Roof (work in progress page)


ROOF® is made for the homeless by those who have experienced homelessness.

ROOF® will identify the wearer’s core values without the need for words and overt branding.


  1. Executive summary
  2. The need for ROOF®
  3. A personal note, Jo Ashburner
  4. RDM – who are we?
  5. RDM and ROOF mission
  6. Research and development
  7. Similar projects
  8. ROOF project
  9. ROOF product
  10. Sales, revenue and investment
  11. Sales channels
  12. Financial assumptions
  13. Training and accreditation
  14. Collaboration
  15. RDM and The Wallich
  16. RDM and Challenge Wales: Official Partners
  17. Clinical trials (UWTSD)
  18. Product testing - affiliates
  19. ROOF – what’s need to get this project underway
  20. ROOF – long term plans
  21. Intellectual property

Executive summary

The challenge

Malnutrition, illness, disease and death is the eventual result of homelessness. Not just in a war zone, or as a result of a natural disaster, but in Cardiff, Swansea, London and our other great UK cities. As a society we can change this.

The opportunity

We are a social enterprise delivering a proven business model which rehabilitates through skills training and employment, manufacturing revenue generating product.  ROOF is a way to alleviate the pressures currently crippling our social system and potentially become the go to business model for infinite possible positive social outcomes.  Through ROOF we give a route to rehabilitation through training and the chance of sustainable gainful employment as full time machinists, production technicians or administrative staff earning a living wage with which to secure housing, and re-gain independence, self-respect and safety.

The project

ROOF® is a high end water-resistant insulated all in one padded coat with an inbuilt sleeping bag, hood, hidden pockets and breathable interlining - designed to pack-away into a cross over lightweight and portable shoulder bag. Key components of the product include use of the lining material previously used in the packaging industry which gives insulation and water resistance; and the integrated app technology developed by UWTSD which monitors weather, social conditions and product usability and purpose.

What we need from a social investor

We have partnered with the Wallich, Wales’ homeless charity and joined forces with UWTSD to develop, monitor and manage case studies for this project.  They have allocated funds and research personnel to the project which will deliver a study of social outcomes and anticipated wide ranging application potential in addition to the development of an integrated digital app to monitor climate and body temperature changes and garment mobility.

We are seeking

  • added value and intellectual investment
  • introductions to do-ers who will help us grow the business strongly and organically
  • collaborations
  • best business practice knowledge of supply chain, manufacturing practices and cost sharing.
  • Trustee Directors to join our diverse Board, and
  • Financial investment to support research and development of the product for multiple applications and markets.


There is a pressing need to overcome systemic problems of homelessness in society. Despite government, agency and philanthropic best efforts, the situation worsens year on year.  

ROOF® is a way to alleviate the pressures crippling the current system and potentially become the go to business model for infinite possible positive social outcomes.

ROOF® is a best alternative to the continuation of the historic and current cycle. Unlike other projects which employ people experiencing homelessness, ROOF® provides a real and valuable product for its own and extended communities.

ROOF® is for the people of (Swansea) who for whatever reason are in sheltered accommodation or experiencing homelessness and who want to re-join mainstream society through sustainable employment.

  1. A PERSONAL NOTE, Jo Ashburner

I very nearly became homeless.

In 1999, I had been married for seven years and lived in London and abroad, but 8x weeks before my son was born I unexpectedly found myself alone with no access to funds and nowhere to live. I've never cried so much, had so many panics, considered the worst case exit scenarios and survival strategies a vunerable woman can face, but I learned how to be gruff and shake it off and not let my predicament and situation define me.  

I had to overcome the situation I found myself back in full time education, courtesy of the now retired Steve White who was then the Head of Foundation Art and Design at Swansea Institute (now UWTSD) who gave me the break I needed to make a change in my personal circumstances and who never judged me for it, either then or since. 

I worked hard and (although Ill never have the bank balance of JK Rowling who was in the same predicament at the same time!), I refused to let being a single mum, living in a council house and surviving on 12p a day (after rent, utilities and bills) define me. Four years later, I graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Surface Pattern Design in 2004, won a Scholarship to do a Masters in Enterprise and within two years achieved UK National Businesswoman of the Year for Ethical Manufacturing.

This is not at all about me and I don't feel I owe anyone an explanation, much less expect or want any applause for my achievements, but I do have first hand experience of the humiliation of having nothing and memories of my fight to regain dignity, self-confidence, my place in the world and a roof over my head.

Everything happens for a reason and this is mine.

I have first hand experience of the presumption of employers that someone who is visibly different in any way from the average norm, is perhaps not as good an option as an employee who meets the usual person specifications for a job. It just doesn’t add up that public, private or other money is spent on training people (able bodied, marginalised or otherwise) with every good intention but that a disproportionate (small) amount of money is then spent on supporting the very businesses which create the jobs that they are being trained for in the first place. 

I am not under the illusion that I personally and the ROOF™ project as a whole will categorically solve the homeless problem.  Homelessness is a complex multi-facetted social phenomenon and there is a risk of actually marginalizing those who don’t have that drive intact to make a change if they ever had it at all for a multitude of reasons.

I am however determined to reach out to homeless people with an opportunity and give them the tools to remove barriers to motivation by tapping into people’s individual motivation and creating conditions that will help those that make up this group want to be a part of this business and want to make a step change in their lives towards a better quality of life.  In ROOF™ I hope to be able to alter attitudes in any small way possible and develop a vehicle which will train people for REAL ACTUAL LONG TERM jobs.  I will continue to seek out those people who WANT to work, WANT to learn skills, WANT to belong to something long term - as an individual and a business - and I’m offering to train to make to sell to grow to sell again.

ROOF™ this will have a knock-on effect for a great social and economic good.  Give someone a goal, an aspirational motivation, support them to achieve their goals and I have experienced that they will give their best to deliver for you in return.   Each person within the business has responsibilities and instead of everyone focusing on their own specific job within the business (like a separate business cog). We train everyone with the same skills so that everyone who works within the business takes ownership of their own role and their responsibilities, be awarded and rewarded, educated and developed for the long haul and treat the business as their own. Individuals’ strengths and weaknesses are accounted for and the workload is shared. Incentives, child care support, flexible working hours, a TOIL (time off in lieu) system, social events, external training opportunities and a say in the business are just some of the opportunities given to current RDM staff and the same would be extended to those who work on the ROOF™ project as part of the same business family.

If there is any doubt about my personal commitment to this project, I would say that I have taken nine month’s pay in 31 months of building the business from scratch to where it is now (all members of staff including me are paid the national living wage pro rata) and I have been developing, prototyping, researching ROOF™ for the past two years to a point where I can now step back from running the flag making side of RDM to concentrate on what I believe will be a game changer in ROOF™ – for so many people. 

  1. RDM - WHO ARE WE?

ROOF® is the registered trademark and concept of Red Dragon Manufacturing Ltd (RDM).

RDM is a Swansea-based not for profit social enterprise business established in January 2014 rehabilitating those previously separated from mainstream employment through skills training and development.

Delivery of this social mission is specifically through the manufacture and sale of traditional sewn and quality flags b2b, b2c and to public sector clients under its trademark and trading name of Red Dragon Flagmakers.

RDM supplies clients worldwide in the private, corporate and public sectors, notably as Official Suppliers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2014 at the NATO conference and to the European Space Agency in 2016.

RDM is governed by a Board of Trustee Directors who oversee the overall business strategy and proactively assist and support the CEO in her running of the business as Operational Director on a day to day basis.

There are no shareholders, the business is limited by guarantee and VAT registered and the business practices a flat hierarchy and equal opportunity management style. The business currently employs eight people including part time and out workers as well as volunteers.

RDM is an award winning registered Social Enterprise, a Living Wage Employer, and holder of the Disability Confident Employer award.

RDM's specific goals are to build on the company's experience and success, create viable brands, manufacture quality products, capture market share and continue to strengthen its business model.

RDM engages with and offers the opportunity for rehabilitation to those suffering from homelessness through facilitation of training and the opportunity to become full time machinists and production technicians (ROOF® trainees), earning a stable income, finding secure housing, and re-gaining their independence, self respect and safety for themselves and their families.


The specific goal is to help build a better life for those who have become trapped in the cycle of homelessness and hire homeless individuals from local shelters to become full time employees. I would like there to be a specific focus on hiring women with children in the first instance and roles within ROOF™ will include:

  • pattern cutters
  • quality control
  • machinists
  • trim finishers
  • post room, admin, IT, marketing and more.

Employees will earn a stable income which will enable them to be eligible for secure housing and gain back their independence for themselves and for their families. 

ROOF™ will

  • build on established social enterprise training, rehabilitation, manufacturing capabilities and experience.
  • establish a manufacturing unit combining training and rehabilitation of homeless people, particularly women with children in shelters and temporary accommodation
  • establish production facilities to manufacture the ROOF™ product and employ the trained workforce.
  • generate revenue through sales of ROOF™ b2b and b2c
  • donate a proportion of products made by the homeless to those in need within the homeless community to alleviate discomfort, accommodation and physical and mental health issues.
  • develop a sustainable transferable business model which can be shared with other communities nationwide.

I aim to grow the business to enable people to escape the benefit trap that is associated with low paid employment.  Within ROOF™ as with RDM there will eventually be more skilled, higher paid positions, as well as people moving on to related industries as they gain experience and confidence.

To achieve this last objective, I will establish further a strategy of continuous recruitment and training and build on our track record of working with our established connections to allow me to be flexible and give staff confidence and autonomy to mutually support new recruits.



In 2015 I was asked as Entrepreneur in Residence and Business Role Model at UWTSD to present a ‘real’ final year business project assignment to students at UWTSD.  I commissioned and worked with eight students to produce a comprehensive feasibility study including market research (engaging with target end user and client base), financial projections and funding routes on the viability of the ROOF™ project.

Student reports

Service user study report HERE

Market research HERE


None of the similar projects identified actually commercialise their product.  They all have a social mission but all rely heavily on donations in kind or financially. ROOF™ is different.  It generates its own income to deliver social outcomes. 


which takes a basic principle several steps further via commercialisation and revenue generating sales of the product.  The Empowerment Plan and Sheltersuit projects rely on grants and donations which the UK version includes in strategy but is not dependent on.

Other fashionista type products include which coordinates fundraising, collection and distribution of warm clothing to homeless communities in the UK and Canada.

Proven commercially viable products to watch include:


The price points are worth noting


Its worth remembering that no animals will be harmed in any way in the manufacture of ROOF™.


ROOF™ will enable the education, employment and empowerment of homeless people and to support a proactive return to a better life for themselves and their families, while producing a humanitarian product for those in need.

ROOF™ -  enabling and empowering homeless people to build a better life for themselves



ROOF® is a water-resistant insulated all in one padded coat with an integrated sleeping bag, hood, hidden pockets and breathable interlining - designed to pack-away into a cross over lightweight and portable shoulder bag.  



ROOF™ is:

  1. a high end aspirational product (North Face, Barbour, Patagonia) finished to a high standard. The RRPs for this product start at c.£350 for the basic ROOF™
  2. a philanthropic gift to be distributed to homeless people living on the UK streets at no cost to them, funded through a combination of partnerships established with outreach agencies in our local community, and business to business / business to consumer sales.

Sales of ROOF® through business to business and business to consumer channels will generate the income to cover overheads, support a healthy cash flow stream, pay for production development, marketing, sales, the expansion of the programme and the rehabilitation and employment of the target clients. All products are made by members or ex members of the homeless community.

In addition to sales revenue:

  1. a sponsorship system facilitating CSR and philanthropic donations
  2. collaborations enable best business practice and cost sharing
  3. a crowd funding programme will raise awareness and signpost donations
  4. community and philanthropic grants will be applied for (UnLtd, Princes Trust, BOSS).

Sales of every five ROOF® products enable the donation of a fifth and/or sixth to a homeless person.


The RDM website has been prepared with multi channels to sell all RDM products including flags, ROOF and other pop up and own label products made by RDM.

Multiple external sales channels including Amazon, Ebay and Etsy have been programmed through service provider VEEQO to integrate with the RDM website and manage sales and stock. The VEEQO system enables a one time login, one time product upload and one time order alert with sales reports all streamlined to enable immediate financial and actual status assessment.

RDM reached the finals in the 'One to Watch' Awards 2015 for ongoing and future projects including ROOF®.

It is anticipated that the product will be retailed direct to consumers centrally with the exception of:

  1. ROOF retail unit (at workshop) in collaboration with the Wallich
  2. TYF -
  3. Collaborations
  4. No external agents, distributors, retailers or contractors.

An addendum to the RDM 2014 Business Plan (both researched and written by BIC Innovation, and funded by the Wales Cooperative Centre) is available on request.

The financial assumptions included in the addendum are expanded in the financial assumptions found on the shared Dropbox folder. Access by permission only.


Neither the Plan nor the financial assumptions have not been amended in any way since as the project has continued to evolve and the following should be taken into consideration:

  1. ROOF® product unit production costs may go down as well as up
  2. The unit retail price has yet to be determined. The financial assumptions state a price of £185 per unit.  The price for a basic ROOF® will actually be in the region of £350 per unit.
  3. The business pays a monthly rent of £600pcm plus bills – these are incremented in the financial assumptions and increased over time which is not the case
  4. The financial assumptions are very conservative on quantities of products sold
  5. Training, sales and infrastructure will always be built on the sales and production of
    1. flags
    2. own label production for other companies
    3. pop up products.
  6. The financial assumptions do not account for income from grants, donations, crowd funding contributions, payments for training or longer term production contracts. RDM has evolved since these financial assumptions were put together.  Overheads and cost of sales have been streamlined.
  7. As at May 2017, RDM financial situation is summarised as follows:
    1. No creditors
    2. No debtors
    3. No overdraft

ROOF® trainees undertake an eight stage training programme - on the principles of cut make and trim (CMT) textile product manufacturing process.  Trainees are trained in the CMT of traditional sewn flags 'if you can make a flag you can make anything' before graduating onto the higher value ROOF® project and materials.

Over time, trainee positions are available for sales, office, marketing, admin, despatch and distribution, quality control and line management positions within the organisation. 

On successful completion of the eight stage training programme (which takes a minimum of two months to complete), the trainee achieves a level of skill needed to qualify for employment with ROOF®.

In time the strongest trainees will become the trainers.

RDM is currently working on an accreditation for the eight stage training programme in collaboration with Gower College (UWTSD) it is hoped that the training programme will be a recognised training programme and stepping stone to employment with other businesses, as well as ROOF®.

RDM is a Disability Confident Employer (2014 to date), awarded by JCP.


Collaboration comes in many forms and we welcome all contributors and contributions.

Why would you want to be a part of ROOF®? If you have to ask, then we already know its not a good fit.

We are actively recruiting to our Board of Trustee Directors with value adding contributors to help us achieve our aims and objectives from the get go.  These opportunities are currently being promoted through the WCVA, SVCA and social media channels. The link to the position specification can be found HERE.

Due diligence is undertaken on every person connected directly with the business and each 'applicant' is invited to be considered for election to the Board subject to full agreement of the Trustee Directors already in place.  The post of Trustee Director with the business is dependent on total confidentiality and discretion; and is unpaid.

ROOF® was presented to a group of BCorp businesses in September 2016 and received a great deal support and several offers of assistance in moving things forward once production was underway. It should be said that RDM has no intention of becoming a BCorp but there are many connections worth following up.


Work is under way with The Wallich to collaborate on the acquisition and occupation of an open plan creative space / workshop / industrial unit in which to develop, grow and launch the ROOF project.

This facility will be located in Swansea (central) and be consumer, staff and client base friendly. 

A service level agreement is yet to be signed off but in principle, the following will apply:

In principle:

  1. The Wallich will supply a suitable premises in central Swansea to accommodate RDM in all its production activities.
  2. RDM will pay a peppercorn rent for use of said premises
  3. RDM will continue to run its business including production, sales and marketing autonomously and separate to the Wallich charity
  4. RDM will recruit, train and rehabilitate Wallich service users / clients with a view to employment either within RDM or externally.
  5. RDM will continue to recruit, train and rehabilitate those people referred to the training programme via established routes
  6. Share of utilities to be decided
  7. No rates payable
  8. The Wallich and RDM to agree to a basis for partnership, stability and expansion
  9. Use of Wallich infrastructure – marketing, PR, branding etc…..?
  10. etc (To be completed by the Wallich and RDM).

Challenge Wales and RDM partnered up in early 2017 to promote their mutual social mission and enabling of people of every age through skills, empowerment and adventure. 

RDM’s proven business model and social mission rehabilitates those who may have previously been excluded from mainstream employment routes through a soon to be accredited eight stage training schedule.   Since launch in January 2014, c.100 people have been empowered in this way.

The Challenge Wales adventure is one of the incredible life-changing opportunities available and reward for those rehabilitated through and working with RDM in return for which Red Dragon Flagmakers under the RDM umbrella company supplies the ensigns, courtesy flags, branded insignia and livery for the Challenge Wales vessel to ensure that wherever she sails and berths, she represents Wales proudly and dressed appropriately.

Click HERE to read more on Challenge Wales.

  1. CLINICAL TRIALS - UWTSD (University of Wales Trinity St David)

UWTSD is currently formulating a sequence of ‘clinical trials’ to underpin the value of the product and the project. We are developing a monitorable case study procedure, IP and product rights formation, tensile strength and fit for purposes research studies. is the monitoring system under consideration.

The ROOF® product is a generic product and may not be able to be design patented on its own but with the ROOF® brand name registered and the concept of the 'history tag' serial numbers integral to the design, plus a lifetime guarantee of repairs, there may still be scope for copyright.

At a meeting held at UWTSD (Cadogan Conf Rm on 24th May 2017), the following was agreed:

  • Peter and Luca to develop ASTUTE project to carry out the tensile and thermo testing (supported by Juan)
  • Graham to look at the development of a Test Plan – internship with Tom/Andrew?
  • Juan and Nik to further explore ideas for life logging and product lifecycle
  • Nik/Lisa  to speak to Kemi/Gaynor/Gary about web apps for monitoring the usage (movement and environmental conditions) – this may require a follow up meeting with Wallich.
  • Sarah to speak to A&D re an internship or project related to the branding
  • Lisa to send Jo information on SMART Partnerships
  • Lisa/Dylan to follow up with Tania/Amanda re user experience research
  • Jo to seek independent advice on IP - actioned (030717)

Intellectual Property Rights 

Business Wales ROOF IP support

The Wales Cooperative Centre have agreed to fund 7x hours of consultation on IP rights and issues for ROOF. A meeting is pending.


  • The Welsh Regiment have agreed to road test ROOF® on military exercise in extreme conditions.
  • Several dozen ROOF® samples to be made and donated to members of the local homeless community, those most in need and in particular those who want to participate in the first cohort of the ROOF® journey and programme.  
  • Samples to be sent to BCorp, Social Enterprise contacts for testing, feedback and alteration. 
  • Commercial applications include:  military, camping, festival goers, mountaineering, refugee and humanitarian

    RDM has the machinery, the core trainer staff, social media, press, a core customer database and majority of skills required to get the project going and is currently working on the following:

    • Additional value adding Trustee Directors
    • A suitable and realistically affordable creative space in which to deliver the product and the project and which is client and service user friendly.
      • Close to the City Centre in a non industrial area.
      • Private, accessible, light and airy, a non conformist space.
      • A safe place.
      • Kitchen and quiet time areas.
      • Light industrial planning permission to accommodate sewing machines, cutting tables, walls for projected art and design, storage for paper patterns, fabrics (all fabrics are fire retardant).
      • Office space.
      • Open plan.
    • Alignment with credible, established, homeless community-focused businesses / recruitment channels / agencies - to benefit all parties equally through positive social outcomes. 
    • RDM has to date been wholly reliant on revenue and income from sales. We are now making applications for external funding through grants, donations, philanthropic investment and donations.
    • A crowd funding fund raiser will be launched by June/July 2017 to raise capital to make the first batch of ROOF products in its basic format – these will be used in the clinical trials and to demonstrate the project to investors and collaborators.

    There are multiple variations and possibilities for the ROOF® project:

    • The refugee crisis worsens on a daily basis and it is intended that ROOF will contribute towards the alleviation of suffering and homelessness regardless of geography. We hope to engage with charities on the ground, including:
      • Medicins sans frontiers
      • Save the Children
      • Unicef
      • Oxfam
    • Army, armed forces
      • Welsh Regiment already on board
    • Festival goers
      • Head of volunteers at Glastonbury already on board
    • Camping applications
      • Fashionista
      • Glamping – Bell Tent UK is interested
    • Mountain and other rescue services

    Social innovation

    Interesting article from NESTA published recently - click here to read

    Intellectual Property

    ROOF® is a registered trademark with product design patent pending under review.

    roof  roof  roof roof






    Poler napsack

    and another project we've been introduced to is: which coordinates fundraising, collection and distribution of warm clothing to homeless communities in the UK and Canada.

    Canada Goose

    Wully Outerwear:

    Wully outerwear




    (source:  The Telegraph, 13th January 2017)