You may have noticed our posts about social enterprise Different Kind and wondered why we support them. Well, we fell in love with their products and producers, and are proud to have been their first ever corporate clients of this new retail social enterprise that only stocks ‘goods that do good’. We started off buying gifts from them for our clients, then decided we should share the love with candidates in a once a month prize draw. Oh and there’s a story behind our relationship with them too (you can take the content-maker out of content but…)
Meet Liz Warner, CEO of Different Kind.
Joint MDs of Talented People Rosie and Kimberly both worked at betty when Liz was running the edgy, ground-breaking indie – she was their boss. She’s now doing something very different – by name, and by nature. Or is it? We had a virtual cup of tea with her to find out.
Q: Liz, you set up and ran betty as an indie, and grew it into the super successful factual entertainment production company. In fact, ‘The Undateables’ – an idea that you came up with and then produced for years – is still being made today! What are your fondest memories of those days?
A. I remember packed team meetings seeing a massive mix of bright and brilliant people squashed into the kitchen catching up on what was happening.
I remember lots of wrap parties in the office drinking late and eating chips. Constant toast and weekly yoga. And fond memories of the the hugely motivated team, the can do attitude, the team trips to Paris, MIP and USA. Tonnes of trips and tears. But most of all the best memories are of the daily optimistic office culture and strong belief we had in our ideas and ourselves.
Q: How did you get into TV production in the first place?
A: By wanting to leave women’s magazines very badly – and thinking TV was the place to be to influence popular culture.
I did that very rare thing of applying for a job from The Guardian without knowing anyone in tv, and was so naive I thought I could get in on merit and hard work alone.
Q: What do you think is different about working your way through the ranks with a career in content-making now?
A: I hope it is more open to people from different backgrounds than it was and that it is slightly less nepotistic?
Q: How did you enjoy your role as CEO of Comic Relief? What were the challenges?
A: I enjoyed learning to navigate a whole new sector, seeing the grassroots charity work firsthand in the U.K, Uganda, Sierra Leone and beyond: I really enjoyed managing the most amazing group of stakeholders from Lenny and other celebrities, to BBC DG and big commercial partners. Making new friends in worlds beyond tv and getting a changed view on life.
I learnt to speak in the House of Commons, terrified myself speaking firsthand about mental health at the global mental health conference : and saw people’s lives changed.
The challenges were changing the appeal films, persuading the charity to move away from white saviour celebrity culture, bringing in trustees with more lived experience of the issues. I was proud of changing the plastic iconic nose to be no longer plastic. Oh – and modernising and diversifying the leadership team before I left exhausted!
Q: So why did you decide to pack up your camera kit after so many successful years making TV?
A: I left still loving it but I was finding fewer outlets for risk taking ideas and I didn’t want to stay until I was stale or even fed up.
Q: Was there a lightbulb moment when the idea for Different Kind came to you? Or did it develop over time and with research?
A: Yes, it was when we were at the Luminary Bakery in Stoke Newington – I suddenly realised no one knew about this gem and so many other social enterprise suppliers. Walking away I could see the website – curating the best products in one place.
Q: How do you go about finding your suppliers and selecting their products?
A: Finding products is so like working with indies and commissioning at C4. you search out new small and interesting suppliers who want to make a difference to the world by what the make or who they employ or by what they stand for. It took months or research which is what the first lockdown was designed for!
Q: What are your ambitions for DK? You’ve always been one to push boundaries…
A: The ambition is to really showcase a kinder approach to business – one where we use goods to do good. Our producers are all doing amazing things as well as making stuff. Some are employing refugees or including people with autism and learning difficulties into the workforce or they are a coffee roaster that only buys from women farmers to bring about change in the way they source.
We want customers to seek out products that make a difference. It goes without saying they should do less harm to the climate but we are asking that they do positive things for others. Who knew coffee could f*** the patriarchy or that notebooks can be made in an LGTBQI creative print workshop, or that a handmade leather FIFA approved football could provide 500 jobs in Africa or that an EDIT beanie hat could give another to someone living on the streets.
This should be built into our business norms – a little less profit and a lot more shared progess.
Q: Will we ever see you back in the content-making world? With DK or otherwise?
A: I never say never. God I love film and television and as a genre of business it is full of can do people I would take anywhere with me.
Our team would love to hear from you.
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