29th August 2017
UWTSD graduate launches innovative product and project to break the cycle of homelessness
Surface Pattern Design graduate and UWTSD alumni Jo Ashburner Farr has joined forces with the University and Wales’ homeless charity, The Wallich to deliver what could potentially be a gamechanger for rough sleepers and those suffering from homelessness.
ROOF® is the all in one water-resistant insulated composite textile coat with integrated sleeping bag, designed to give the wearer added protection against weather and fire hazards and an easy release mechanism to protect against physical harm.
Within the official collaboration between Jo’s social enterprise business Red Dragon Manufacturing Ltd, UWTSD, and The Wallich, the University is managing the delivery of clinical trials on the product prototypes, product risk assessment, fabric fatigue, durability and ‘fit for purpose’ testing in support of the product’s lifetime guarantee. The Wallich has extended its already extensive role in supporting rough sleepers to manage the pastoral care so important to their clients and service users and once the product has completed the clinical trials will go to market as the first ‘intelligent’ coat of its kind and the first coatbag to be commercialised. As a social enterprise, Jo’s business is limited by guarantee, has no shareholders and is overseen by an enviable Board of Trustee Directors including the CEO of Social Enterprise UK, Peter Holbrook. All profits are reinvested into the business, the community and employees.
As a high end product a basic ‘Watson’ ROOF® will retail for in the region of £350 for and sales will support the donation of every fifth product to a rough sleeper as well as support the rehabilitation and employment of a person from that community.
As a priority in this collaboration and innovation is the eight-stage training programme being taught to service users as a route to sustainable employment and life changing opportunities for the individual and their dependents. The training programme which has successfully helped to rehabilitate more than 100 people since 2014 will officially launch once the business and the charity have together completed the imminent move to larger premises in the Swansea City area, an investment made by the Charity itself.
ROOF® and the parent company Red Dragon Manufacturing Ltd was established by Jo in 2014 and its other successful ranges include traditional sewn and quality printed custom design flags (www.reddragonflagmakers.co.uk) and the manufacture of textile goods for start-up and small businesses.
Jo graduated from UWTSD’s Swansea College of Art in 2004 with a First Class Honours and a Scholarship to do a Masters in Enterprise at Manchester University. No mean feat as she had first gone to Foundation in 2000 as a single homeless parent of a 10 month child. After graduation Jo went on to become Wales Regional and UK Businesswoman of the Year in 2006 with her brand Noonoo© which she first developed at UWTSD. Her brand and products went on to win Sustainable Product of the Year in New York and Best Product in Show (Extra Small) at Maison and Objets in Paris that same year and in 2009 she became Entrepreneur in Residence at UWTSD, a Role Model for the Welsh Government in 2012 and Entrepreneur of the Year (Manufacturing) in 2015.
For information on ROOF® and how to donate to, participate in or work for the project, please go to www.roof-se.co.uk.