Discover how Ministry of Stories funds free mentoring of young people and uses customer and partner insights to drive innovation in its business model.
Introducing Ministry of Stories
Ministry of Stories runs a writing and mentoring centre in Hoxton, East London. It develops the writing skills of young people aged 8 to 18 through workshops, in and out of school sessions and online activities.
It is a charity and a company limited by guarantee, founded in 2010 by writers Nick Hornby and Ben Payne and educationalist and participation specialist Lucy Macnab.
Ministry of Stories took inspiration from 826 Valencia in San Francisco, which was created by novelist Dave Eggers. 826 Valencia combined writing programmes with a ‘shop front’ to attract children and young people. For Ministry of Stories this is Hoxton Street Monster Supplies.
Hoxton Street Monster Supplies sells monster-related products from t-shirts and notebooks to jars of sweets and stories with names such as ‘Creeping Dread’ and ‘Escalating Panic’. Profit from the shop goes into Ministry of Stories’ work via a trading company.
Ministry of Stories is a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England. It works with all different forms of writing, from stories to songs.
The Business Model
The Ministry of Stories business model is characterised by bringing together different groups with varying skills who gain different things from the work of the organisation. This generates revenue income due to the creativity and social inclusion results of the work.
Customer Segments include children and young people, writers, schools, local authorities and funders. The heart of the model is the mentoring of young people to develop imaginative and other skills through a creative writing practice. Innovation such as the shop, the digital platform and writing programmes described below also comes from customer and partner insights.
There are strong elements of a ‘free’ model, using a grant and donations to finance activities with core Customer Segments. Although Ministry of Stories is beginning to introduce elements of paid services to schools and commercial partners, the core activity of individual mentoring is free to young people.
Earned income is currently only around 10% of overall turnover. The financial elements of the model, including costs, are shaped by maintaining the different Customer Segments. Funders and philanthropic donors have an interest in children and young people - especially in developing writing skills, confidence and employability of those from deprived backgrounds. These young people are only able to engage thanks to grants and donations. Without the inclusive mix of local young people, funders would be less supportive.
This is what Osterwalder and Pigneur describe as a multi-sided platform where the interests of two or more Customer Segments interact somehow, creating value only when both are present. The challenge with this kind of model is to satisfy both the funders and young people.
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Ministry of Stories Business Model Case Study (PDF)