity lunch at Abbotsford House. Four of Scotland’s leading female authors, Alex Gray, Caro Ramsay, Lin Anderson and Alanna Knight were guests of honour.

Steven Holgate, who was the second ever employee at Bookdonors and has risen to the position of Operations Director enthused, “It was a real privilege to meet these authors, whose books we regularly ship all across the UK and overseas.”

Although Bookdonors more than doubled in size in the last few years it remains true to its founding principles by continuing to offer opportunities to people, both young & old, who find work difficult to obtain. It also provides supported employment for those with disabilities, who might otherwise have difficulty integrating into a conventional workplace.

All this is achieved by re-using and recycling unwanted books that would otherwise have gone to landfill by purchasing surplus books from Charity Shops across Scotland and N E England. The achievements of Bookdonors have not gone unnoticed and The NatWest Social Enterprise 2015 100 Index (SE100) which tracks and recognises the performance of social enterprises, rated Bookdonors #8 in the UK Retail (Including Fair Trade) Sector. Within Scotland, Bookdonors Ranked #3 for Top Growth Organisations and also #3 for Top Social Impact. So Bookdonors has plenty of reasons to celebrate.

The company is not content to rest on its laurels however, and Bookdonors has been working hard to add new on-line sales channels to its portfolio, which has allowed it to start exporting to the USA and Canada, and is set to launch a new eCommerce web site early in 2016.