Behind the Scenes at LoveWell with co-founder Claire

Behind the Scenes at LoveWell with co-founder Claire

By Helen Symonds

Behind the Scenes at LoveWell with co-founder Claire

As you know, at Frankly, the story matters. 

Today we chat with the lovely Claire at LoveWell - the amazing Bristol based charity supported by sales of our Frankly tee - to hear all about their story, Claire's hopes for the future & the recipe that has got Claire through lock-down!

LoveWell's beautiful skincare products will be landing at Frankly very soon, be sure to sign-up to our newsletter to keep up to date!

Don't forget that 15% of the sales of our 100% organic cotton, Fairwear certified tee go to help support Claire & her team with their mission. Shop here!

 

So first things first…. Could you tell us a little more about LoveWell & the work that you are doing?

Yes! LoveWell is a social enterprise offering supportive employment and training to women in Bristol exiting the coerced sex trade. We do this through the manufacture of luxury natural skincare ‘home spa’ products such as massage candles and bath and body oils.

The vision for LoveWell was born out of a frustration at the lack of paid opportunities for women who want to exit sex work. Any women who are working in massage parlours/from their own home/selling sex on the internet (known as the indoors sex trade), anyone who has had previous experience of street sex work, or anyone who has been trafficked into the country and is a survivor of modern-day slavery is welcome to apply to work with us.

Women face a lot of difficulty and stigma when trying to leave sex work, for example, what would you put on a job application form for ‘previous work experience’ if you had been living and working in a massage parlour for 3, 5 or 10 years? We exist to support women to overcome barriers such as this and the many more they face when wanting to move into supportive, long-term employment.

We have been employing a small number of women and selling our products in various places for a couple of years now, and we are about to launch our first ‘Live and Work Well’ programme in partnership with local charity Beloved. This will help to structure and frame the support we offer in a 9-month holistic training programme, designed to train the women in life and work-ready skills, ending with a work placement with a larger employer. Covid-19 has had a huge effect on women’s working lives, as they had their income stream cut off overnight with the closure of the massage parlours during lockdown. Some parlours are starting to open up but some will not reopen, and many women are saying they do not want to go back into the work. There has been an increased demand on us and partner organisations to support and source alternative incomes and support for women, so this training programme will directly respond to the greater numbers of women who do not want to go back to sex work.

 

What does a typical day look like in the world of Lovewell? (Or what did a typical day look like pre-lockdown!)

A typical day for the whole team starts at 9.30am when we set up our mobile manufacturing lab in the church hall in St Paul’s, Bristol where we rent an office. We bring everything down from the office, set up, clean and sterilise all the equipment, and then begin manufacturing the products. On any given day we could be making massage candles, bath oils or bath salts, and labelling and packaging products that were made the previous week. We stop around 12.30pm for a shared lunch, and this is one of the most precious parts of the day. Conversation really opens up during lunchtime, and it is where relationships are formed. After lunch we get back to work, usually finishing around 3pm so we can begin the task of clearing up, packing down and taking everything back upstairs.

 

   

 

What are your dreams for the future of Lovewell?

 At some point we want to move into premises where we can have a dedicated lab kitchen, offices and training space. At the moment, we lose a lot of time to setting up and packing down. We are also running out of storage space, and as demand for our products grows, we need more space to order ingredients and packaging materials in bulk. So we want to start looking for premises which meet all these criteria as well as being near the city centre so they are accessible for the women who come to work every day – no mean feat!

The holistic training programme, which is due to start in September, is also a dream come true for us. This was a vision from the beginning, but it has taken us time to grow organically and see plans shape around the organisation, and especially the women we want to support. We brought them in on our vision from the start, running workshops with women referred to us from partner organisations and asking them what they wanted to see from a social business like this. When you are working for the good of your beneficiaries, things take time to grow. You might think you have a great idea, but if it doesn’t capture the imagination of the women you are supporting, it’s no good trying to plough forward.

In the future, we would love to roll out the training programme to other areas of the country and see LoveWell hubs opening up in other areas. I have been working with a brilliant business mentor to put together a robust financial plan that would see the organisation become self-sustaining through sales of its products, rather than reliant on grant funding forever.

 

Personally I think that all your products are gorgeous but do you have a favourite that you can’t live without?!

Thank you! I love all the products in our range (and behind the scenes we are busy developing more!) But the one I cannot live without is our Sia Bath Oil. It not only makes a delicious bath oil (the fragrance, which also goes into our Signature massage candle, is divine), but it can also be used as a shower oil, a face cleanser and used straight onto the skin as a body oil. I have quite dry skin and it leaves my skin feeling really soft and silky.

 

And finally, because at Frankly we are obsessed with food can you share a favourite recipe that has got you through lock-down?! Or if cooking is not your thing where is the first place you ate out & what did you have?!

I have to say I’ve definitely improved my cooking skills during lock-down! A recipe which I discovered recently was ginger, sweet potato and coconut milk stew with lentils and kale. I would not call myself a vegetarian, but I eat a lot less meat than I used to, and I am always looking for tasty veggie recipes. (This even got a thumbs up from my other half, which is quite a achievement – he’s not always keen on my cooking!!)

 

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, small dice
½ – 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes

½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 ½ lbs (690 grams or 2 medium) sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces
½ cup brown lentils, picked over
4 cups vegetable stock
13.5 oz (400 ml) can full fat coconut milk
1 small bunch of kale, stems removed & leaves chopped (about 4 cups chopped & lightly packed kale)

Garnish:
chopped coriander
extra chilli flakes
lime wedges

 

Method:

  1. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the coconut oil to the pot and let it melt. Add the onions to the pot and stir. Saute the onions, stirring occasionally, until translucent and quite soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chili flakes, coriander, cumin, and turmeric. Saute spices until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the ginger and garlic to the pot and cook for another minute. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  1. Add the sweet potatoes to the pot and stir to coat in the spices. Add the lentils to the pot and stir once more. Season everything liberally with salt and pepper. Add the vegetable stock and stir, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Place the lid on top of the pot and bring to a boil.
  1. Once the stew is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and set the lid slightly askew on top of the pot so that there’s a couple inches available for steam to escape. Simmer until the sweet potatoes are almost falling apart and the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. The liquid should also be reduced by almost a third.
  1. Add the coconut milk and kale to the pot and stir. Place the lid on top and continue to simmer the stew until the kale is wilted and bright green, about 3-4 minutes. Season the sweet potato and coconut milk stew again with salt and pepper. Bring the stew back up to a strong simmer and check for seasoning. Adjust with more salt, pepper, chili etc. if necessary.
  1. Serve the sweet potato and coconut milk stew hot with chopped coriander, extra chili flakes, lime wedge.

 

Don't forget that 15% of the sales of our 100% organic cotton, Fairwear certified tee go to help support Claire & her team with their mission. Shop here!