A social enterprise that started with five people in a local library has tapped into an unmet social need, with about 150 people queuing up to join it.

Make Give Live, started by Whangaparāoa mother Claire Conza, knits and crochets beanies and other garments on a "sell one, give one" basis, giving one to a homeless or elderly person for every one that is sold.

The enterprise now has six groups across Auckland at Browns Bay, Birkenhead, Pt Chevalier, Mt Eden and Titirangi as well as Whangaparāoa, plus three groups in Christchurch and one in Taupō.

And Conza, who is running a "pop-up shop" in the Ponsonby Central shopping arcade until Sunday, said a recent article in AA Directions magazine sparked a huge response from others wanting to join.


"We have about 150 on the waiting list. They are all around New Zealand," she said.

New groups are being formed in Pukekohe, Tauranga, Raglan, Wellington, Nelson and Dunedin, with more likely to follow.

Each group meets for about two hours at a local cafe every week or fortnight, and Conza says the activity fills an unmet need for friendship and mutual support which she first experienced when she was pregnant with her daughter Chloe, who is now 7.

"The only thing that got me through my pregnancy was being around other people and getting back into the knitting and crocheting that my grandmother had taught me," she said.

"The rhythmic motion of it broke negative thought patterns, and at the end of it you have something positive to feel good about."

Claire Conza's 'sell one, give one' beanie-making enterprise is forming new groups throughout New Zealand. Photo / Michael Craig
Claire Conza's 'sell one, give one' beanie-making enterprise is forming new groups throughout New Zealand. Photo / Michael Craig

The groups include other new mums, older women, new immigrants - and two men.

"With the one [man] in Taupō, the ladies were quite excited and were worried that they might scare him off, but three weeks later he's still coming," she said.

The groups sell their handiwork mainly through local craft shops and through the Kilt chain of clothing stores, and give clothing to people in need.


"We started off giving to the homeless and older people in need through Lifewise and Age Concern Auckland," Conza said.

This year they have started giving to Give A Kid A Blanket, a project started by artists Donna Turtle Sarten and Bernie Harfleet which collects blankets and delivers them and other warm items to children through public health nurses, social workers and family support workers.

The groups have also given beanies and other clothing to women's refuges and to the Auckland City Mission.