Camphill Communities of Ireland

Case Study

“Connection with nature is highly therapeutic.

Doonmoon Care Farm offers a space where people recovering from depression or anxiety can spend time– people need space to figure out how to live.”

BNest Incubator Programme 2016/2017 Participant

Doonmoon Care Farm is a flower farm located in Co. Limerick, producing and selling freshly cut flowers at the local markets.

The care element is, that people recovering from a mental illness come to work on the farm as a form of the therapy. Doonmoon provides them with safe environment, where they can come to work, socialise, reconnect with the nature and develop some new skills.

The Challenge

Before taking part in BNest Dermot Carrol over the past 4-5 years had developed a fair idea of what he wanted to do:

“I kind of had the idea in my head, but I just didn’t know how to begin and I didn’t have any support around it.

I did have some people who were supportive of the idea, but I didn’t have any formal backing, and I didn’t have any way to test my idea – to see if it was viable.”

“I have approached some of the “start your own business” support organisations and talked a little about social enterprise with them.

But I felt that what we were trying to do wasn’t fitting into any of boxes there at all – and I felt it would be counterproductive for me to get into those kind of programmes.”

The Journey

Dermot came across BNest quite accidentally – he got an email in his last job, just as he was leaving. His boss was aware Dermot was getting into social enterprise, so he forwarded BNest email, saying: “It sounds like you might be interested…”

Next, Dermot went to BNest information evening in Adare and felt we had the right approach for him and his venture:

“I felt Eamon really understood where social enterprises are coming from, he had a really well-grounded, broad perspective of what social enterprise is.

It was less about the outcome and more about the journey – and that’s what I want, really.

Dermot felt it would give him an opportunity to productively spend the next 6 months developing the idea:

“BNest came along in a very good time – it was approaching winter and we wouldn’t start here until the next summer anyway.

There was a chance I would have become much less positive about my idea in those 6 months, if I didn’t take part in the programme.”

Before joining BNest Dermot studied social enterprise academically, so he didn’t feel that the ‘scholastic’ elements of the course might have been a great benefit for him:

“I was wrong on that, as BNest have a unique approach.

My perception of the programme before it started would have been that, it would benefit me in certain areas – i.e. mentoring and connection with other people, and that I might learn that much from the actual structured lessons.

But that wasn’t the case – I have learned a lot from those as well.”

Dermot praised the delivery of the programme: “It was clear and very easy to follow. Presentations and workbooks were super.”

What we believe makes BNest a successful social enterprise incubator is the fact that we address not only social and business aspects, but also the personal journeys. The resilience sessions with Pauline Gannon were some of the favourite moments for Dermot, he felt they were very empowering.

“The hard business side of the programme is really important – you have to face it. But Pauline provided a counterbalance to that, which I think is important for people in social enterprise area.

When you’re super, super invested in the project, as some of the social entrepreneurs are – you will be still doing this for the rest of your life, even if it doesn’t work financially. Facing the adversity is really hard if you don’t have the soft support around it that keeps you in the idea.

The difference between a lot of social entrepreneurs and serial entrepreneurs (while they are both beneficial, they both need to be there) is that social entrepreneurs don’t really have a choice – there is no way out for them – they are not going to switch from this enterprise into another, to achieve their ends – this is their road…”

The most memorable moment of the programme for Dermot was the showcase day – that was the first day that they really saw it truly coming together – displaying their flowers and offerings made the whole thing feel real:

“That was important, because you can’t really go back from that – it actually exists.

You have your advertisements on the board – you have your product and people are saying ‘oh, what you’re doing is great’ and they understood it through that display – that was brilliant!”

BNest Impact

The biggest, most obvious advantage of the BNest programme for Dermot was the sense of empowerment he got:
“When you start to talk to people who actually understand social enterprise, like that group did, then your idea becomes more powerful – and if your idea becomes more powerful, it is less likely to succumb to negativity.”

Since finishing the programme Doonmoon Care Farm have reached two important milestones:

– getting the first client, coming to work on the farm every week

– creating a link with HSE – “Even though they don’t provide any funding to us, they are excited about what we do and will be referring people to us”

BNest gave us a strong foundation to the project. You can’t really do anything without a foundation.

It’s a great programme – it’s great to see it running in the Nexus Centre.

We still rely on the marketing help we’ve got – the messaging session with Kasia – branding and flyers that came from that – we use that on many occasions.

The Next Challenge

The next challenge Dermot is facing now is developing the flower business and care farm to the point it would be viable.

“It is not viable at the moment and we think it might take another year to reach that point.”

During the programme, we’ve done financial analysis and we were able to see that the package we offer has a potential to provide us with living. It won’t provide massive return, but enough for us to be able to do it.

Recommendation

“I would absolutely recommend BNest programme – it helps you to get to know yourself and your idea better. And that’s a very important thing – our idea was further along than some others in the programme – it still wasn’t clear – and I didn’t even know it wasn’t clear until I started the programme. I was able to see in the programme which parts were very weak, which were strong, which parts were the risk. 

And the key thing we’ve learned through this programme was to be really open to change – because your idea is being brought out into the light and light changes things, so you might need to change your idea, but it will be all the better for it.

Time and effort invested in the programme was absolutely worth it.”

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info@bnest.ie
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BNest
Nexus Innovation Centre
Tierney Building
University of Limerick
Limerick, Ireland