Realise Futures chief Sarah Sharlott to speak at World Expo event

Sarah Sharlott, chief executive of the Ipswich-based Realise Futures.

Sarah Sharlott, chief executive of the Ipswich-based Realise Futures. - Credit: Archant

Sarah Sharlott, chief executive of Ipswich-based Realise Futures, is due to part in the World Expo 2015 conference in Milan this week as part of a delegation from Social Enterprise UK.

She will take part in a Social Economy Forum tomorrow, highlighting the work of three of Realise Futures’ six social enterprises in Suffolk– Eco Furniture, Ipswich, which makes outdoor furniture and play equipment from recycled plastic, Growing Places, Claydon, which grows and delivers vegetables, and Poppy’s Pantry, Woodbridge, a wholefood shop.

Eco Furniture won the British Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Sustainability Award in the East of England for its innovative products delivering environmental and social benefits, and has sold its products to leading attractions such as Colchester Zoo, Jimmy’s Farm in Ipswich and across the UK and Ireland.

Sarah, who is also a board member of Social Enterprise East of England (SEEE), said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity to spread the word about social enterprise and our social businesses in Suffolk.

“The trip has been organised by Department of Trade and Investment as part of the UK’s Grown in Britain global business programme and, on Wednesday, the government will host a UK social economy forum in partnership with SEUK where we will get the chance to promote what we do.”

She added: “This offers UK social enterprises a unique opportunity to meet with like-minded businesses, investors and thought leaders at a major global event that only takes place once every five years.

“I will be showcasing Realise Futures’ work in sustainable furniture, and I will also be talking about our commitment to organic food production and healthy living.”

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Whilst at the conference, Sarah will attend a briefing by the British Chamber of Commerce on doing business in Italy and a reception at the British Ambassador’s residence in Milan.

Last week, she attended a round-table event in London, organised by the Local Government Association, on technology where she spoke about investing in mobile technology and how Realise Futures’ call centre technology enables careers advice bookings to more than 95,000 people throughout the eastern region.

She also met with fellow members of E3M - a high-profile group of social enterprise leaders whose combined businesses have a turnover of nearly £1.2billion employing more than 28,000 people – where she talked about social financing and the financial needs of spin outs, such as Realise Futures.

She said: “I spoke about the process of going out to market for social investment finance, about the preparation needed, the timetable, and the resources required to become investment-ready, as well as the good and bad things about our experiences of the social finance market.”

Realise Futures was set up two-and-a-half years ago and specialises in providing a range of employment services to help people who are disabled and disadvantaged as well as operating six social businesses in Suffolk.

Since its formation, the business has created more than 100 jobs and last year won a national award for being a “trailblazing newcomer”. It was among five winners chosen from 1,365 social ventures listed on the RBS SE100 Index in the UK.