Support for community groups and organisations

Chopsticks – creating more job opportunities for people with a disability

Women helping man with DIY

With the help of Community First Yorkshire, Chopsticks has developed a bespoke strategic plan to create more diverse volunteer and job opportunities for people of all abilities.

What was the challenge?

Helping people of all ages with a disability to find meaningful employment has been at the heart of Chopsticks since it was established 20 years ago. The social enterprise’s original purpose was to produce kindling, which is still very much their core activity.
However, Chopsticks recognised that they needed to provide more work opportunities for a wider range of people with different needs including young people, those with early-onset dementia and people with mental health issues.
Such big changes required a suitable development plan and this is when Chopsticks turned to Community First Yorkshire for support.

Helen, a Community First Yorkshire Associate, said: “Seeing Chopsticks offer more roles to their customers, with our help, has been especially rewarding. It’s very satisfying to know that our support has helped the organisation build a stronger future.”

How did Community First Yorkshire help?

Phil Bramhall, Chopsticks’ Development Manager, was tasked with finding ways to reach out to more people. “Getting the balance right between creating new work opportunities, meeting a variety of individual needs, interests and skills, building a sense of team and abiding by health and safety regulations meant that change wasn’t something we could just jump straight into. Because we have a people-focused approach to business, we needed to make sure that any changes were handled properly.”
Phil approached Community First Yorkshire for advice in expanding their support for people seeking work.

Helen from Community First Yorkshire spent time understanding Chopsticks’ business and goals. Through monthly meetings, she worked with Phil to write a realistic development plan which would see Chopsticks on a clear route to achieving its ambitions.

“Because I’m quite autonomous in my role, I’ve found the regular one-to-one support invaluable and I know the board of directors have been reassured during a time of great change that I’ve had a trusted and knowledgeable team at Community First Yorkshire behind me all the way. We’ve had some tricky issues to deal with and the support has given us more confidence in our business and greater stability.”
Phil Bramhall, Chopsticks’ Development Manager

About the organisation

Established in 1996, Chopsticks is run by a board of local directors to make a difference to the lives of individuals in North Yorkshire.  Chopsticks is a community benefit society, which trades as a community business with social values.  Through its work, Chopsticks provides opportunities for people to learn new physical and social skills and gain employment opportunities through the manufacture and sale of products from used materials like wood, hence the name Chopsticks.

There are nine permanent paid staff, six volunteers and around 26 clients who make up the work team.

Chopsticks has now expanded to include ChopShed for the production of rustic garden furniture, and ChopArts producing glass splashbacks and worktop savers from recycled mirrors and glass.

What does the future look like?

Chopsticks have begun to implement their strategic plan, developed with leadership support from
Community First Yorkshire. There is now a greater choice of roles and opportunities for people to be creative in their work. The Chopsticks membership has grown and there are more young people working for the organisation, which is crucial given the number of people under 25 who need this kind of support.
Phil adds: “We’re good with wood! But, now that we have a comprehensive strategic plan, we’re also better at providing choices for people who may want a different experience at work. I’d definitely recommend Community First Yorkshire to others. The organisation, the board, the whole team, are absolutely committed to supporting the third sector. I’d always advise people to be really specific about the support they want to ensure they get the best from it.”

Do you need help with…
  • Securing income for your organisation or project?
  • Turning your ideas of becoming a new community organisation into a reality?
  • Benefitting from greater security as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO)?
  • Thinking about reviewing your organisation and planning ahead?
  • Understanding trustee’s legal roles and responsibilities?
  • Benefitting from a financial health check?

Our advisers can help. Call us today 01904 704177

How can we help you

As a registered charity, we understand your needs. Our local advisers work across North Yorkshire and will come to you to ensure you get access to the best quality advice and guidance including funding advice, helping you set up as a community organisation, governance and trustees, finance support, marketing advice, and exploring ways to further develop your organisation.

If you know a community group, charity or social enterprise that needs some support to  be even more successful, contact one of our friendly advisors on 01904 704177 or

Community Support North Yorkshire is funded by North Yorkshire County Council and NHS North Yorkshire.