Recipient of the Social EnterPrize in 2015, Women in Need Society (WINS) is a social enterprise committed to working with women and their families facing a range of challenges – financial, in the process of leaving shelters, outfitting a home, adapting to a new city or country, or single parents caring for their children. Recently, we had a chance to meet and catch up with, Karen Ramchuk, who became WINS’s Executive Director in 2017, and Fund Development Manager, Patti Brewin.
WINS was operating five thrift stores, a donation centre, a free good referral program and four family resource centres. As the cost of doing business is constantly rising in Alberta, WINS had to adapt and, as Karen says, “think differently”. Unfortunately, in March of 2018, WINS had to close the resource stores. However, with Karen’s extensive retail background at the forefront, they made changes to reduce costs, gained a Mustard Seed partnership, secured donations from generous Calgarians’ and government funding, and are now offering resources out of their Dover store. Because of WINS’ ‘thinking differently’ attitude, three out of the four resource centres have now reopened.
The reduced retail sector due to the current economy has created a new normal for Calgary. There are less donations because people cannot afford to donate as much and Karen’s goal is now to innovate the retail side. WINS is also having to deal with an evolving market as the new trend is to online shop instead. WINS is currently exploring a Facebook selling group for their free goods service as it would hopefully take the pick up costs out of the overall fees. They are also looking into a warehouse partnership to help share the costs with a potential new partner.
Karen explains that WINS is being extremely honest and asking themselves “can we afford what we have been doing?” for future business planning. WINS has therefore incorporated an optional fee for furniture pick-up and bonus referrals for clothing. WINS is also focusing on their volunteer program for the next 6 months and have grown their volunteer members from 20 to 100 individuals.
WINS was recently selected as a finalist in the 2018 Western Legacy Award for their leadership in social enterprise:
As the Holiday season and colder weather approaches quickly,please consider cleaning out your closets to help keep those in need warm this winter. Small donations can be dropped off to any WINS stores while larger donations can be taken to their Donation Centre. More information here: https://www.womeninneed.net/