Spotlight on ICE Store and Talking Mats

Posted: 05 February 2014, in Member Spotlight

In the spotlight this time (13 Jan – 26 Jan)  is Joe Trodden and ICE Store, a creative retail and employability social enterprise in Edinburgh. Get in touch with Joe on 0131 556 8806 /

What’s your social and/or environmental mission? To provide a point of sale for individual creative and artistic people living in Scotland. The shop also trains young people and helps them to find jobs in the retail sector.

How do you do it? We sell from our shop in the St James Centre in Edinburgh and are working on our online presence. Our young trainees are referred from Job Centre Plus and SDS, aged 16-24 and keen to work.

What’s your personal motivation for being a social entrepreneur? To create a better world. We live in an amazing environment and we could collectively achieve so much more if we had the right structures to encourage people to live up to their potential.

What are your current projects? We are looking to inspire more young people to use their creative skills to provide them with a source of income. We are also creating a training programme with partnerships that encourages young people to think about a career rather than a job.

What exciting things do you have coming up? We have a series of regular events planned for the coming year for both customers and makers to encourage more footfall in the store and to help create a community with our makers, sharing knowledge, ideas and expertise. Follow us on Facebook ( and Twitter (@icestoreedi) to find out more.

Who do you want to work with more? For our product range we would like to work with more young creatives and schools, to encourage them to think about their skills from an early age. For our training programme we would also like to work with more employers who are passionate and committed to giving the right young people the chance to prove what they can do.

What’s your biggest challenge? In the early stages I was trying to be an expert in every field of operations we operate by myself. We have been building our Board up and we now have great experts in critical commercial areas and I’ve learned ten times faster about those areas since they joined us.
What top tip would you give to other social enterprises? Find mentors and network! Networking can be daunting at first but I’ve never approached a person at an event that doesn’t want to talk. Speed networking is even better as you can meet so many people and find those who you have a positive connection with. I can’t emphasise enough the value of having personal connections when you are in business.

In the spotlight this time (27 Jan – 9 Feb) are Lois Cameron & Joan Murphy of Talking Mats Ltd, a social enterprise based in Stirling that improves the lives of people with communication difficulties, with their award-winning communication tool. Get in touch with or

What’s your social and/or environmental mission? Our mission is to improve the lives of people with communication difficulties by increasing their capacity to communicate effectively about things that matter to them.

How do you do it? The Talking Mats framework uses a mat with picture symbols attached to help individuals think about issues discussed with them, to provide a way to express their opinions. It gives people time and space to think about information, work out what it means and say what they feel in a visual way that can be easily recorded. While accessible as a stand-alone product, its real value and impact is to be found in its application by a trained practitioner.

What’s your personal motivation for being a social entrepreneur? Talking Mats originally grew out of research carried out at the University of Stirling. When Dr Joan Murphy and I set up the social enterprise we were very conscious of our debt in terms of what we had learned from people with communication disability. Therefore a key driver for us is to give back to that community and improve practice and support for this group of people.

What are your current projects? The development of Talking Mats products and training and the development of a digital Talking Mat. Up until Sep 2013 Talking Mats was only available as an actual Mat, now it has been developed into a fully functional app that works on iPad, android and as a web browser. We have several consultancy projects at the moment, including working with dentists, working with local authorities to look at how Talking Mats can support child protection and one NHS board to train staff to use Talking Mats with adults in a safe guarding context. Also an NHS Education Scotland contract to work in Augmentative and Alternative communication.

What exciting things do you have coming up? We have several potential partnerships coming up. It seems likely we will be continuing to contribute to the development of Talking Mats in disclosure and safeguarding. We are looking forward to use of the digital Talking Mats and phase 2 of that development which will include translation into other languages. We have some exciting projects being discussed in countries outside the UK which will really extend Talking Mats across the world.

Who do you want to work with more? We would like Talking Mats to be taken up much more by people working with young people, particularly in Education. Talking Mats is recognised as a thinking tool as well as a tool to express views. Our young people’s resource is based on the Scottish Government’s Getting it Right for Every child (GIRFEC). We would like the police to also use the resource as it has not been recognised as an established way of interviewing. We would like to explore Talking Mats in palliative care where we see the potential for it being used as a tool to help people make decisions at the end of life. We would like to be able to work more directly with either carers or parents.

What’s your biggest challenge? Keeping abreast of all the myriad components of running a small business at a time when the enterprise is going through a period of change and alongside that knowing when to take the risk of expansion to accommodate growing demand.
What top tip would you give to other social enterprises? Use mind mapping as a business planning tool – it allows you to identify all the things you have to juggle and then make a plan – if you can name the dragon you can slay the dragon! Plus in the midst of the ‘busyness of now’ always make sure you have time to lift your head from the parapet and look ahead to plan for the long term.