Alumni

Our inc. alumni network help our social entrepreneurs to translate and apply the learning from the inc. syllabus to their business, either through mentoring the entrepreneurs or contributing to the delivery of the programme.

This group of experienced social entrepreneurs generously offer time and insight to our cohort, supporting both their professional and personal growth. By sharing their own journey and networks our entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to thrive. It is an invaluable part of the inc. journey.

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Adam Walker
Beth Pilgrim
Bjorn Howard
Danielle Macleod
Ismael Lea South
Jamie Palmer
Jen Swain
Laura Wood
Olya Yakzhina
Selin Yigitbasi-Ducker
Tom Robbins
Zoe Green
Asif Choudry
Tommy Gentleman
Sharron Webster
Anwar Ali
Adam Walker

Adam Walker

CEO, Oaks Consultancy

W: https://www.oaksconsultancy.co.uk/ 

Tw: @OaksConsultancy

Lin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/oaks/ 

Oaks work with socially-minded organisations who want to raise their game. Ambitious organisations who are committed to making a difference, but need help navigating their journey and unlocking new resources.  We challenge organisations to think differently about their future.  We help organisations to realise their fundraising potential.  We support organisations to diversify their income.

What inspired you to set up a social business?

I love business and I love helping people!

Why did you join the inc. family?

Aster are an inspirational organisation doing a fantastic job of supporting social entrepreneurship. We are privileged to be in a position to support this journey.

What advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

Be courageous - be prepared to be different - always listen to advice but think carefully about always using it - build your business with sound insight - make sure really enjoy what you are doing because at times it will become very challenging

Beth Pilgrim

Beth Pilgrim

Co-founder, Supply Change

W: www.supplychange.co.uk 

Tw: @_Supplychange

Lin: www.linkedin.com/company/supplychange2018 

Supply Change is a platform that connects organisations looking for goods and services with social enterprise suppliers.

What inspired you to set up a social business?

We were inspired to set up Supply Change by the lack of social enterprises in public and private sector supply chains and the need to provide a solution to make it easier for social enterprises to win contracts. If we can direct even 1% of public and private sector spending towards social enterprises, our potential for impact could be vast. During COVID-19, social enterprises demonstrated how crucial they are to some of the most vulnerable in our society and how they can be both innovative and flexible in times of crisis. Social enterprises will be crucial to a post-covid economy and can help us to build back more sustainably and social procurement is a great way to support them to do this.

Why did you join the inc. family?

Since setting up Supply Change in 2018 I have gone on a real journey learning how to be a social entrepreneur. I have learnt alot about running a social enterprise during this time and would love to help other budding entrepreneurs do the same. I know firsthand how helpful and important it can be to speak to a supportive mentor to bounce ideas off or just be a listening ear. As Supply Change works directly with housing associations and their supply chains as well I hope that I can advise participants on the best way to work with these organisations too.

What advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

Don't be a perfectionist- part of building something is about putting something out there and testing what works, don't wait til it's perfect, you will learn so much more by just trying! Look after yourself- it can be all too easy to surrender your work life balance in the early days, make sure you are taking time for yourself so you can be your most productive  Don't forget about the 'enterprise' in 'social enterprise' - as well as having a strong mission, make sure your business model works and there is a demand for your idea first and foremost.

Bjorn Howard

Bjorn Howard

Group CEO – Aster Group

Bjorn has worked in the independent housing, care and support sectors for more than 30 years and has extensive board-level experience in both executive and non-executive roles. He has served as a non-executive director for an NHS Trust, educational organisations, regeneration boards and as a government appointee to a housing association.

He became Aster’s Group CEO in 2009.  Since then, Aster’s housing business has doubled to more than 32,000 homes and has expanded its geographical footprint across southern England.

What does inc. mean to you?

Aster is about people. Our customers, communities and colleagues. Innovation and collaboration are at the heart of everything we do and inc. encompasses all of this.  As we continue our transformation journey, we’re bringing the talent and passion we have here at Aster together with social entrepreneurs to create lasting change in our communities. It’s an exciting time and I’m extremely proud to be part of it.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Our colleagues are passionate, talented and generous people. They will help and support you to develop your business and take the next steps on your journey. Use them and this opportunity to get the best out of the inc. programme.  Be brave and true to your vision but don’t be afraid to ask for help and learn from others.

Danielle Macleod

Danielle Macleod

Co-founder, Remarkable Women

W: www.remarkablewomen.co.uk 

Fb: www.facebook.com/remarkablewomenbysomebodyinside 

Lin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/somebody-inside 

Remarkable Women is a personal development company for women who want to make a difference in the world.

What inspired you to set up a social business?

We’re a socially-minded business, we support many women in social enterprises and charities due to the nature of our work, often through scholarship places which we fund ourselves.

Why did you join the inc. family?

Because Aster Foundation’s Director Cam Kinsella has a deeply inspiring mission and I believe in showing up for women who are making bold moves in the world. If she’s backing it, I am!

What advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

Get yourself a mission that’s so inspiring to you that you’ll be compelled to keep going on the days when it seems impossible.  And get REALLY good at asking for help - you’ve got important things to do in the world so no going it alone!

Ismael Lea South

Ismael Lea South

Director, The Salam Project

W: https://thesalamproject.org.uk/ 

Tw: @thesalamproject

Fb: www.facebook.com/TheSalamProject  

Lin: www.LinkedIn.com/TheSalamProject 

The Salam Project is a group of youth workers who care passionately about young people and helping them to live their best lives. They believe the most effective way to do that is by challenging extremist views, promoting positive values and giving youth the skills to get back into work.

What inspired you to set up a social business?

I set up The Salam Project social enterprise to challenge knife crime, county lines, radicalisation, re-offending, under-achievement and youth unemployment. I’m passionate about facilitating positive solutions that includes workshops, resettlement, outreach, therapy, community drop ins, mentoring, tutoring and job coaching. Doing this work is my dream job because I’ve seen gangs, drugs, hate preachers and ignorance wreck communities. I believe in promoting sustainable solutions when challenging anti-youth crime.  We generate an income through consultancy work, subcontracting, referral fees, working in partnership and charging for our services. Our team’s services includes workshops, research, mentoring, tutoring, counselling, job coaching and facilitating bespoke courses.  I’m very honoured that we have a thriving partnership with Employees Matter by delivering regular racism, discrimination and unconscious bias training for corporate establishments and statutory organisations.

Why did you join the inc. family?

In my work I regularly meet people who want to set up a community organisation with sustainability or a social enterprise outlook. I now recommend them to be part of the inc family for strategic assistance.  There is not enough help, support or mentoring opportunities available for new social enterprise. The inc can provide that help for the next generation of problem solvers, sustainable intervention providers and innovators who can make a positive change in society. It’s important that I work with an esteemed organisation with good character, reputation and governance in providing that support. This organisation are inspiring and have great aspirations to support the next generation of change makers. I would like to be part of that with the inc family as they have exciting times ahead. I can’t wait.

What advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

For your social enterprise to break even and to be on the trajectory for success you have to be willing to work 10,000 hours.  Be prepared to work very hard because a social enterprise is not a 9 to 5 occupation its 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.  I would strongly recommend, to write down your short term goals and long term goals. Then read them every day and work towards them every day. Build a small team of volunteers and workers to support you. (Quality is better than quantity) Your team must be as dynamic and proactive.   Integrity, efficiency and diligence are very important.  Start small then grow big, remember to take one step at a time and remember Rome was not built in one day. Finally review your business plan every month. Make time ie. one day a week for friends and family.

Jamie Palmer

Jamie Palmer

Founder, Social Supermarket

W: https://www.socialsupermarket.org/

Tw: @soc_supermarket

Fb:  https://www.facebook.com/thesocialsupermarket/

Lin: www.linkedin.com/company/the-social-supermarket 

Social Supermarket was created to connect every-day consumers with social enterprises who sell high quality products that tackle important social and environmental challenges.

What inspired you to set up a social business?

I was inspired by the need for a marketplace that helps people live their values through their shopping. There are a huge number of social enterprises in the UK but it is too hard to find and buy from them. Social Supermarket was borne out of this frustration and is aiming to be the first place that people can find and buy from purpose driven brands.

Why did you join the inc. family?

I am inspired by social entrepreneurs’ desire to merge competitive business practice with solving social issues. I love working with social enterprises seeking to radically accelerate the growth of ethical marketplace and solve big, challenging social issues.

What advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

Test and refine your ideas with your market. If you're not embarrassed with your first product you've launched too late.

Jen Swain

Jen Swain

Head of Operations, 3 Sided Cube Design Ltd

W: https://3sidedcube.com/ 

Tw: @3sidedcube

Fb: https://www.facebook.com/3SIDEDCUBE/ 

Lin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/3-sided-cube/ 

Our Mission at 3 Sided Cube is to have a positive impact on millions of lives by creating technology that people love. 

 What inspired you to set up a social business?

Our CEO, Duncan Cook, says: "What if we use all this cool new stuff to actually do good? Tech that can inspire, tech that has a purpose, tech that fulfils its potential, Tech that is truly awesome!"  Technology is agnostic, it is up to us to use it responsibly and ideally for good.  So much opportunity is presented to us through use of technology and if we can harness the power of information and sustained behavioural change through tech, for positive impact, then we should!  We're proud to do that every day and are unerring in our drive to work on 'for good' projects.

Why did you join the inc. family?

Put simply, I want to help others. I want to be able to have a positive impact, not just in my role looking after our 40 Cubes, but further afield with others too.  I'm personally inspired by the socially responsible entrepreneur. I love the energy, creativity and drive that it takes for individuals to start up their own venture and when the reason for a business is to do good, it makes the proposition so much stronger, especially right now. I really believe in the power of people working together to create awesome stuff.  I've been lucky enough to work with some incredible people along my career journey and that has enabled me to build up a wealth of experience in business & project management across the private and public sectors, both at large corporates and for SMEs. I would love to be able to help guide someone else starting out and offer that same personal mentorship that is so vitally important to help build confidence and ability.

What advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

Find your purpose, believe in yourself, build up your personal resilience, don't linger too long on knock-backs, don't be afraid to fail (but do it fast and try again), be open to change, take risks, ask for stuff (even if you think the answer will be no), ask for help, don't be scared about your business changing as it grows, have good systems in place that help you do stuff efficiently, surround yourself with great people who are different to you (you'll learn more and they'll push you to do and be better), embrace every opportunity, stay hungry, take breaks (your mental health will thank you in the long run) and SMILE.

Laura Wood

Laura Wood

Marketing Director, Invisible Creations

W: www.invisiblecreations.co.uk 

Tw: @inviscreations

Fb: https://www.facebook.com/inviscreations 

Lin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/invisible-creations/

The idea for Invisible Creations® was created in the National Housing Federation’s innovation programme in 2018 and was formally founded as new business in January 2020.  Our purpose is to design for dignity™; to create products that are inclusive and aid mobility.

What inspired you to set up a social business?

My Gran - Sheila, was the inspiration for coming up with the idea for our business. There are millions of people just like Sheila who don’t want the stigmatising, clinical adaptations in their homes.  We all deserve to live in homes that make us feel safe, support our health and well-being and ultimately meet our needs as they change.

Why did you join the inc. family?

Inc's approach to social innovation, collaboration and suppporting communities is so closely aligned with my own personal ethos and values of Invisible Creations that I was keen to support an initiative that would transform people's lives. 

What advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

Don't be afraid to take risks, learning from failure is often one of the best ways to develop and grow. Learn to embrace failure rather than be afraid of it.

Olya Yakzhina

Olya Yakzhina

People Manager, Switchee

W: www.switchee.co 

Lin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/switchee-limited/ 

Switchee is a socially conscious technology innovator, focused on finding elegant solutions to housing issues. Switchee develops and supplies connected devices and analytics for landlords and their residents. Our purpose is to empower landlords to create exceptional homes for their residents. We focus on delivering improved comfort, affordability, security and safety. 

What inspired you to set up a social business?

Switchee believe that radical innovation in internet-connected technology can ensure that every resident, every day, is living in a home that allows them to succeed. That’s why their products are built not just on great technology, but on an understanding of what people want from the space they live in.  Switchee developed its first product, a smart thermostat, in 2015 – specifically designed as an enterprise solution for housing. Before product design had even started, the team conducted expert interviews with senior housing professionals from a range backgrounds, including Local Authorities, Housing Associations, contractors and consultants. The objective was to understand in detail the issues they faced in supporting the health and wellbeing of their residents and the maintenance of large, complex housing portfolios.

Why did you join the inc. family?

Being part of the family that focuses on supporting its members is something that is really close to our hearts.

What advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

We would advise to focus on the mission and the vision, develop the story that will inspire buyers and colleagues. Remain compassionate to yourself and your team as scaling is difficult and involves working really hard and taking big risks.

Selin Yigitbasi-Ducker

Selin Yigitbasi-Ducker

Founder and CEO, Goodsted

W: www.goodsted.com

Tw: @goodsted

Fb: https://www.facebook.com/goodsted

Lin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/goodsted 

Insta: http://instagram.com/goodsteduk 

Goodsted is a collaboration platform for social and environmental impact! Specifically, by harnessing the power of technology to make it easy for individuals and groups to connect and share their skills & resources in order to progress socially and environmentally impactful initiatives.

What inspired you to set up a social business?

After graduating from my masters in Design & Innovation, I wanted to use my skills when volunteering to help projects who were addressing social and environmental problems. I wanted to develop my portfolio to perhaps get a job where I could have impact on Sustainable Development Goals 2030. Whenever I searched for volunteering I came across after school clubs, soup kitchens, more hands on volunteering, and for traditional charities.  I was wondering how I could find opportunities which allow me to use my marketing, management, business, design skills, and find exciting new projects/impact startups. I realised there were many platforms for raising funds for projects, but there wasn't a platform that connected projects with skilled professionals and other in-kind resources. This was when I started to work on this idea back in 2018. From helping a project find support through an MVP I put together, and receiving interest from potential clients, I realised there was potential.

Why did you join the inc. family?

I have been looking to find the right opportunity to become a mentor and a coach to help other social entrepreneurs who are working just like me to create positive change in their community. When I was starting out, I really appreciated all the time that my advisors and mentors gave me, and I got so much out of it, so I wanted to do the same for others. When the Aster Foundation approached me with Aster Inc. - I was really inspired by the creativity, structure and effort that had gone behind creating this programme. Aster Foundation's values align with my personal values, and the causes that they're looking to impact is aligned with the work we're doing, so I proudly decided to become a member of the inc. family.

What advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

Take every opportunity, you never know what is behind the door. Perfection is the enemy of progress - things can be tested and optimised along the way its better to start now then starting years later and missing the boat. For example when we launched goodsted to our early community last year,  it was far from perfect, and its still not perfect - we find problems each day and improve it, but as a result of opening up the platform we already created so much positive impact, and we already have clients that it would have been worse not starting at all. The biggest lesson is to learn how to design small experiments where you can fail and learn. Also to take care of your well-being, and be with your family and friends. Innovating, and building a business is important, but time flies by and you should find a balance between work and personal life to be happy overall.

Tom Robbins

Tom Robbins

Chief Strategy Officer, Switchee

W: www.switchee.co

Tw: @switcheeuk

Lin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/switchee-limited/ 

Switchee exists to improve the quality of life for people living in rented homes.

What inspired you to set up a social business?

The founders of Switchee felt that connected home technology was benefitting those that could most afford it, not those that would most benefit from it. There wasn't anybody who understood the needs of social housing and were building a product which would connect homes and change lives. Switchee was designed to improve the quality of lives for those living in social housing and save social landlords money, in equal measure.

Why did you join the inc. family?

Switchee has been working with Aster for some time now. As a socially-minded business, we believe that we can bring good not only be delivering great services but by supporting and reflecting the communities we serve. All our team are passionate about sharing what we know and helping others on their journey any way we can - a mission we share with the inc. family.

What advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

Much as we need supporting words around us as we build a business, the most powerful feedback is from those who don't understand your idea. Take the time to surround yourself with those that question your product or service and use their feedback to make your offering even better. The more challenge to incorporate in your offering, the better the outcome will be.

 

Zoe Green

Zoe Green

Recruiter, Goodman Masson

Tw: @GMHousingUK @ZoeGreenGM

Lin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/goodman-masson/

Goodman Masson is a recruitment business that feels a real connection to the world of Social Housing.

What inspired you to set up a social business?

At Goodman Masson we aim to be more than just your average recruiter.  We pride ourselves as industry experts and aim to add value to the sector.  Everyone in the Social Housing practice here at Goodman Masson really cares about the sector and wants to give back.

Why did you join the inc. family?

We worked with the Aster Foundation on our Remote Befriending programme where we spoke to residents in Aster who were elderly and perhaps lonely. We had a conversation with them and tried to understand if there was anything that we could help with. 

What advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

Go for it!

Asif Choudry

Asif Choudry

Sales and Marketing Director, Resource

W: www.weareresource.co.uk

Tw: @WeAreResource

Lin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/resource-print-solutions

Insta: @WeAreResource

Resource is a creative design, marketing, print production and events company based in Leeds with a national client base from various sectors including social housing, automotive, professional services and charities. Clients include Aster Group, BMW, Maserati, MINI, Medical Protection Society and over 100 social housing associations across the UK.

What inspired you to set up a social business?

Our work with social housing providers helped inspire this. Our mission is to help HAs communicate effectively with their colleagues and customers on the many challenges and issues that arise in this sector.

Why did you join the inc. family?

Resource has worked with Aster Group since 2015. We have helped Aster with many campaigns during that time to address affordable housing and this is a great opportunity to give something back.

What advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

Do your research on products, customers, competition. Surround yourself with positive influences from within and outside your sector.   Have a ‘date to fail’ attitude and don’t be afraid to try new things.  Get yourself a personal brand on social media or start developing one if you don’t have one already.

Tommy Gentleman

Tommy Gentleman

Consultant, Tide 55

Lin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/67761197 

Insta: www.instagram.com/tide.55

Tide 55 have a wide spectrum of clients that they provide digital marketing services to.  Services including: Social media content creation, distribution and management - Social media advertising campaign creation and management - Website building and development - Search engine optimisation - Logo design and branding - Business consulting - Promotional video creation.  What makes Tide 55 different is that they put relationships at the heart of everything that they do. They care deeply for their clients and compete tenaciously on their behalf to get the best results and help their business grow without the added stress or overwhelm.

What inspired you to set up a social business?

Business is 'H2H.' Human to Human. Behind every business is a Human being.  People are amazing. Each and every one of us is unique and special.  I have (and always will) want my life and my businesses to be on the pulse Human emotion.  To make a difference to the way that people feel and to help amplify opportunity and positivity in whatever we do.

Why did you join the inc. family?

Because in life, we have to do what we can to INCREASE opportunity for the next generation.    With a project like this, we can be a catalyst for possibility. We can harness the potential inside of someone and help them have the confidence and the competence to grow and achieve and then eventually, one day, be able to provide and give back in a similar way, as an employee, a leader, a member of the community or a mentor, thus repeating the cycle.

What advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

I have 3 main points  1) Never let anybody else's limitation get in the way of your belief 2) Surround yourself with people that you trust and that will cheer you on 3) Ask for help. Especially when you don't want to (but know that you need to).

Sharron Webster

Sharron Webster

Partner, Trowers & Hamlins LLP

W: www.trowers.com 

Tw: @trowers

Lin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/trowers-&-hamlins 

Insta: @trowers_law

Our business is uniquely diverse in that large proportions of what we do span the corporate and public sectors and those operating in public realm, advising everyone from local social enterprises and charities, some of the country's largest businesses, institutional investors, through to local, domestic and international governments. The broad range of our expertise enables us to see the impact of what we do and how our advice has an influence from grass roots right to the very top of the commercial world.

What inspired you to set up a social business?

As a firm that prides itself on understanding and supporting the communities we live and work in, corporate social responsibility is an important element of our business at Trowers. We firmly believe that what you put in you get back, not just on an individual basis but also for the broader benefit of communities as a whole.

Why did you join the inc. family?

Aster Inc offers a really well structured framework of support, one which is grounded in enablement and empowerment. We love the way that it's about giving people who want to make change the tools to make that happen, and as a firm which prides itself on innovation we want to help people to achieve their own innovation goals, especially goals which have the power to positively impact communities.  As a well established business, one which has grown considerably over the years, we believe that we have knowledge to share and that it is our social responsibility to do that.

What advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

We have five pieces of advice:  - Have a crystal clear vision about what you want to achieve.  - Understand your target market – in fact, know it inside and out.   - Set yourself specific but achievable targets. Better to have just three or four very well defined targets than a fabulously long list of woolly ones.    - Network network network  – knowing people opens doors, sometimes years after first contact, so keep those contacts warm.   - Learn from your mistakes – they are as valuable as achievements so do not dismiss them simply as failures. 

Anwar Ali

Anwar Ali

CEO, Upturn Enterprise

http://upturnenterprise.org.uk/

Lin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anwar-ali-6335811a/ 

Established in 2004 Upturn is a recognised Social Enterprise limited by guarantee. We remain steadfast and true to our core mission - to unlock the potential and improve the lives and the health & wellbeing of people from diverse groups and disadvantaged communities.  We are committed to help them build on their talents and realise their dreams. Working together we devise pathways to overcome barriers to Social Mobility.

What inspired you to set up a social business?

We remain steadfast and true to our core mission - to unlock the potential and improve the lives and the health & wellbeing of people from diverse groups and disadvantaged communities.  We are committed to help them build on their talents and realise their dreams. Working together we devise pathways to overcome barriers to Social Mobility. We do this in partnership with stakeholders, providers of services and businesses.

Why did you join the inc. family?

We share and endorse similar business values and ethic and in the world of true collaboration, like minded individual and organisations need to work together to bring about the changes required in our society.  On a personal level, I believe I have something valuable to offer and look forward to making a difference.

What advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

My advice would be simple, never give up on your dreams and make sure you surround yourself ad get involved in many networks and support structures that will enable you and your business to continue growing and embrace change!!!!! 

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