Bags of Enterprise
Northern Ireland-based social entrepreneur, Dave Linton, founded Madlug in 2015. He was voted last year by the readers of The Big Issue for the Social Enterprise UK Consumer Facing Award 2018. He speaks to Ross Duncan about his business.
Through persistence, Dave applied and won a crowdfunding competition to meet the entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson ‘Brunch with Branson’. Here, he was given the opportunity of a 60-second pitch to talk about Madlug and to win a prize of £1,000 in competition money.
Resulting from his work as a youth worker for 22 years and a foster carer for 10 years, Dave has acquired an in-depth knowledge and understanding of social care. He considers himself to be both a social entrepreneur and business entrepreneur, especially when business and social entrepreneurs become as one, being able to identify and solve a problem.
With 90,000 children in care in the UK and with one child moving every 15 minutes, the story of Madlug began after Dave heard a heartbreaking story about a young child moving within the care system with no luggage of their own. He heard similar examples of foster carers stepping in and temporarily lending luggage and the worst-case scenario of black plastic bags being used as luggage containers. “I believe in society, that we have a role as corporate parents. Every child should be valued and respected with dignity,” Dave says.
With a drive of wanting to help young people and a belief in fairness and justice, Madlug provides bags free of charge to local authorities across the UK for every child in care, so no child in care should have their belongings carried in a bin bag.
Funding the provision of these good quality bags for free involves the manufacture and selling of rucksacks to paying customers, where all profits are ploughed back into the cost of producing a free bag to a child in care. When one bag is purchased, one bag is provided for free to a child in care.
But as the demand for Madlug rucksacks has steadily grown the manufacturing base had to move out of Northern Ireland and is now ethically sourced in China due to its available increased capacity.
Dave explains his philosophy: "the only reason why I am in business is to help people and the reason why I have chosen the route to becoming a purist social enterprise is so that people can’t say that I’ve been lining my pockets in making a profit for myself.
"Each bag purchased has a story to tell - that no child deserves having their belongings carried in a black plastic bag.
"I might have set up Madlug but I don’t own it; I am the only employee of Madlug, it is in actual fact a Community Interest Company."