Growing Talent Social Enterprise Award: Sharlene Stewart

Published 30th August 2022

Sharlene Stewart, Waterman’s Facilities Coordinator, joined our facilities management team in London in October 2019 as part of Growing Talent, an organisation devised by Jane James of Jane James Consultancy which mentors unemployed candidates across a six-week programme with the aim of securing them a permanent working position.

At the start of the programme, each candidate was tasked with devising and delivering a social enterprise idea that benefited the local community which would then be presented to a panel of employers at the end of the six weeks. The winner would be chosen based on how effective their scheme would be and the residing panel would be looking for evidence of collaboration, community engagement and building “neighbourliness”.

Having grown up on a council estate, Sharlene created the Renovo Concept, a scheme which would create a charity to collect furniture that has been illegally dumped and repurpose them into new products. She explained: “With the majority of estates being tower block flats, I used to step out of the communal doors and be confronted with an old fridge, sofa or tables with broken legs that other residents had just dumped there. Not only were they an eye-saw, I was also concerned where these products would end up in the environment chain. I decided to create something that would allow the items to be collected for free, removing the costs from the council, and then have unemployed individuals taught the practical carpentry, tech design, textile and painting skills to refurbish the items and sell on. Alternatively, those who want to establish a more software-based skillset would learn how to redesign interior spaces using Revit or AutoCAD.”

As part of the judging panel, Philip Varney, Waterman’s Director of Facilities Management, commented: “It has been a fantastic and humbling experience working with Growing Talent as they provide employment opportunities to those job seekers who find it difficult to get back into work. Through their process, Sharlene has undertaken every avenue to improve herself mentally, physically and emotionally into a valuable member of the facilities management team and her Renovo Concept idea ticked every box. The delivery of her presentation was clear, concise and enlightening. She was a very deserving winner.”