Sara Clarke left behind a busy career in corporate recruitment to follow her heart into supporting charitable causes.
Her interest in helping others started early, in the UK, where she lived until shifting to NZ 20 years ago.
“I was the kid who helped old people with their Christmas shopping,” she says.
In Auckland, Sara was on the board of Dress for Success and after moving to the Coast she co-managed a local charity shop for three years.
Eventually she branched out on her own, opening Ensemble in Silverdale last month.
More than an op shop, Ensemble has a number of strings to its bow. Sara describes it as “a social enterprise”, which supports local charities and craft makers and includes a small café.
The shop features homewares, men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and accessories, toys, games, books and more. All items are donated by the community and everyone who donates receives a free coffee and muffin – many are paid forward to others, Sara says.
The arts and crafts section was inspired by Sara’s love of crochet and experience on market stalls. It features locally made pieces such as macramé, crochet (including some of Sara’s handiwork), handbags and art made from recycled oil drums.
Coffee, tea and a muffin can be enjoyed in the comfortable seating area, as well as the outside deck.
At this stage, Sara is supporting Love Soup Hibiscus Coast and Feeling Fab via in-store raffles and free coffee for volunteers. As the profits roll in, that support will grow. Her experience in careers and recruitment means she also has plenty of free advice to offer.
“It’s really important to me to give to local charities that may not have the recognition they deserve for the wonderful work they do,” she says.
There are also plans to bring in experts to teach workshops in things like chess, crafts and NZ sign language in an informal setting.
“Ensemble is French for ‘together’, and that really is what makes this place special.”