Tue, 4 June 2019
Where did the idea come from?
In 2007, Rachael Bews was working alongside a woman named Alison who had fled an abusive relationship with her three children. When Rachael asked her how she managed to stay strong and positive despite her circumstances, Alison explained that a good coat and pair of shoes were her ‘suit of armour’ – letting her attend job interviews, fit in among other parents on the school playground, and feel that she could maintain her dignity.
Her words stuck with Rachael, and eight years later when she too found herself fleeing an abusive partner, she came face to face with the limited resources that were being offered to women in crisis. Donated clothes were typically second hand, out of fashion, often musty smelling, and stored in black bin bags. Recognising how demoralising this could be, Rachael set out to provide an alternative.
The next steps…
Through her research Rachael learned that thousands of tonnes of surplus retail clothes were being burned or sent to landfill every year – and there were no existing organisations providing new clothes to women in crisis. To solve these two problems, Rachael founded ALICAS in 2018 – short for ‘Ali’s Coats and Shoes’.
To prove the concept of the social venture and raise awareness, ALICAS launched with a 3-month pilot campaign to collect and donate 10,000 pieces of new clothing to domestic abuse survivors. Through SIE’s Fresh Ideas Competition they gained a valuable networking and publicity platform, and ultimately walked away with the Special Award for Social Enterprise – along with a cash prize that allowed them to set up infrastructure for packaging, distribution and storage.
Rachael was named Alumnus of the Year by the University of the Highlands and Islands in 2018, and has been featured widely across the press by outlets including The Herald, BBC News and Reporting Scotland.
Where are they in 2019?
ALICAS currently have 3 retail partners who regularly donate new garments, and they work with 14 referral agencies for women in crisis, with a further 9 on their waiting list.
In April, Rachael received the Points of Light Award, along with a personal letter from the Prime Minister in recognition of her life-changing work.