A Successful Social Entreprise for Centre Flavie

19 December, 2022 | Centre Flavie

Centre Flavie has launched a new social enterprise that’s creating new revenue and new awareness of the work they do to provide household goods and clothing, free of charge, to those in the community who are struggling to make ends meet.

La Boutique Unique, a second-hand and vintage store, is finding success in a 21st century model. “We had originally planned a physical store with staff and inventory,” explains the Executive Director of the centre, Gilbert Vielfaure. “I started having sleepless nights about how we’d manage a retail space. It’s quite the undertaking. Then someone approached us to suggest it could be an online auction, and so far, that has worked really well for us.”

Gilbert admits with a chuckle that volunteers and the Boutique coordinator, Rob Weddell (pictured above) are much better at spotting treasures within the Centre than he is. “I saw a three-legged chair and thought that the designer mustn’t have been very successful,” he shares. “Then I find out that it was rare and very valuable. We’re lucky to have people watching out who know what to look for, because I certainly don’t!”

Auction items are posted for weeks in advance of the auction date, and the auction itself is held once a month. The first edition was in October, which netted over $8,000, and the November auction created over $10,000 in funds to support Centre Flavie.

The goods sold at auction were all donated, but Vielfaure is quick to point out that serving their clientele remains the core of what they do. The fact that some items are removed from the general inventory to be sold is a trade-off that was thoughtfully discussed by staff, volunteers and the board before the enterprise was launched.

“I give the example of receiving five couches in one day, one of which is brand new, and the other four are used but in good condition,” he explains. “If we give away the four couches and raise several hundred dollars with the new couch that ensures our doors stay open another month, I think that’s a fair trade off. I’m not overstating it when I say that’s what it comes down to some days, the way funding can be unreliable from other sources.”

Gilbert Vielfaure, Executive Director of Centre Flavie, with Board Chair, Julie Turenne-Maynard.

Gilbert also reveals that the needs of the community they serve and the desires of those shopping at La Boutique Unique are sometimes quite different. “For example, we have a set of speakers up for sale at the moment that have already been bid up to $200,” he shares. “If we were trying to give those away, they would sit for months. That type of thing isn’t a priority for those we serve.”

The funds raised at auction represent a significant amount of Centre Flavie’s operating budget. “Last year, our overall budget was $700,000,” reveals Vielfaure. “So to say that this enterprise, if it continues the way it’s going, could be responsible for nearly 20% of our budget…it’s an opportunity for stability that we can’t ignore.”

While some donors had questions about the new concept, once they understood the financial impact and the process for selecting items, they came around quickly. “We now have people who donate things to us and tell us that what they’re giving has value and should be sold instead of gifted back into the community,” Gilbert shares. “This model makes sense to people, and they’re seeing how it’s making a difference. This is about ensuring we can continue to support our community for years to come.”

To find out more about La Boutique Unique or to explore what’s for auction this month, visit shopboutiqueunique.com.