Green Frog clientTerrie Johnson from Wallasey, Wirral was featured in The Sunday Times this weekend as part ofThe Change Makers campaign, a hunt to find our social entrepreneur of the year.
Fruit to Suit, the company Terrie founded, was born while she did some supply teaching at an inner-city school in Birkenhead, six years ago. Just as she was pondering what to do next, tough new government guidelines banning junk food in schools had come in, forcing the closure of the tuck shop, which had been stocked with chocolate and crisps.
Terrie says, “As a mum, I became frustrated at not being able to buy healthy snacks for my children. I thought if I was struggling to find healthy snacks then thousands of other mums were too. Due to media coverage, school dinners were becoming healthier, but schools were still selling junk foods through their tuck shops.”
Terrie, 46, started giving out raisins and apricots at break, and interest in the healthy snacks steadily grew. Fruit to Suit now supplies 150 schools with apple bites, seeds, raisins and other healthy treats. The children who run the tuck shops get training in entrepreneurial skills and most of the profits go to charity or to school funds. The children who volunteer — aged from 8 to 14 — are given formal roles such as sales manager, finance manager and market researcher. They also learn to do their own stock-taking and accounts.
“At the beginning I ask the kids to draw what a business person looks like and they always draw a man in a suit carrying a briefcase,” Terrie says. “At the end of the training we do the same exercise and they very often draw themselves. They’ve got the idea that a girl in pigtails can be a businessperson too. It’s an important lesson for later life.”
The children choose and promote their “snack of the week”. “If it’s apple bites, they’ll be telling the other kids how good it is to eat apples,” Terrie says. “That’s one of the beauties of all this — because it’s children who are running the tuck shops, they’re the ones spreading the message about the benefits of healthy eating. There’s a lot of positive peer pressure.”
Terrie also hopes that her experience of creating a business that allows her to care for her family will be inspirational. “People think teaching is ideal if you have children because of the holidays but I never felt I got any quality time with mine because I had so much paperwork,” she says. Now I do a lot of my work after they’ve gone to bed or get up at six in the holidays so I can put in a few hours and then spend most of the day with them. It has grown so much it certainly hasn’t turned out to be the little 9-3 job I was imagining, but it works for me because I can fit my work around my life.”
“When you have children you can lose a lot of confidence in your own abilities. I struggled to see myself as a business woman at first feeling like a ‘mum in disguise’, thinking one day someone was going to catch me out, ‘She’s not really a business woman, she’s just a mum!’ Now I’m a business woman!”
Terrie was nominated for The Change Makers campaign, which launched on Sunday 4th March in The Sunday Times, and calls on the public to nominate inspirational social entrepreneurs who are running a project or organisation that is having a significant and positive impact on the community. We are looking to celebrate inspiring individuals who have found innovative and enterprising solutions to help tackle social issues.