Q&A with Karen Williams, founder of The Buddy Bag Foundation

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The Buddy Bag Foundation is a big inspiration to Rewired this year as we raise funds to support the charity which makes a huge difference to children entering emergency care. To find out more about Buddy Bags, we chat to the founder of The Buddy Bag Foundation, Karen Williams and learn more about her personal journey with the charity.

What is your earliest or best memory?

My earliest memory is walking out of school on my first day because I didn’t like it! My best memory is my first family holiday abroad to Majorca with my mom, dad and sister.

How did The Buddy Bag Foundation first begin?

In 2014, I hit a crossroads in my business because I had lost my purpose. I decided to take action and invested in a personal development course. The course looked at my beliefs, values and purpose. Shortly after, I took a trip to Australia to visit my son George. It was during a trip that I was inspired by an article about the Alannah and Madeline Foundation which has delivered more than 50,000 Buddy Bags to children in emergency care since 2007. On my return from Australia, I researched the facilities available to children in the UK and discovered a huge need for Buddy Bags here. To ensure as many children as possible could benefit from the Buddy Bag scheme, I set up The Buddy Bag Foundation and launched the Buddy Bag appeal in the UK.

You come from a business background, how has that helped with the Buddy Bag Foundation?

Having strong core values - growth, connection and contribution! During my business career I learnt many skills and valuable business lessons. Many of which I have subsequently applied to the business model and have been paramount to the success of Buddy Bag Foundation.

How have you grown the brand outreach for the charity?

Communication to a diverse audience and keeping your message concise and relevant is key. Professional branding and good marketing creates a better connection and awareness with supporters and volunteers.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how have you overcome it?

The biggest challenge was setting up the actual charity! The Charities commission require a business bank account and a deposit of £5000 before you can even apply. With the belief and support of many networking colleagues we managed to raise the initial £5000 and submit a successful application

What do you consider to be Buddy Bag’s greatest success so far?

With an amazing team of supporters we have delivered over 14,000 Buddy Bags in just 30 months from a standing start. I’m also incredibly proud of being nominated on behalf of Buddy Bag Foundation for the Prime Ministers Points of Light Award which recognises the achievement of engaging with volunteers in the community.

What are your plans for the future for The Buddy Bag Foundation?

My goal was to deliver 20,200 Buddy Bags by 2020. In February 2018 we packed our 12,700th Buddy Bag. After realising that a staggering 15,000 children arrive in Women’s refuge centres every year, I have now revised our goal to provide a Buddy Bag for every child that arrives into Women’s Refuge.

Who inspires you?

Tony Robbins who is a Motivational Coach. I attended my first ‘Unleash the Power Within’ event nearly 10 years ago which was life changing. I have also gifted my three children tickets to the event which has made a great impact on all of them. The Tony Robbins Basket Brigade inspired me to set up the Buddy Bag Brigade which is a team building challenge where we pack 180 Buddy Bags with a group of 20 volunteers.

Finally, what do you like to do to relax?

I meditate regularly! Meditation has so many positive benefits and I would absolutely recommend it.

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