In Profile: Sharon Poon

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Sharon Poon is the Social Enterprise Manager for Made in Marylebone – a social enterprise with a goal to empower homeless women into independent living.


Made in MaryleboneWhat is the idea behind Munch in Marylebone?

The idea is to provide an avenue for the women to be in meaningful work and gain employment skills and training. Often in the hostel, they can end up feeling very isolated. The aim is therefore to empower them to be ready for a life and career outside of the project. Often the women have backgrounds of abuse and substance issues, so our challenge is to build their confidence and skills while providing them with safety, security and shelter.

What has been the biggest challenge the social enterprise has faced?

It is often difficult to balance the needs of the women that we work with and the idea of building a business. We want to be able to achieve a really high standard; we want people buying the product for its quality not sympathy. However, obviously the working relationship between the employer and employee is of a different mind set compared to other businesses. This is often a challenge, but equally is often the reward.

What role does Munch in Marylebone play in the empowerment of homeless women?

We empower every woman through our Learners Journey. It starts with a taster session, introducing them to the idea of the social enterprise. Then introducing them to the kitchen and moving them through to helping with events and our market stalls. We work on building their catering qualifications with the end goal of moving each woman into sustainable work.

How is the issue of homelessness changing?

Homelessness is still an increasing issue in London, over the past year rough sleeping has increased 13 per cent. As the challenge grows, the way in which we help is now changing. Increasingly it is now a skill-based solution, aiming to build confidence and self-esteem. Our biggest challenge is changing the negative perceptions of homelessness as a charitable cause. I think people are receptive to the social enterprise model especially in these economic times.

Where do you see Munch in Marylebone going next?

I want to see more women moving into work, that is our fundamental goal. We are focusing on providing tailored and quality training in order to make the women employable and self sustaining. Alongside this I want to see us grow into having more market stalls and interacting more with the local community.

Have the local community been helpful?

So far they have been great. We are mainly catering for business lunches in the office area around Baker Street. We have had some exciting work with the Hub Westminster providing them with cakes for their coffee shop. Recently Leonidas on Baker Street approached us to provide some new cakes and this is something we are hoping to build on!

Is there a sense of personal challenge and satisfaction which comes with your job?

For me the satisfaction comes from seeing how far someone has come and how they have changed. When we build one of the women’s confidence and skills I feel a real sense of achievement. Also seeing happy customers coming back and using the product again is also a great feeling.

How can people get involved and help out?

Well, check out our menu and get us down to cater an event. Equally we have a regular spot as a street stall just off Baker Street and if you are a food expert, we always appreciate people coming along to run a masterclass for the women.

If you could change one thing about Marylebone, what would it be?

I’d love Marylebone High Street to move west closer to our offices! Where I work there are too many chains. Oh and also, we need some good sushi!

More information: Made in Marylebone


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Features Editor at Marylebone Online.