Like anyone, after recent events I have been reflecting on how and where I can have the greatest impact. I’ve thought about the things that matter and how to amplify my mission; but before I talk about that, I thought it would be useful to start with some context about why making an impact is so important to me…
Firstly, I understand about legacy. My mother passed away when I was sixteen and her belief in people and view of the world and the difference she wanted to make, live on through me. I heard a speaker called ‘Tommy Gentleman’ once say that we die twice in our lifetime, the first when our bodies give up, the second is when someone says your name for the last time. My way of keeping her legacy alive is through the work I do, because of what I learned from her and the impact she/ we wanted to make.
The second reason is that due to my mother passing away at a young age, I then learned to understand all too quickly about ill mental health, being hungry, financial exclusion, no fixed home and loneliness. All of these challenges are my strengths, not my weaknesses. Because of these things I am better at my work, better with people and I don’t take anything for granted. I look for solutions to problems and know that even on the darkest days or the worst of circumstance – you can find a way out through belief and creativity.
People supported me, empowered me and gave me a platform. I use all of the knowledge and skills I gained and funnel them into making a difference; to make change. The platform I use now – the Aster Foundation.
The Aster Foundation created inc. to provide a platform for those who want to make a real difference, through building businesses to change the world.
It’s a fact that social enterprises are businesses that are changing the world for the better. They are providing creative solutions to society’s biggest challenges and are relied upon to reach communities that others often can’t; with *31% of them working in the top 20% of the most deprived communities in the UK.
Social enterprises are changing the face of how we do business throughout the world, providing a refreshing and empowering alternative of ‘profit for purpose.’ Like any business, they aim to make a profit but it’s what they do with their profits that sets them apart – reinvesting to further their work or donating to create positive social change.
Thought leaders around the world, recognise the extraordinary value that entrepreneurship adds to job creation, economic growth and the commercialisation of innovation. They have made a mark in nearly every sector with examples including The Big Issue, Switchee, Social Supermarket and Invisible Creations.
Many people don’t realise that there are over 100,000 social enterprises throughout our country contributing £60 billion to the economy and employing two million people; with evidence showing that social enterprises often perform better economically than traditional firms. Social businesses demonstrate that profit and purpose are inextricably linked, with *data showing that almost three quarters (73%) expect to see their revenues climb in the next 12 months, compared to 69% at the start of the year.
I paint a beautiful picture of social enterprise, one of innovation and purpose. I won’t however shy away from the challenges that social enterprises face:
- Needing to understand the mechanics of running a successful social business
- Lack of access to innovative networks who will give you access to opportunities
- Little access to grants and funding
- Lack of peer to peer support from people going through similar journey’s
- Lack of free coaching or personal/ team development opportunities
- Little or no investment in mental wellness and resilience
- Little support with amplifying impact
- Lack of space to innovate within across various regions
This is what inc. will be supporting through its ten-month programme. We will give our emerging entrepreneurs and their teams, access to a unique learning programme which will give them everything they need to develop a successful social business, now and for the future. We will match them with one of our inspiring alumni, who are a group of successful social entrepreneurs within their own right. The alumni will help our cohort to translate the learning they gain into action. We will enable the cohort to engage our rich and diverse customer base, which they can involve in market research for their product/ business or to shape and influence how they operate. We will also get the social entrepreneurs ready to pitch to investors at the end of the programme, this to enable them to amplify their impact further.
Our programmes uniqueness comes from the investment we are making into our social entrepreneurs wellbeing and growth. Worryingly, a survey conducted by the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards found that 58% of those surveyed experienced mental health issues. The conditions included anxiety (21%), depression (19%) and stress (41%). Interestingly, 55% of respondents said that running a business has had a negative impact on their mental health.
Social entrepreneurs inspire us with their humanity and their commitment to those they represent and serve. The path of social entrepreneurship can be a lonely one. With a focus on the needs and traumas of others, wellbeing is often neglected. Inc has a focus on wellness, resilience, personal growth and also psychometric profiling. We want to give our entrepreneurs the tools they need to create space for themselves to think freely and imaginatively. We want to embed our principles around inclusivity and sustainability through the businesses we support, this whilst creating businesses which yes, change the world in some way…yes, have an economic impact…but also giving a much needed focus on the people doing the hard work.
We have only three conditions for involvement:
- You must be delivering a social business which aligns to our priority areas (list below)
- You must be in years 1-3 of your social business
- You must be able to show how you propose to make the impact of your business felt across one or more of our communities
I recognise that not everyone has had the incredible support that I have through my own personal challenges. This means you may not feel ready to apply to inc. this year. Through the year we will be delivering pre-incubation classes, digitally to start with. The hope is that we give you a space to be creative and to define and develop your ideas. We hope many across our communities will see this as a platform to make a difference in some way.
Don’t keep shouting at the TV with your ideas. Don’t keep telling everyone that you know how to fix something better than the government or other organisations. Don’t watch Dragons Den and tell those around you that you had that idea ten years ago. Don’t just read this article and feel inspired, act inspired and get involved. Use this as your call to action and get in touch.
Inc is for those who dare to innovate and care enough to make it happen.
Are you inc?
*We are looking for social entrepreneurs, investment/ funding partners and delivery partners.
(1) State of social enterprise survey – carried out by Social Enterprise UK (SEUK)