Photo of Liza Kellett, Trust Leeds

Liza Kellett

Inspiring Women Changemakers member Liza Kellett is the Founder of Trust Leeds, a social enterprise which works in multiply-deprived communities, helping people who face poverty and financial exclusion to change their lives by building self-reliance, confidence and financial independence. They do this in two ways: by building a network of Self-Reliant Groups (SRGs)  and by offering micro-finance – small, ethical business loans.

Liza says “Trust Leeds is bringing the global models of Self-Reliant Groups and micro-finance to Yorkshire! Over 12 million women are members of their own Self-Reliant Group worldwide. Thanks to the work of this charity which is only 18 months old, we have six Self-Reliant Groups here in Yorkshire with 40 members. Some are thriving, some are still a bit wobbly!”

Who has she helped/ who will she help?

“Our SRG members come in all shapes and sizes, live with a range of difficult challenges (including being refugees; suffering from poor mental & physical health, caring responsibilities; facing worklessness, lack of confidence, no qualifications and poor English). SRGs address loneliness and wellbeing; build enterprise and community cohesion; create friendships and networks.  Members meet weekly, save together, take part in activities, and share goals and ambitions.

Following a not-entirely successful pilot at the Bradford Craft Festival this Summer, Trust Leeds is taking a stall at the illuminate Bradford Christmas Fayre this month.  Each SRG is bringing something they’ve made to test-trade: and see something they’ve made themselves be purchased by the public.

The Syrian Sisters from Huddersfield are bringing hand-made jewellery and bows; Iram from the Get Together Girls in Gipton has made henna cards, Carol has made felt unicorn finger puppets, and Sarah is bringing a ‘hook a Santa’ game they’ve devised.  The Glitter Fairies have just bought their own candy-floss machine with their savings (now selling 9 different flavours) and hope to earn enough to buy a popcorn machine. The newest group, the Gems from Beeston, has been making Santa Story Sacks and Christmas decorations.

The new refugee group in Leeds which calls itself the Butterflies is making sweets, and our tiny group in Hawksworth has been making crackers and decorations… but it’s the glitter tattoo kit which Trust Leeds has lent them which earned them £23 at their first enterprise activity – a stall at their local community fair this Summer.”

What’s worked?

“These groups have taught each other, shared skills, learned the basics of business, and had a great laugh in the process: what they have is what they have saved and earned – no hand-outs and no fundraising: they are self-reliant.  Most SRGs use their Group Fund to make donations to local causes, lend to each other in time of need, and to buy kit and materials to earn a little bit of pin money that they can decide how to spend – as a group.

Trust Leeds loans benefit people who DO HAVE: a feasible business idea for a small enterprise; and passion, potential and resourcefulness. But who DON’T HAVE: family, friends or savings to support them; or a good credit record so they can borrow to grow their own business. Of the four loans in our fledgling pilot, and the five loans in our pipeline, all but one are for entrepreneurs from an ethnic minority background.

None of them would dream of calling themselves entrepreneurs – but they are.   Health and mental health challenges feature strongly amongst our borrowers – as do very low credit scores – and as do smart, sensible business ideas expressed in a variety of ways but rarely as a formal conventional business plan.”

What have you learnt? Any challenges?

“Trust Leeds has come to appreciate how much passion, talent, ambition and resilience the women we work with have – but how under-confident they are. It takes time to nurture self-esteem and to facilitate people in recognising their own skills and potential – but in a supportive, peer environment and with a bit of a gentle structure, they can – and do – achieve marvellous things for themselves, their families and their communities.”

What’s next?

“We’re thrilled that we have been awarded European funding (helping people to build skills and progress towards employment), and a core grant from a UK Foundation (for our core) and we will triple the size of our SRG Network in the next three years. Our ultimate goal is to keep our charitable business small and lean and local, and in this way Trust Leeds can free-share its model through social franchising.  Sharing and replication will spread the social benefit (and the confidence, joy and self-reliance).”

What advice, contacts or resources would help her?

“It doesn’t take much to help someone to turn their life around using their own talents.  You could help by sharing: Giving; Lending; Mentoring; Facilitating and Purchasing.

Why we’re sharing these stories

An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Igniting Inspiration recognition event in November, but we want to publish all relevant stories to spread awareness of all the positive work that goes on in the North!