We caught up with Karen Gilligan, Manager at Oskars, to find out more about the social enterprise and the services it provides:
What does your business do?
Opened in 2010, Oskars is a social enterprise based in the heart of Paisley that provides a range of second-hand furniture, white goods, and other household items at affordable prices. Our services also include; painting and decorating, gardening, bulk uplift services, and home and office clearances.
As a social enterprise, Oskars is a business that supports those on low incomes by providing low cost, clean, safe, donated furniture. In addition, we offer youth employment, education and skills training to young people furthest removed from the job market, helping open up greater employment opportunities.
Located at 55 Clark Street, Paisley, Oskars is open to the public and provides an eclectic mix of preloved sofas, bedroom furniture, dining tables and chairs, wardrobes, vintage furniture, shabby chic items and more – ideal for upcycling projects. Selling quality items at affordable prices, Oskars is perfect if you’re looking to update your home on a budget, or on a low income.
In partnership with Zero Waste Scotland we offer free upcycling workshops to local residents. Workshops can take place either at a community group meeting or in Oskars showroom in Paisley. For customers referred to Oskars from housing organisations or local authorities, we can provide generously discounted prices.
We employ young people who face barriers to employment. They spend six months with us in a real job environment. Training is provided and support is given to find full-time permanent positions at the end of the six month period. City & Guilds and SVQ qualifications can be worked towards together with Fork Lift Truck training. To date we have successfully supported over 30 young people into full-time permanent jobs.
We work to a triple bottom line of ‘planet, people and prosperity’.
What are you most proud of when it comes to Oskars?
I am most proud of the young people that we work with who come to us labelled as ‘furthest from the job market’. Those young people who are willing to work hard and undertake training can turn their lives around as our aim is to offer six months of real life work experience, and support our trainees into mainstream employment. Our team leaders do this by role modelling, training, coaching and nurturing. We have had success in this area and the majority of our trainees come back to visit us to let us know how they are getting on.
What do you find most enjoyable in day-to-day business life?
I enjoy seeing the wide variety of items that come into the showroom on a daily basis. We cannot predict what furniture we will have in stock at any given time. I also enjoy the fact that we respond to need. We work two weeks ahead in our planning of jobs but are proud that we have a reputation for reacting quickly to opportunities that arise and carry out jobs in an efficient and timely manner. This is only possible with the flexibility of our wonderful staff team.
What are your ambitions for the future?
To develop our goods and services so that we can assist more young people into work, support those wishing to make a house a home which has shown to be a major factor in sustaining tenancies and protect our local environment by sending less to landfill.
How has the business changed over the years?
The business has developed over the years as we initially started out as simply a furniture reuse organisation. However it soon became clear that there was a demand for other services and we responded to this by providing painting and decorating, gardening and the clearing out and cleaning of void properties.
What are your top three priorities?
1. To provide employment and training to young people aged 16-29
2. To offer quality furniture and services to householders and
3. To expand what we do
Can you offer three tips to new-start businesses?
1. Believe in yourself, your staff and what you are setting out to do
2. Take advice from others who have previously worked in the
3. Work your socks off to make it a success
Why is Renfrewshire a great place to run a business?
It’s a great time to be working in the Renfrewshire area with talk of the regeneration of the town centre and all the excitement around the Paisley 2021 bid. There is a plethora of fantastic community groups in Renfrewshire that we have worked with and supported in the past and hope to continue doing this in the future.
Has anything weird or wonderful happened in your working life?
One of the most wonderful things that happened to us was back in 2011 when we had an impromptu visit from Robin Gibb when he was in Paisley with the research team from the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? He spent some time talking to our young trainees and asked a lot of questions about what we were doing and what we wanted to achieve. Those of us who grew up listening to the Bee Gees, (the older members of staff), were overawed!
What is the main thing you have learned since being involved with Oskars?
The main thing I have learned is that you have to work hard to achieve success but in the words of Simon Sinek, the leadership and management author, “working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.”