Karis Gill.



What is your business called?

Social Stories Club.

Where is it based?


What does it produce?

Social Stories Club is a social enterprise which makes socially conscious gift hampers, with every product inside creating social impact. In one gift, you can find soap, chocolate, and tea that support individuals with disabilities, reforestation, and education for girls, among others. One example of a social enterprise featured in our hampers is Tea People, who sell tea to fund the education of girls in tea growing regions. Our products tell stories of positive social impact around the world. We share these stories in a booklet included in the box.

To whom does it sell?

Our focus is on businesses with strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals, both corporates and smaller businesses. These businesses already gift and love the idea of making a social impact with gifts. We have worked with several businesses across the UK, ranging from companies in education, security, media, and business support, among others. Our secondary focus is on women aged 25-45 buying for other women, including friends and relatives.

What is its turnover?

We have projected revenues of £189,000 by the end of year three and £750,000 after five years. As a social enterprise, we are a for-profit business and we reinvest 100 per cent of our profits back into our social enterprise.

How many employees?

Two directors and four volunteers. We’re currently looking to grow our team to include marketing and sales as well as content creation and social media team members.

When was it formed?

We started trading in December 2018.

Why did you take the plunge?

I started Social Stories Club in my final year at Edinburgh University with fellow student Aayush Goyal. I was studying Business and Marketing and Aayush was doing a degree in International Business with Finance and we came up with the idea as a way of avoiding getting down to writing our dissertations.

On a year abroad at the University of British Columbia, I was exploring the business societies at the Freshers Fair. I wasn’t just looking for a club, I was looking for my tribe. It was here I came across the Social Enterprise Club. When I learned about the concept, I was blown away; “business could be used to solve social issues?”. Social enterprise can best be described as a marriage between entrepreneurship and charity. This was a life-changing moment for me. At that moment, I realised what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Inspired by the incredible stories behind social enterprises, I have become obsessed with researching social stories and I have found thousands of social enterprises throughout the world. On my 21st birthday, I came up with the idea for Social Stories Club. I felt overwhelmingly excited.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I worked as a holiday rep for TUI abroad for three summers (2015, 2016, 2017) while I was at university. I was able to live and work in Tunisia, Spain, and Greece. The job involved high volume sales and customer service. My duties included welcome meetings of up to 150 people, and I was able to practice my public speaking skills and learned that sales are earned by delivering fantastic customer service. In 2015, the terrorist attack in Tunisia cut my time short but I learnt how to reassure emotional customers in a tragic and enormously high-pressure situation.

As well as studying at university, Aayush was employed as the DJ for Edinburgh Universities student nightclub known as The Big Cheese, and he still DJs there most Saturdays.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

To help us with some of the pre-trading expenses such as legal expenses, insurance, and ordering samples, we applied for the Enterprise Innovation grant offered by Edinburgh Innovations, the commercialisation arm of The University of Edinburgh and they awarded us a total of £2000. Aayush and I also invested some of our personal savings into the business to order samples. We bootstrapped everything at the beginning, doing everything ourselves, instead of hiring experts. In the summer of 2019, we applied for a start-up accelerator, hosted by Edinburgh Innovations in partnership with Santander Universities. Through this accelerator, we received a grant of £3,000. This funding has been essential to developing our new brand and new range of products.

What was your biggest break?

We saw bringing on board corporate clients as essential. Consumers are very seasonal with their purchases, so corporates who purchase gift boxes all year round could provide us with financial stability. Bringing on-board a corporate customer is quite challenging and it takes quite a few months. Our first large corporate order came through on my birthday in April 2019.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

The reason I started Social Stories Club, is because I loved the concept of social enterprise and I wanted to share the stories behind these wonderful ventures. I now get to do this every day. Our receivers often tell us of the delight they feel when they read our story booklet explaining the positive social impact behind the products in their gifts, and I feel honoured to have been the one to introduce them to the world of social enterprise. I know what we are doing is making a difference to communities and the environment.

What do you least enjoy?

Admin work including legal documents, filing papers, purchasing insurance, maintaining inventory, and accountancy. There is a lot of red-tape and fine print which needs to be read and understood.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

We want to grow and become the largest corporate gifting company in the UK and then the largest in Europe, and then the largest in the world. The largest gifting company in the world should be a social enterprise. We want to bring more excitement to the social enterprise world through colours and stories. We also want to introduce people to socially conscious alternatives to every product/service they consume.

What are your five top priorities? -

1. Social Impact:

2. Team: The team drives the social enterprise.

3. Financial Sustainability: This is important to make sure we are here the following month.

4. Customer delight: We do not just want customers to be satisfied, we want customers to be delighted and as excited as we are by our gift hampers.

5. Collaboration: We realise that we can make a larger impact faster through collaboration.

What could the next Westminster Government do to help SMEs?

We'd like to see some specific measures aimed at recognising the challenge that start-ups face when they look to expand. At a fairly early stage in their development, very small businesses face having to pay VAT and Corporation Tax and to take responsibility for arranging pensions, payroll services and national insurance contributions for anyone they employ. Start-ups get to a stage where it costs them to expand and for many that extra cost is just unsustainable.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

That a lot of people miss out on opportunities because they do not ask. While Aayush and I are still learning the art of having a brass neck, we have been able to get so many opportunities because we asked for something or we have requested people to make an exception.

How do you relax?

Sitting at a cafe and enjoying a hot chocolate is one of my favourite ways to relax. It is even better if I have a book in my hand. Occasionally, my grandma takes me on a trip to an exotic country and we have a lot of fun. This year she took me to explore the old towns in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy walking specifically in forested areas these walks are probably my favourite way to disconnect from the world.

Aayush enjoys relaxing by cooking. He likes to try different recipes and is very experimental. His favourite type of music is trance, which makes him feel very relaxed.