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Churchill Gowns

Churchill Gowns graduated from Cambridge Social Ventures in September 2019.

Idea

Churchill Gowns is a supplier of high-quality graduation regalia to students at universities and tertiary institutions throughout the UK. They provide academic dress that is up to 80 per cent less expensive than traditional suppliers while maintaining focus on their core beliefs: ethical manufacturing, environmental sustainability and social responsibility. All of Churchill Gowns regalia conforms to university regulations, so can be worn at graduation ceremonies or for academic positions. Customers are sent their hired academic dress directly to their home and they can hire their gowns for four days without any additional charges. This means less time queuing and more time enjoying their ceremony.

People

They currently have two full time UK employees, Oliver Adkins (MD) and Ruth Nicholls (Director of Ops), plus a team which helps on an ad hoc basis with procurement, web development, sales and marketing.

Oliver also serves as a non-executive director at the Berkshire Physiotherapy Centre, one of the UK’s largest physiotherapy clinics. Prior to Churchill Gowns, Oliver was involved with a number of startups from a wide variety of industries, ranging from affiliate marketing to travel and educational tech. Oliver earned his undergraduate degree in International Business at Coventry University and a Postgraduate in entrepreneurship form the university of Cambridge.

Ruth graduated with a Law BA from the University of Cambridge and since then has held a number of senior management positions in the educational and technology sectors. She has spoken extensively on the inclusion of women in the tech sector as well as on digital literacy among young people including on BBC Radio 4, BBC Breakfast News and as a keynote at the Europeana Tech Conference. Ruth joined Churchill Gowns in 2018 as Director of Operations, including having responsibility for marketing and procurement.

Impact

Churchill Gowns is seeking to disrupt the graduation market by offering a more sustainable and ethical service with students at its heart. All of their graduation gowns are made out of recycled plastic, creating something practical out of waste which would otherwise have ended up in landfill or the oceans. The plastic waste is broken down, woven into a soft polyester and made into gowns which are indistinguishable from other suppliers. Their environmental mission also extends beyond the gowns, as they participate in carbon offsetting schemes to become entirely carbon neutral and donate 10 per cent of profits to environmental and educational causes.