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Enabled Works: empowering people with disabilities to become business owners

Case study

17th June 2021
What is a co-op?
Enabled works
Enabled works describe themselves as a 'work family' (photographer Robin Mitchell)

Fully owned and run by its disabled workforce, Enabled Works is a social enterprise co-op specialising in contract packing, distribution and storage.

The business was formed in 2012 in direct response to the closure of the Leeds and Pontefract sites of Remploy – a provider of employment for disabled people in a network of factories.

“Our main business is hand-packing. We pick, pack, and dispatch,” says Ethics and Integration Manager John Wormald. “We pooled some redundancy money from Remploy and set up Enabled Works.

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People said that disabled people couldn’t run their own business. We took that as a challenge! If you have disabilities life’s a challenge, so this was just another one. People said it couldn’t be done – but we’re winning.
– Ethics and Integration Manager John Wormald

Going strong for nine years, Enabled Works began with 12 founding members. It currently has 22 members and 30 employees. Developing as a business, it recently added storage to its 20,000-ft2 site in Leeds.

All employers and members enjoy the benefits of working co-operatively, which include taking home the same pay, regardless of role. “We have different responsibilities, but we’re on the same hourly rate,” John says.

Unlike their days at Remploy, when they had no say in how things were done, members of the Enabled Works co-operative are empowered to make decisions that affect the business. “Everyone downstairs is part of the business. Everyone takes ownership of it.  

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Watch a short video clip of Enabled Works
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We’re an inclusive operation. Equality is important. We hold member meetings to make decisions – that’s how we roll. Enabled Works gives people a purpose and empowers them. Any benefit that there is, it’s shared with everybody. And any surplus we make is reinvested back into the business.
– John Wormald

For John and his colleagues, teamwork and collaboration are important too. “We work with each other’s strengths and cover each other’s weaknesses: the pieces of the puzzle need to fit together – and everyone has a contribution to make,” he says.

And being a member of a co-op feels good! As John explains: “The inclusiveness of the co-op is particularly comforting. Being a member is a family membership. The co-op umbrella means that if you need help or advice, that’s always available. Anything we need we can ask for, anything we want, we can get that help.

“We’re a family, a work family. And that’s how we operate. If there are highs, we share them, if there are lows, we share them. It’s good to be a co-op member

Enabled Works

Find out more about Enabled Works' services