interview

THE FEMALE FOCUS: EMMA HAMMETT

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Meet the Founder of First Aid For Life

We met Emma through our work with the British Library and we’ve seen her business grow and grow through sheer passion and determination for giving people the confidence and tools to save lives. Here’s her story!

Empowering people with the skills and confidence to administer first aid, saves lives and prevents life altering injuries

Did you have a female role model or someone you admired as a kid? 

My older sister, her daughter and my mother, certainly. All three women epitomise everything I strive for - to work hard, have integrity, look after other people and to have a legacy. My sister was twenty years older than me, had been a very successful nurse and sadly she is no longer with us. She was involved in a car accident which left her brain damaged and my niece (and my sister’s wonderful husband) were her carers for twenty years. My mother had seven of us and worked extremely hard, always put the family first, therefore she wasn’t able to do what she wanted and really achieve her own ambitions sadly until after my father died, when I was 9 and the only one still at home. We had great fun together and our family remains very close. She had always been a grafter, making sure we had everything we needed. She taught me that you get out what you put in. I hope that I am passing this mantra onto my children. 

 

How do you think your early years have influenced what you do today?

I have always worked hard and as an entrepreneur, resilience is so important. It’s come from being a headmaster’s daughter and having a huge, supportive family. As kids we always mucked in, helping my dad out with things like sending out letters to parents. There’s over 150 people in our close family and we all keep in touch and lean on each other. There’s a strong ethos towards education and health in our family’s careers and interests and doing things that help other people. Having that security of a family voice and values influence me hugely.

 

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You trained as a nurse before setting up First Aid For Life. Tell us what made you start the business.

As a nurse, particularly in A&E, you see time and time again situations where first aid has been positive or sometimes it hasn’t happened, because someone has misunderstood something. There was a pivotal moment when I was looking after a little boy and the mother spilled hot coffee over him. She ran outside with the screaming child to get help, when what she should have done is run cool water over the burns - just simple first aid. He suffered severe burns and secondary infections, which could have easily been prevented. Empowering people with the skills and confidence to administer first aid, saves lives and prevents life altering injuries. It was frustrating knowing how many people could have avoided A&E altogether had they known how to help and give appropriate first aid in the emergency.  

Fabrice Muamba came perilously close to death on the football pitch. His life was saved with a defibrillator and treatment that is readily available if people have the skills and confidence to step forward. First aid saves lives and prevents minor injuries becoming major ones. 

We do loads of work in schools to prevent knife crime and we know that the overall impact is positive when first aid is taught in schools. In Scandinavia, it is compulsory learning in schools and their survival rates following cardiac arrest are 3 times better than ours. Take road accidents; the UK is one of the only countries in Europe where first aid isn’t a mandatory part of the driving test. Elsewhere, if you’re hit by a car or knocked off a bike someone will know what to do and they’ll carry a kit in their car. That’s when you start seeing a real impact. We’re still chipping at the edges.

 

You are positive impact personified! What have been some of the most positive results come from the work you do?

We receive loads of lovely messages thanking us for what we do and for the impact our training has; from people saving people, to people saving animals. We are creating peace of mind giving people confidence that they would know how to help themselves or others in a medical emergency. If a child starts choking, they’ll know whether it’s serious and they can act calmly and know the majority of the time they will be able to help. It takes away the panic, that it’s not going to be a disaster. We have so much free information to give people - for schools, new mums, nurses, carers, doctors and beyond. For those who don’t have the money, we can help them with information, which is all on the site. We have three books too (which are Amazon Bestsellers)- Burns, Falls and Emergency Calls; Slips, Trips and Fractured Hips and First Aid for Dogs. We train professionals as well as volunteers of charities, such as the MayTree Trust for suicidal crisis, as well as helping adults and children to learn these skills and working with people with learning disabilities to ensure everyone can gain access to these skills.

 

How do you keep learning more whilst on the job?

Learning is so important in different ways. I am well aware of sounding sense in the saying, “Use it, or you’ll lose it” so I am constantly trying to stimulate my mind. Learning from other businesses is just amazing and I love my peer mentoring, networking and mastermind groups, where we all support each other on our businesses. The British Library Business & IP Centre is also incredibly helpful - it puts on loads of events with a host of business owners to guide us on what works and what hasn’t worked. I really loved working as a mentor with the British Library and getting to know another business in detail, digging deep to help them find new ways forward and maximise their business potential. I am an active member of the Guild of Nurses and the Guild of Health Writers. I do a show with Talk Radio and Eamonn Holmes, which keeps me on my toes. Tomorrow, I am on a mental health first aid course as there’s so much confusion between physical and mental health. We need to understand as a society how we address mental health and the connection with physical. As employers we can do a lot to care for staff wellbeing.

It’s also nice to learn things that aren’t to do with work. Last week I took a day off to visit a National Trust property and my daughter and I have started Spanish lessons too. The beauty of running your own business is that you can adjust your own hours to do the things that matter.

 

One of many free resources from First Aid for Life

One of many free resources from First Aid for Life

What have been the essential factors that have enabled you to get to where you are today that you think you'd struggle without? 

My supportive family, for sure. My husband, children and extended family appear all over my books and blogs and are happy to appear in various states of distress. I stress that no one’s been injured in the making of these images (!). My admin team are utterly fab and their attention to detail is superb, it is vital to recognise that members of the team are often better at elements of my business than me. It is critical to be able to delegate, without this, the business can’t grow. Start delegating and stop doing things that you are not best at, or don’t fuel your passion, as otherwise you will just trade your time for money. The only way to grow exponentially is to get other people on board.

I think as an entrepreneur you need to understand what you are good at and what aren’t your strengths. You also need a huge dollop of resilience, self-motivation and dogged determination. When I set up there were a lot of doubters, which wasn’t helpful. The first person that didn’t choose to book with me, I took personally, which is ridiculous in hind-sight as no-one has a 100% conversion rate. I soon learnt that it’s about getting to a point where you’re working with people you want to work with, who understand your personal and business values and become part of your tribe. 

 

Where do you get your inspiration?

All sorts. A lot of the time it’s other businesses. My family too; my son was responsible for me building the first online first aid course for Zombie Apocalypse! My customers often suggest topics and courses and we are always listening and reacting to their feedback. Overall, I have a real desire to leave a positive legacy and create a positive impact. You only get one chance at this life and I would like to leave it knowing that I have enabled more people to access life saving first aid skills and that the world is consequently a slightly safer place. 

 

What do you think is missing from businesses in building true diversity? 

It’s something businesses should be thinking about but when they’re starting up and ensuring that their language and accessibility enables diversity. However, the reality is that people in small businesses generally recruit based on need and suitability for the position and diversity becomes a secondary factor.

 

What are you working on this year?

I want to do a lot more for schools, we have produced a wealth of invaluable free resources and I am also working on a campaign around preventing non-accidental injury – such as child and elder abuse. We have set up a social cause called http://www.staysafe.support with the support of RoSPA, Age UK, Dame Esther Rantzen, Hugh Pym (the BBC Health Correspondent) and Carolyn Cripps OBE, Fit for Safety; signposting older people and their carers, to resources to help them remain fit and well. There are many issues for older people, from their susceptibility to falls, to fraud and loneliness. I am also ensuring that we’re creating loads more quality content that resonates with the audience and press. 

 

Who's a woman to watch or someone you admire in 2019?

What a difficult question: Emma Watson holds herself with integrity and is a strong ambassador and great role model. Meghan Markle and Michelle Obama are similarly trying to leave a positive legacy and stand up for their beliefs. I also admire the people of my son and daughter’s generation who, as young people, often get a knocking but are still able to be focused, with a sense of integrity and strong work ethic. It’s a tough world out there and I think it could be even harder for the next generation.

  

Name the quote you live by

‘Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today’. There’s often too much overthinking going on and people dilly dally striving for perfection – once it is good, get your message out there. You can perfect it afterwards.



Catch up with Emma’s next move for saving lives on Twitter and Instagram!

THE FEMALE FOCUS: EMMA SEXTON

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Meet Emma, Serial entrepreneur and Connector

She is the epitome of the word ‘entrepreneur’ and we’re never sure how she makes time to run her business MYWW™, present on talkRADIO for The Badass Women’s Hour, advise at board level on design strategy to brands and businesses, feature as Creative Pool Top 100 Influencer 2017 & 2018 and take up the post of Creative In Residence at King's College, London, Entrepreneurial Institute. Phew!

I am a bit tired of businesses who decide on a set of values to operate by and decorate them onto a wall but in reality they never get authentically lived

Did you have a female role model or someone you admired as a kid?

I can’t remember anyone specifically but there were lots of people I admired for different reasons. There were those who intrigued me and had attributes of the person I wanted to become. I suppose I was drawing up my own human Pinterest board. I don’t mean celebrities, I mean people I looked up to and thought, “I want to do that one day”. I was aware of a theme I was drawn to and it was those running a business or a person’s mindset towards life.

How do you think your early years have influenced what you do today?

As much as I had a great upbringing I don’t think I was exposed to enough of the world as a child. I lived in a very comfortable bubble. My desire to go to London and then to finally move here really opened up my world. I had never felt like I fitted because I know I wanted to experience a very different life than what I was seeing around me. I couldn’t identify with them in many ways and I really struggled with that. I sometimes wonder what I would be doing differently had I grown up around more diverse people, lifestyles and culture, for instance.

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You’re a business founder, a broadcaster, a speaker and connector and you don’t have an office. How do you create a culture amongst the people you work with?

I can’t count the times I’ve heard people say, “if we don’t have an office, we don’t have a culture”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. At MYWW™, our culture is built on the way we communicate - it is about how we interact with each other, be that face-to-face or via a smartphone. I am a bit tired of businesses who decide on a set of values to operate by and decorate them onto a wall but in reality they never get authentically lived. From the very first day I started my business the culture has been focused on being respectful to one another. We embrace candour and honesty and make sure we have the difficult conversations. We also just get the fucking work done while weaving our lives around our client’s needs. There have definitely been some learnings mastering this approach but it works. It’s a culture we can sustain because it is authentic and people can thrive as individuals.

You’re a propagator for pushing real women’s conversations into the mainstream and redesigning ‘business as usual’ to make it better, not just for women but for everyone. What would be the first thing you’d do in your redesign?

I feel like I am doing it all the time by allowing people to weave life into their work and challenging our traditional ‘masculine’ approach to business. As an employee you are often a resource - there to make someone else more money while the business interest is in paying you the least. I stand by a people first, business second principle. I do not have a business without great people so my job is to keep my team content so they can do the best job for our clients. Happy team = happy client!

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What do you think is missing from businesses in building true diversity?

A lack of consciousness. It’s about consciousness versus unconsciousness. If you’re unconscious you’re only seeing the world from your point view. If you’re conscious you learn that there are things you haven’t experienced that others have and you try really hard to understand this as best you can. We have lived in a very one dimensional society for so long and it’s high time we all listen more, raise our awareness and massively dial up our empathy.

What does ‘badass’ mean to you?

For me, it’s about living life on your terms. It’s about being authentic, seeing multiple dimensions to one thing and choosing the one that fits with you and how you want your life to be.

You are positive impact personified! What have been some of the most positive results you’ve seen from the work you do?

It makes me happy that I can make my staff happy. Recently, one of my employees told me that MYWW™ has changed her life. She’s always worked agency-side and was never able to balance work with looking after her child. Now, she can do pick-up from school, work at home when she chooses and vary the times of days she works. She’s happier, less stressed, and no longer feeling like she’s torn between two worlds. That’s important to me. The more money I make the more I can help others live happier work lives. Work has become such a cumbersome thing where people end up self medicating at the weekend and head towards extremes to escape their working lives. It doesn’t have to be this way. I had read so much about better ways to work and what we need to be happy human beings, now I am practicing it rather than talking about it and always happy to share my learnings with anyone else who wants to know how to make it work for them.

(Being a badass) is about living life on your terms

How do you keep learning more whilst on the many jobs you have?

I think having a mindset that the more I know the more I realise I don’t know! And you don’t have a choice to keep learning if you want to have a successful business! I am a work in progress and want to keep evolving even if I am 90 years old. As the business changes, I change with it. As I change, the business changes. The day I don’t want to learn is probably the day I am done with life!

What have been the essential factors that have enabled you to get to where you are today that you think you'd struggle without?

Resilience; overcoming fear of rejection; sheer bloody mindedness!

Where do you get your inspiration?

People always inspire me. There are lots of different sources and I keep it varied in the types of people I interact with. Working with the ventures at King’s in my role as Expert in Residence on their award winning accelerator scheme has opened up my eyes to new ideas, technology and fresh business perspectives. Every year, through the initiative, I meet over 40 of some of the smartest entrepreneurs from all the over the world - I gain so much from my sessions with them.

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You’re constantly interviewing interesting women on a weekly basis as part of the Badass Women’s Hour. Who's a woman to watch or someone you admire in 2019?

We had an amazing author on, called Tomi Adeyemi, who is the author of the very successful book ‘Children of Blood and Bone’. Her interview was so inspiring so she was one (of so many guests) who really stood out for me. Tomi is only 21 and tipped to be next JK Rowling. She had always really wanted to be an author and hearing her journey of how she went from quitting her job to getting the book published was really special. As a teenager she’d been fixated with fiction but could never identify with it because of her African heritage. She’s rewritten for the genre from her perspective.

 

Name the quote you live by

“The world will not invite you to the feast. You must burst in, demand a seat, and take it.” John Carlton

I realised early on that no one was going to go, ‘here you go Emma, here’s all the opportunities you are waiting so patiently for’, so I got my head down, decided what I wanted and worked bloody hard to get them all - but I am not stopping yet!

Keep up to date with what Emma does next (we’re sure there’ll be something exciting) on Twitter and Instagram.



THE FEMALE FOCUS: CAROLINE HAILSTONE

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Meet Caroline, a Content Writer, Journalist & Producer at The Fable Bureau and Pioneers Post

She’s a multi-hyphenate of our era, straddling roles at both the creative agency for social ventures as well as at the mission-driven magazine. She’s also an incredible musician, roaming the streets with her street orchestra collective. She’s an old colleague and we love what makes her tick. Read on!

Did you have a female role model or someone you admired as a kid?

My mum. As long as I’ve been alive she has always helped people in the community. She runs the local soup kitchen and always takes the load of everyone else. My friends at school too - they are ambitious and go-getting and still are.

Caroline on location for a production job

Caroline on location for a production job

How do you think your early years have influenced what you do today?

Studies show that older siblings have more traditional roles, paving the way for their younger siblings to often do more creative things. That’s certainly true in my case. From a young age, my sisters and I were always encouraged to do everything drama to music. I was encouraged to do what I enjoyed. When I was at school, I realised early on that I was quite good at writing because my teachers would ask me to read out what I’d written to entire classrooms. I got to know that with writing you can tap into your non-thinking brain and not overthink so good stuff comes out.



You started your career in a marketing agency doing PR and social (with Clo)! What experiences did you develop there that have helped set you up for your role right now?

Loads of stuff - I definitely learnt the basics! I learnt to be strategic and I remember thinking, ‘why are we doing this campaign?’, ensuring that everything we did had an outcome. I also learnt how to do things on a smaller budget and the beauty of being creative with it, which has stood me in good stead in the area of social enterprise!

Caroline in action recording a podcast

Caroline in action recording a podcast

Pioneers Post is setting the agenda for the new wave of responsible business leaders and social entrepreneurs. What businesses have peaked your interest lately?

Hey Girls, which tackles period poverty, for sure. It’s a good reminder that strong branding and marketing are important in creating social change. The brand is beautiful, it’s got a cool edge, it sells really nice products and has an ethical supply chain. The CEO Celia Hodson is really cool too - she used to be deputy Chief Exec of Social Enterprise UK - and she’s created a family business heaped in purpose.



What are the main barriers for businesses and social enterprises creating positive impact in the UK?

Standing out. Brands like Innocent, who launched the very successful Big Knit campaign to raise money for Age UK, give knitted hats to old ladies, have tapped into the social change bit but are not a social enterprise. So some social enterprises struggle to stand out from commercial brands doing good.



What do you think is missing from business in building true diversity?

It was interesting visiting the Diversity Forum recently. It’s a collective with a mission to drive inclusive social investment in the UK. Danyal Sattar, CEO of Big Issue Invest as well as John Bird, founder of the Big Issue spoke there. They told us about how the Big Issue was set up by the children of working class Irish immigrants, who saw themselves as diverse, but actually when they eventually looked around they realised they were full of white men.


You are positive impact personified! What have been some of the most positive results you’ve seen from the work you do?

Being part of the WISE 100 - Women in Social Enterprise Awards - has been really impactful in seeing change. WISE 100 brings 100 women together in a room and it’s like the FTSE 100 but for those in social enterprise. You see how passionate these women are to be a part of it and immense pride for being a woman in the space. I want to be a part of keeping these awards going, along with the passionate team I work with.


How do you keep learning more whilst on the job?

Sometimes it’s easy to keep a job easy when you know it inside out. But what keeps me on my toes are the monthly impact analysis meetings we have in place at The Fable Bureau / Pioneers Post. When we’ve made a film we will sit down together and assess as a team how we can make it better. It’s changed the way I think about doing my job and I am more conscious of how we can improve and get better.



Where do you get your inspiration?

At work I can get it from anywhere. In our meetings, we’ll bring films and documentaries that inspire us. I regularly go to galleries and concerts, which keep my mind ticking. I also play in Street Orchestra Live, where we play in hospitals and random places rather than concert halls. It takes away any sense of ego or any nervousness about making music, because it makes you realise that at the end of the day it should be about bringing people joy.

Street Orchestra Live

Street Orchestra Live


Who's a woman to watch or someone you admire in 2019?

All my teammates are cool, strong women. All 7 of us are women apart from the CEO and we keep our boss on his toes. We also work with Ealing Community Transport, which is a really important service for those who are immobile and would otherwise be stuck at home. Their CEO Anna Whitty is very cool and she stands her ground in what is a male-dominated industry.



Name the quote you live by

There isn’t one particular quote I live by, though recently I like the song ‘Make Love to Your Mind’ by Bill Withers...it’s cool to think about people you meet that make you intrigued with their minds.

 

And if you’re a social enterprise reading this, get on board with Caroline and the Pioneers Post team for a day of marketing and communications workshops, including a key note from the awesome Sam Conniff Allende. It’s on 26th February, with more details here. Follow Caroline and the teams at Pioneers Post and The Fable Bureau on Twitter.

THE FEMALE FOCUS: GEORGIE POWELL

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Georgie Powell, Founder of SPACE

We’ve been lucky enough to work with Georgie and SPACE, the app she founded to encourage us to have more tech/life balance and less mindless phone scrolling. Georgie tells us why her own tech overdose led her to create SPACE and why millions are downloading it.

(Having kids) made me realise more than ever that if I am to be working away from them, I need to care about what I do.

Did you have a female role model or someone you admired as a kid?

My first headmistress. Her motto was to always make a difference. She had gravitas, poise and purpose.

How do you think your early years have influenced what you do today?

Both of my parents showed me how what you put into life you get out. They both worked hard and I lived abroad for much of my youth, experiencing different cultures whilst living in different places.

What led you down the path of building Space and what has surprised you most about the process so far?

I had been thinking about my relationship with technology for a while - how it didn’t always make me feel great. I had a wakeup moment when I became a new mum, whilst breastfeeding my child, that I was scrolling through photos of her on my phone. She was right there in front of me and I was missing the moment! I instantly became interested in the technology overdose that so many of us are experiencing.

I never anticipated that startup life would be such a rollercoaster. One of the things that put me off corporate life is that success is often based not on what you do, but how you communicate what you do to your peers and bosses. I know I’m having an impact in making this app, but communication is still so important. I have learnt I need to make storytelling present in everything SPACE does. I know I need to find the right way to communicate our successes, our vision, our impact. If this business was run by guys they would spin it into something bigger. I’m conscious of this but haven’t found the solution yet.

Georgie and her baby

Georgie and her baby

How do you keep learning more whilst on the job?

I care so passionately about the issue of tech/life balance and am constantly on the hunt for more research and findings on how it’s impacting people’s lives. It was really important for me to choose a business I really care about. I learn a new skill every day, from building a new email template, to understanding how PR works. There’s an element of enforced learning with start-up life.


What have been the essential factors that have enabled you to get to where you are today that you think you'd struggle without?

Having kids. They gave me the impetus to make this a reality. They made me realise more than ever that if I am to be working away from them, I need to care about what I do. Technology and social media is going to have an impact on their future too.

SPACE has had a lean model from the outset which has allowed for flexibility. I was able to have a day job and launch the venture alongside it, which was great. This meant that I learnt whilst still on the job and we didn’t have upfront fixed costs. I was looking for partnerships from the beginning to avoid capital risk.


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Where do you get your inspiration?

I have a few things. A close friend who has a very successful startup - Messly, an NHS recruitment service - definitely inspires me. He has amazing tenacity and drive. I get ongoing inspiration from my kids and I continue to be inspired by the sector I’m in. Having a flexible lifestyle keeps me alive too. The thought of being back in corporate life makes me feel grey.


You led YouTube’s content business in Australia and New Zealand. Do you think businesses of such a large scale can have a grip on staff work life balance? And if they don’t, what can they do about it?

They can. Google did it really well. For them, it’s not about having staff face-time but about deliverables - it’s on you to make it work. It’s a fine line to make sure people have enough work; complex enough but not too stretched so they don’t lose their balance. And it’s about ensuring it’s flexible enough so that time is carved out specifically not for work.


What do you think is missing from businesses in building true diversity?

There’s still a lot of unconscious bias out there in the way people are hired and promoted. Business leaders often hire versions of themselves and it’s evident particularly in tech.


Who's a woman to watch or someone you admire in 2019?

Women in my daily life inspire me - friends, family and other mums who give so much to everything. And this might be controversial, but to be honest, at the moment Theresa May is also a huge inspiration. The way she has conducted herself with class and tenacity throughout the Brexit process and how she took on a job that was always going to be a poison chalice is impressive.


Name the quote you live by

Always make a difference, as my headmistress taught me, and what you put in you get out, following in my parents’ footsteps.



Check out Georgie on LinkedIn and if you feel you need more time away from your phone but are unsure of what to do next, find out more about what SPACE can do to help here.



THE FEMALE FOCUS: SOPHIE HOBSON

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Sophie Hobson, Head of Comms at the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE)

SSE helps 1,000 people a year develop the skills, strengths and networks they need to tackle society’s biggest problems. We caught up with Sophie on fangirling Esther Rantzen and her passion for creating opportunities for the people society has left behind.

Most organisations do not reflect the society they serve. We need to ask difficult questions of ourselves, if we want to counter our biases and become more inclusive.

Did you have a female role model or someone you admired as a kid?

I was obsessed with Esther Rantzen as a kid! I learnt about Childline when I was quite young and thought it was an amazing idea for supporting children who were having a difficult time. As the founder of that charity, she could do no wrong in my little eyes. A pretty unusual role-model for a seven-year-old, I suppose, but there you go!



How do you think your early years have influenced what you do today?

My mum has volunteered for Cancer Research since before I was born, and is always organising fundraising events that seem genuinely fun. That – along with my fangirling Esther Rantzen – definitely sparked a commitment to charitable causes and social change. There was a lot of campaigning going on about greenhouse gases and protecting endangered species that reached me as a child, too. I remember I had a children’s book created by Greenpeace about the Rainbow Warrior, and another by the Vegetarian Society that was a kind of survival guide for vegetarian teenagers. I guess all those things wiggled their way into my identity. (And made me annoyingly self-righteous as a teenager... sorry, everyone.) And I’ve always loved writing and drawing, which explains the communications bit.

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You have helped build several startups in the past. What led you down this path and what were some of your biggest learnings?

It’s so exciting to work at a start-up. I loved feeling like I was genuinely helping to shape the direction of those businesses, and how quickly I could make ideas a reality. It’s very fast-moving, and I enjoy wearing lots of hats. It is also – as everyone says – an emotional rollercoaster. You have to be prepared for the days when everything feels frustrating and desperate, sometimes just days apart from the successes - when it feels like you’re going to take over the world! I think my biggest learning is how important it is to be working with a team that you trust and you like, when you’re in that environment. You often have to go above and beyond the call of duty to make things work, and that only feels worth it when you respect your team-mates. In a small team, mutual respect and a shared vision are essential.



How do you keep learning more whilst on the job?

Talking to people in similar roles to me at other organisations, reading and doing regular training to develop my skillset, and keeping an eye on what other sectors and organisations are doing to innovate in my field.

I have had a relatively privileged life. I would be an idiot not to recognise how that has opened certain doors for me.

What have been the essential factors that have enabled you to get to where you are today that you'd think you'd struggle without?

I have learnt how to keep my work-life balance in check. I love talking to people and I am creative. Overall, I feel okay about myself… apart from the inevitable imposter syndrome sneaking in from time to time. Also, I have had a relatively privileged life. I would be an idiot not to recognise how that has opened certain doors for me. For example, I have had a good education, a loving family, generally been in good health, and always had a roof over my head. I believe it is completely random that I have ended up with that amount of luck, and it’s not fair that people in other circumstances might find it more difficult to find meaningful employment or support. I guess that’s why I spend my working life supporting social entrepreneurs and social-sector leaders – they’re tackling injustices and creating opportunities for the people society has left behind.


Where do you get your inspiration?

Trying to take in a diverse range of media, observing other people’s behaviours, and finding out what other people are excited by and geek out on. Also, walking among lots of plants helps clear my mind.

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What do you think is missing from businesses in building true diversity?

Inclusivity, and shying away from difficult questions. Most organisations do not reflect the society they serve, but the people working there are afraid to ask why some people have ended up excluded. We need to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. It takes hard work, self-reflection and challenge to our own beliefs to understand why we are prejudiced towards certain people. We need to ask difficult questions of ourselves, if we want to counter our biases and become more inclusive.



Do you think social entrepreneurship is opening more doors for women to come through?

Absolutely! The majority of social entrepreneurs we support at SSE are women. Across the UK more broadly, 40% of social enterprises are led by women, according to research from Social Enterprise UK.

SSE Global Team

SSE Global Team

You now work with the School for Social Entrepreneurs. How can businesses help make social entrepreneurship a success in this country?

Loads of ways! Businesses can work in partnership with social enterprises, get them in their supply chain and buy from them (this directory will help). Larger corporates can provide funding to the social-enterprise sector. Of course, the ideal solution would be for businesses to become social enterprises themselves! Even big businesses can make this change, as Cordant Group proved last year.



You’re an expert in content marketing. What brands are on your radar right now that you believe are pushing the boundaries in this space?

I’m more interested in how organisations are using technologies like virtual reality (VR) and voice to create more powerful communications. For example, the National Autistic Society’s Too Much Information film gave me an insight into autism that I don’t think would have been possible without the VR element. It’s a great example of using technology to improve story-telling, rather than using tech in a novelty way that feels clumsy.

Who's a woman to watch or someone you admire in 2018?

I think June Sarpong is doing brilliant work to promote the diversity and inclusion agenda. Also, all the women in the recently announced Women in Social Enterprise 100 are well worth watching (and SSE’s managing director Nicola Steuer is among them!).

Name the quote you live by

“Unless you catch ideas on the wing and nail them down, you will soon cease to have any.” – Virginia Woolf

Chat to Sophie on Twitter @sophiehobson

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A POSITIVE ROLE MODEL IN 2018 AND BEYOND?

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The theme of International Men’s Day this year is ‘Positive Role Models’

We wrote a blog post last week that you can find here about why we decided to team up with Mac&Moore and chat to some pretty incredible men about this topic. We’ve been so excited to share the responses we asked to the following three questions and feel as though there were some powerful common themes, despite the participants working in the worlds of sport, education, advertising and beyond which has been both refreshing and encouraging in the midst of all the media misery we’re enduring at the moment. So with no further ado, let’s dive right in!

Phil Bartlett – Managing Director, CDM

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- What are the qualities or most important elements of being a positive role model?

Authenticity, consistency and tenacity. People will forgive your (inevitable) weaknesses and failings if they can see you’re sincere about your beliefs and efforts.

- What actions do you think need to be taken to ensure that men can thrive without being restricted by patriarchal structures?

First, it’s down to the individual to take the first step: just let go of all the old bullshit and there’s a real freedom and poise that can come with that. “There’s more courage in truth than there is in pretending to be strong.” But the long game is all about teaching our sons about empathy and the importance, and huge value, of vulnerability in building trust.

- How do you think men can be positive role models for women?

I don’t think women need men to be positive role models for them. I think people need to decide they’re going to be positive role models for other people. Like-minded, forward thinking and open-hearted individuals will always find and support each other. (Find Phil on Twitter and LinkedIn)

Nick Bridge – Founder, Girls are Awesome

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- What are the qualities or most important elements of being a positive role model?

I really think just not being a dick helps. I try not to be a dick as much as possible. I’m not always successful because working with people is a dynamic thing and sometimes life is frustrating. Thank goodness we’re not robots and we’re forced to navigate and be diplomatic and empathic. Strategies are great because they forget the people have egos and fears and ambitions and interests. I really think just trying to try to see things from as many different points of view as possible helps. And being large enough to admit to your mistakes, shift perspective and not always have to be right. That’s something I work on every day. I’m not the expert though.

- What actions do you think need to be taken to ensure that men can thrive without being restricted by patriarchal structures?

Wow, big question. I’m not ‘strong’ or unemotional so I can’t speak to those particular traits, but I think somehow showing and experiencing success through failure can go a long way. I also don’t necessarily think that being strong or unemotional needs to be a restriction - we just need more females in all levels of business, government and society, and especially at the top. I also don’t believe in a total revolution either, obvious big things need to happen and the scales need to tip for women in order for dudes to shut the fuck up for a second and stop being protective and mean and greedy. There’s only one way to find out if power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely regardless of gender, or not.

- How do you think men can be positive role models for women?

I really only think about how to be a role model for my kids, how I have to show my son and daughter to be respectful people - and to be honest, there’s so much Girls Are Awesome in our lives at home as well as the studio that I have to try to figure out how to raise my boy amongst this societal shift - if you know what I mean. There’s a lot of positive encouragement for young girls and women right now but we mustn’t forget that might leave the boys to figure it out for themselves, again - and it will be interesting to see how that goes. Not saying it’s not about a shift, and that after thousands of years of oppression that women deserve what’s coming through this movement, but the overall goal is equality. (Find Girls Are Awesome on Instagram)

Chris Wyles – International Rugby Union Player and founder of Wolfpack Lager

Source:  Sky Sports

Source: Sky Sports

What are the qualities or most important elements of being a positive role model?

I believe the most important element is to lead by example. It's easy to talk the talk but you need to walk the walk.

- What actions do you think need to be taken to ensure that men can thrive without being restricted by patriarchal structures?

In this case it's all about communicating. We need to make sure men feel comfortable to share their thoughts and concerns and open up. This is an important step to allowing men to look for help and guidance rather than internalising emotion.

- How do you think men can be positive role models for women?

It's all about being respectful to people rather than making it about men or woman. If you are respectful and considerate you can be a role model to anyone! (Find Chris on Twitter and Instagram)

Dr. Kerry Featherstone – Lecturer in English and Creative Writing, Loughborough University

Credit: Suzi Corker Photography

Credit: Suzi Corker Photography

Firstly, I have a strange relationship with gender. My first name is asexual, and many people have assumed that I’m female. Mobile phone providers have refused to allow me to change contracts on behalf of Kerry Featherstone. I get asked what my relationship is to the patient when I pick up medication at the pharmacy. And I’m not particularly macho: as a teenager I was beaten up for being gay on more than one occasion (I’m not gay). Should I have made it clear that I wasn’t gay in order to avoid the beating, or would that be tacitly acknowledging that if I had been gay, the beating would be understandable? So, as we know, gender can be a pain in all sorts of ways, petty or horrific.

- What are the qualities or most important elements of being a positive role model?

I think it’s something like a combination of integrity and empathy. In practical terms, be kind to other people. Try to help them to get where they want to go, rather than helping them to be more like you. For me, the ability to be generous with your time and energy is a sign of strength. That’s about empathy. Also, try to live according to standards that you set yourself, and are happy with, regardless of how other people behave towards you. For me, a role model has self-respect that doesn’t rely on the response of other people. In order for it to become a model, you have to do it publicly: show that other people’s behaviour doesn’t diminish your belief in your values. That’s the integrity bit.

- What actions do you think need to be taken to ensure that men can thrive without being restricted by patriarchal structures?

I think you have to be prepared to ask yourself some questions! “Why am I behaving like this?”; “Why do I feel I have to do or say certain things?”; “Why can’t I do or say certain things?” If you start unpacking the reasons for behaving in certain ways, there’s no logic to or need for it. So that might be a sign that you should let it go. That’s personal interrogation, I guess. At societal level, we need to let go of the idea of ‘growing a pair’: it’s ridiculous and harmful.

- How do you think men can be positive role models for women?

By showing respect regardless of gender. I’m fortunate to work in an environment where women have as much expert knowledge as their male colleagues and – as far as I’m concerned – are valued accordingly. That should be true anywhere. If, as a man, you behave differently towards the people around you because of gender, you need to be asking yourself why you’re doing that. Perhaps part of the answer is to accept that, as a man, you can have female role models. I certainly do. (Find Kerry on Twitter and Instagram)

Josh Uwadiae – Founder, WeGym

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- What are the qualities or most important elements of being a positive role model?

I think one of the most important elements of being a positive role model is a mixture of vulnerability and optimism. People should be inspired by your optimistic views and actions but equally grounded by the candour at which you articulate the bad and ugly, which complements the good work you’re doing. A good example is the book Shoedog - the autobiography of Phil Knight the Founder of Nike.

- What actions do you think need to be taken to ensure that men can thrive without being restricted by patriarchal structures?

I think men need to be given the liberty to be both macho masculine and feline feminine. Being too manly is judged and vice versa with femininity so I believe the modern man is lost in today’s climate. In terms of action I would first start with spreading awareness to the traditions which have been handed to us as men as we are often acting these out subconsciously... my dad hated talking about my emotions and I found myself growing up similar so it’s about breaking the cycles publically as well as at home!

- How do you think men can be positive role models for women?

I heard a great talk by David Wade where he said, ' we're all sexist, even the good people ' and that really resonated with me. I think I'm a good person and therefore I'm really not sure the specificity of male role models to women in a general/societal setting but I do feel a responsibility to manage my own sexism, bias, discriminative opinions and make other people (including men) aware too. (Find Josh on Twitter and Instagram)



Paul Mellor – Founder, Mellor & Smith

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- What are the qualities or most important elements of being a positive role model?

  • Listening. As the old adage goes "you've got 2 ears and 1 mouth" so shut your mouth and pin your ears back.

  • Humility. It goes a long fucking way.

  • Empathy. Having compassion for another person’s life, problems, hopes and dreams is incredibly powerful.

  • Having a backbone. Displaying the guts to stand for something or someone, especially if that opinion costs you.

  • Being fucking real. Having the confidence to show weaknesses as well as strengths.

  • And remember, nobody likes a dickhead.

- What actions do you think need to be taken to ensure that men can thrive without being restricted by patriarchal structures?

Suicide is the biggest killer in men between 20-45. How the fuck did we, as a civilised world, get to the point where the biggest thing killing young men is themselves. It would be laughable if it wasn't so serious. It's definitely connected to society's demand for men to be strong and unemotional. But I reckon it's bigger than that; patriarchal structures don't actually work for anyone apart from the one fella at the top. Equality isn't women superseding men, it's men and women thriving together.

- How do you think men can be positive role models for women?

By calling out bullshit, misogyny and inequality at every opportunity. The people who’ve been to our Take Fucking Risks events know I call out the problems in the advertising industry whenever I can: "Fuck white, male creative directors”. I've got 3 kids at Primary School: 2 daughters and a son. I despair that my daughter’s opportunities will be hindered as they grow up, whereas my son will afforded baked-in privilege. Fuck that shit. It’s time for change. (Find Paul on Instagram)

Matt Boyles – Founder, Fitter You and Wireless Fitness

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- What are the qualities or most important elements of being a positive role model?

Always challenging and calling out sexism, bias and privilege. Plus continually challenging my own prejudices and biases and catching myself when this happens, as embarrassing as it might be. This can start on a micro level, ie. with your friends, as well as in the wider field. Carefully thinking about the language I use in real life and online and also ensuring I don't do anything that might be construed in any way as intimidating. Not to mention supporting the women I know in all their endeavours, both personally and professionally.

- What actions do you think need to be taken to ensure that men can thrive without being restricted by patriarchal structures?

Listening to the amazing women in our life as much as possible - really listening. Calling out people who are consciously (and unconsciously) supporting the current toxic structures. Having the awareness to notice and work on when we do fall into the old traps. eg. even though I'm an out gay man, I occasionally find myself hiding or disguising who I am in order to appear more manly or fit in with certain groups and it's not doing anyone any favours. Being more 'masc' or manly doesn't mean you're stronger in any way, it just means you're still subscribing to ridiculously outdated notions that are holding all of us back.

- How do you think men can be positive role models for women?

With the consistency of our language, support and approach. By listening more. By not assuming we know everything. By staying open and grateful to the women in our life and wider circle for everything they've done and will do for us and with us. (Find Matt on Twitter and Instagram)

Luke SturgeonFounder, GreySpace

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- What are the qualities or most important elements of being a positive role model?

I believe a good role model will frequently find moments to reflect on what they’re doing and whether their actions and opinions can be improved. I enjoy seeking out critical feedback from others and encourage criticality. I’m most happy when someone asks me why I believe x is a good idea versus y.

A) it forces me to articulate my thinking clearly

B) whilst trying to explain I’m also deciding if I agree with my old opinion

C) we can compare and imagine alternatives.

- What actions do you think need to be taken to ensure that men can thrive without being restricted by patriarchal structures?

I think men already thrive in many areas. The challenge here is a broader one of changing gender stereotypes. I’m aware when I’m speaking to mostly male, mostly female, or mixed groups. But the moment someone speaks to me - regardless of gender - I’m listening to a person with a different background, experiences, education and interests to myself. That’s always fascinating and rewarding. Women are underrepresented in many areas of society. Work being an obvious and important one. I believe we need to create more opportunities for underrepresented people to excel. But I also don’t believe someone should be empowered just to fill a diversity agenda, we should see and celebrate the value each person offers on a case-by-case basis.

- How do you think men can be positive role models for women?

I don’t think men should be role models for women specifically. I think someone who’s intelligent, passionate, articulate and interesting can be a positive role model to someone else who’s looking to better some aspect of themselves and grow in new ways. I think people should surround themselves with a diverse set of interesting men and women, younger and older, who will encourage them to challenge their assumptions, develop their own opinions, and take their own action. We all need to support others who are on this journey of growth and self-development. I think most people would be proud to discovered they positively impacted someone else’s life.

Adam Jones – Policy and Advocacy Officer, UK Council for Psychotherapy

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- What are the qualities or most important elements of being a positive role model?

Speaking generally, I think positive role models are those who lead by example, and think very carefully about the effect that their actions have on other people, particularly those who may be looking up to them for guidance. In terms of men, I think positive role models are those who are brave enough to challenge patriarchal values and traditional ideas about masculinity. Men who use their position or platform to show others that it’s OK to break away from typical notions of “manliness”.

- What actions do you think need to be taken to ensure that men can thrive without being restricted by patriarchal structures?

The feminist movement needs to continue to grow. Many men are terrified of the “fem” part of feminism, but a movement to dismantle patriarchal structures and end sexism and oppression stands to liberate us all. That is what is needed to create a world where men can thrive regardless of whether or not they conform to traditional notions of masculinity.

- How do you think men can be positive role models for women?

Of course there are many wonderful men who can act as positive role models to people regardless of their gender. But, in a society where the achievements of men have long been put on a pedestal and the achievements of women diminished, I don’t think men should be motivated by being role models for women. They should do what they can to help to break down the barriers that so many positive female role models face – and that sometimes includes stepping aside. They should also shun the patriarchal values that have so often belittled women’s status and achievements. Follow UKCP on Twitter and Instagram)



We'd like to say a huge thank you to all the men who spoke to us so honestly and candidly on this topic, we look forward to hopefully having many more conversations to come!

THE FEMALE FOCUS SERIES: LACEY HUNTER-FELTON

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Lacey Hunter-Felton, Founder of Hunter Collective

Hairdresser Lacey saw an opportunity to build a space for beauty and fashion people wanting to be independent and work flexibly. Hunter Collective is an incubator for the mums who still want to work and the next generation of tastemakers who want to forge their own path. We caught up with her on why the co-working salon studio and event space is filling a dying need for change.

If I can give women flexibility and independence through the business, I am doing what I set out to do. And even if it’s helping just me and one more woman, Hunter Collective is giving us another option.

Did you have a female role model or someone you admired as a kid?

Very much so. From a young age I was surrounded by strong female cheerleaders throughout the generations and into my adulthood. My mother, grandmother, friends, my hairdresser, Cheryl, who inspired me as a kid to become a hairdresser. I’ve taken different things from each of them and carried them with me. For me, it’s so important to have strong female influences and keep gathering them. And there’s a couple of my clients too, who are powerful, articulate and beautiful women who have been following my career and invested time in me. When I was mulling over the genesis of Hunter Collective, I realised that they were stepping up and motivating me to do it. And since the birth of the business they haven’t steppedback. For me it’s not a gender thing. The women in my life are strong influencers with my priorities at heart. I’ve expanded my network as an adult and have tried to bring others into it - to inspire back.

A pic of Lacey with her grandmother May Ivy Hunter. She takes the name from her and she symbolises the amazing women who have influenced Lacey’s upbringing.

A pic of Lacey with her grandmother May Ivy Hunter. She takes the name from her and she symbolises the amazing women who have influenced Lacey’s upbringing.

What led you to start Hunter Collective?

I needed to. I had to. Hunter Collective was born out of waking up and looking around, thinking ‘where do all the women in my industry go?’ It’s crazy but 70% of women drop out of the industry by the time they’re 34 years old. In hairdressing, the strongest influencers are men and they’re usually the owners of the salons, while women are the mentors. In my experience, women were having kids and not coming back. I was working in central London and the chance of having a long career in hair as a woman wasn’t sustainable. I kept in touch with my mentors, who went on to diversify their careers, which was great, but in reality they didn’t have a choice. Classic salon life did not accommodate them and their families.

I definitely learnt from these mentors before deciding to potentially have a baby myself. (Lacey had her baby Gene last year). I thought to myself, ‘if I become pregnant, I can’t wait for these barriers to move as I could be waiting forever.’ Instead, I built my dream of what I wanted for my career and as a mother. I quit my job, feeling very frustrated with the situation. I set about spending two years collecting and building what is Hunter Collective now. I am a creature of consistency and cosmic ordering so it was ultimately fear that put a rocket up my arse.

How do you think your early years have influenced what you're doing today?

My mother raised 3 children on her own. The stability my mum created in a tough situation is a cornerstone that I have replicated for myself. She supported me to become a hairdresser at the age of 16. We couldn’t afford for me to train at Vidal Sassoon London but she encouraged me to learn the skill and do it well. Hairdressing gets a bad rap outside the industry but not everybody can be a hairdresser.

I learnt a skill rather than studying a skill, one which I could use anywhere in the world. This gave me loads of confidence. I moved to London, which was the making of me. I wouldn’t have had the career opportunities, I wouldn’t have met my husband and friends, and built my aspirations of how I would raise my child. London’s vibrant diversity and beautifully complicated way was oxygen for me.

The Hunter Collective space

The Hunter Collective space

How do you keep learning more whilst building a business?

Listening. Simple as that - I listen all the time. I’ve made it my job to take every person I work with for coffee and get feedback. I’ve also learnt to say ‘I don’t know’. This was difficult at the beginning but it’s massively rewarding now. I work with interesting, dynamic characters every day and I always ask them to tell me what they’re doing. I have realised that asking for 5 minutes of their time to listen, people will share.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Where to start! My connections from Hunter Collective - our members, my son – are massively inspiring. Through the business, I meet people with diverse careers and backgrounds - that’s inspirational enough. These are the people who I wanted to build Hunter Collective for and help them build their own businesses. And Nico, my co-founder, is inspirational - he took on a major risk doing this. Ultimately, inspiration is people.

It was ultimately fear that put a rocket up my arse.

What do you think is missing from businesses in building true diversity?

Awareness. Businesses don’t understand bias. A lot of businesses remain unconscious. Many of us are guilty, including me. I was always conscious of culture and diversity but even I was complacent. Hunter Collective, alone, has proven to me how everyone has a responsibility to take diversity seriously and actively take part in building a diverse society around them. In some parts of our lives we’re just cruising to be happy and support ourselves. But some businesses need a reality check and structure within so that diversity becomes second nature and part of everyday life. We’re not there yet.

What brands are on your radar right now and why?

We’re always looking at brands to partner with and inspire us. They won’t interest me if they don’t back themselves up ethically and sustainably. At Hunter Collective, we build long term relationships with partners so it’s in our culture to work with businesses who celebrate ethnicity and address waste and pollution, which is a big issue in the industry. We’re trying to set an example so we can influence others and create a knock-on effect. We’re quietly encouraged that brands are being more responsible and future-proof.

What have been the essential factors that have enabled you to be an entrepreneur that you'd think you'd struggle without?

The knowledge that it takes a village. I didn’t know what the phrase meant until I needed a village. When s*** gets real you need people around you and a support network cheering you on. I thank my family and husband on a daily business as I couldn’t come to work if my family couldn’t look after my child and I couldn’t have done it without my husband financially supporting me. Their commitment is still high even a year after my son was born. This pushes me forward as I’m determined not to let them down.

The Hunter Collective meeting room

The Hunter Collective meeting room

What's your biggest learning so far since starting Hunter Collective?

I have learnt a lot from working with Nico. That everything we want do we’ve got to do ourselves. From the structure and framework of the business, to how it’s run. It’s endless and I’m still learning. I still have confidence wobbles but I know that as long as I keep going, it will get better. Being a hairdresser has given me a good basis for knowing how to treat every meeting with a high level of customer service. And then there’s the stamina. Fourteen hour days standing on my feet has taught me what a hard day’s work feels like.

How has work changed since having a child relatively recently?

It was the best thing that ever happened. I was treading water and not really sure about whether to set up Hunter Collective. In my mind I was an unemployed girl with an idea and I couldn’t do anything with it. When I got pregnant, my mindset changed. I needed to step up and look after my family and future. My son, Gene, was a ticking time bomb – and kicked me into getting some funding and a location. I met Nico when I was already 6 months pregnant and 12 days after the birth, together we signed the lease. By week 3 of Gene being born I was working full time and by week 7 Hunter Collective opened.

If I can give women flexibility and independence through the business, I am doing what I set out to do. And even if it’s just me and one more woman, Hunter Collective is giving us another option.

Who's a woman to watch or someone you admire in 2018?

Well, two that I need to name are my clients and they’ve been quiet pushers for me to grab life. Firstly, Nishma Robb, Marketing Director at Google, who is someone whose career I see getting bigger and bolder. And Emma Sexton has been a massive influence on me. I can only thank her and keep beating her drum. She is the ultimate badass. Emma was one of my first clients and she ignored the fact that I was on gardening leave when I left a former salon and took me for a drink. These are two women who I want to be even more publicly successful so that they can inspire lots more women.

Name the quote you live by

“You have as many hours in the day as Beyonce”, which is on the side of a mug my husband bought me. Otherwise, it has to be “It takes a village”, which I constantly cling to as my guiding prophecy. My husband, Liam, is the best man and he’s been in this 100% with me. I feel that men are often taken for granted these days because equality has shifted. Liam and I both co-parent our son. He’s never told me not to go to work so he can prioritise his work. He has not let me down when I’ve needed to push harder. But beyond my husband, the quote reminds me that I need everyone. It’s not just about having a husband and girls squad around me, it’s about everyone who has a genuine impact on my life. We’re all in it together.


Find out more about this incredible woman’s creation here and follow Hunter Collective on Instagram.

POSITIVE IMPACT IN ACTION: SAM CONNIFF ALLENDE

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Sam Conniff Allende, Serial Entrepreneur & Pirate

Multi-award-winning serial entrepreneur, with 10 start-ups to his name, including industry leading Creative Youth Network; Livity, is at it again. Restless for social change, Sam is now the best selling author of Be More Pirate. We find out what it’s all about.

Did you have any role models or someone you admired as a kid?

I once had a lucky experience. My friend’s mum worked in Parliament and I bunked off school so she could take me to see Nelson Mandela speak. His gravitas was not lost on me. I’d seen so many political figures on TV, like Thatcher, but never in the flesh. Mandela pieced together words in a charged room of people hanging on every one of those words. It was then compounded as he left the stage and walked in my direction and I couldn’t have felt smaller. He stopped in front of me and asked why I wasn’t in school. My mutter of reply was that being here today was more important. He chuckled and said, “Hopefully you’ll learn the right lessons, then.” It was an instructive moment. When I was playing characters as a kid, I thought maybe I want to be Nelson Mandela one day.

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We all know you from your heady days of building the incredible Livity agency. An agency and brand with purpose and that seems to give a sh*t about young people. What drove you to set it up in the first place?

Multiple reasons. A deep one I discovered later in life, that my dad had followed a very similar path to me. He died when I was 5 and my family made sure I was sheltered from his death so I didn’t find out much about him. It turns out that he set up a version of Livity in professional services (rather than marketing), which focused on community engagement. I believe my deep subconscious proves why I did it.

And then I have always needed to know what people’s values are. Fairness drives me. I want to know what your values are, what you sit up and fight for. It’s actually quite rare to get people who know what their 3 values are. I grew up in South London living with my mum, grandma and my sister. We were also a surrogate middle class family for disadvantaged people, for years we gave them beds and food. I was very conscIous of the opportunities I had compared to my peers.   

What’s the campaign you remain most proud of at Livity?

I can’t name one as there have been so many. What’s very clear is that Livity is better run now. Alex Goat, who took over from me, is amazing. It’s difficult for me to take sometimes. It makes you reevaluate that you’re not as good as you think you are. What Livity is doing with young people is incredible. Take Livity’s product, Digify, a talent spotting and hot-housing digital skills incubator and supported as part of Sadiq Khan's Digital Talent Programme. When I was around it used to be a diversity programme centred around digital skills. It now flips on an old problem and solution to be a fully grown business. I am very proud of the new look.

What started your obsession with pirates?

Well, tell me one person who hasn’t been touched by pirates in some way. They’re in culture everywhere – from the hardened biker with skull and crossbones to 5 year olds who grew up reading Peter Pan. They are a proxy for rebels and I didn’t know their history beyond Treasure Island and the rather alluring Jack Sparrow.

My favourite work with Livity was always working with young people - they inspire me and I knew that they’d help me in my preparation for transitioning out of the business. (Sam was 24 when he started Livity and nearly 40 when he left). I didn’t want to be that old guy desperately trying to hang out with young people. Taking that age old fact that as an entrepreneur you must do what most scares you, I decided I needed to write a book. I hadn’t gone to university and it was time to write the wrong - excuse the pun. Purpose had to come first though, otherwise the book would end up being like a TED X Talk in Balham. It began as an entrepreneur guide book. I went to hundreds of entrepreneur workshops to test it out and I got a lot of feedback on my overuse of metaphors and that basically it wasn’t very good! My interest in pirates continued to grow with the more I researched them. Their story is not one we know - they were true creators of social revolution and rebellion. The mainstream story wasn’t promoted at the time as they were seen as a threat. I fell in love with pirates. Finally I had found something people don’t know. They had to be exposed.

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You’re calling for a rebellion in the form of ‘professional rule-breaking’. What can progressive businesses that want to protect young people’s futures do to foster this mindset?

Be honest about what change is made in an organisation and question whether you listen to your talent - which you probably don’t. Do you really believe what they say you are? Are you close enough to the culture that you can hear the future of your business being talked about by staff in the pub? Do you know their side hustles, their walks of life? Young talent has more than one thing on the go at any one time and you must assume that they’re hustling when they’re not at your workplace. Businesses need to choose whether they want to be an incubator to serve young people’s futures. Most businesses are of the past and they’re not going to get anywhere without emotional experience. They’re missing a big opportunity with the very people with the tools to change the world and work alongside those who have already been around the block. Naivety meets wisdom...there’s chemistry in that.

You talk about the fact that no one is coming to save us. This is both scary and realistic. But not every young person has it in their armour to be a pirate and re-write the rules. What are the key strengths of pirates to be successful in this fractured society?

Change follows a pattern and if you identify a problem and don’t raise it or complain about it, nothing happens. This seems to be a habit rather than a rule. Rules have always been made in the past when circumstances were different. The biggest mistake to make is to accept things the way they need to be. The weird paradox is that 99 per cent of leaders would like to hear from young people in order to create positive impact. Young people need to stand up to change.

You liken pirates to Suffragettes in their similarities of workers’ rights and ambitions for social revolution. Do you think that women today are pirate enough?

I am inspired by women I see today and I support the debate. I grew up in a strong feminist household in which only one would call themselves a feminist. The Slumflower fills me with excitement and I am rooting for her to create a children’s book for my daughter.  Emma Gannon is another who has been very open with her journey. The thing is; the topic of gender equality is getting divisive – diversity and feminism can create a vacuum. We need a unified sense of action. Strong leadership is as important as strong messages. And to draw on the quote, “well behaved women rarely make history”, we definitely need more female pirates.

You’ve talked about the changes advertisers need to make to stop selling ‘fake’ happiness in a world of adversity. What can they be doing differently?

Doing something else. They need to work with a business model that champions ‘less is more’. Coca Cola being pleased with themselves that they’re using less water in their products when water shortage threatens life is disgusting. And they do not own the word ‘Happiness’. We’re still in the Malboro era of selling us stuff wantonly for money. The saying, ‘Advertising needs to decide if it wants to be a signature on humanity’s suicide note’, springs to mind. Business models are broken and non–circular business risks being a war crime.

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What have been the essential factors that have enabled you to be an entrepreneur that you'd think you'd struggle without?

Optimism. I think I have a buoyancy of optimism. If everyone could switch on optimism all would be fine. With me, even if it slumps low I see it rise gradually again to the surface. I think also the support I get is invaluable. We think about resilience retrospectively but we need to consider it in real time. When we see loved ones break down we look back surprised that everyone is surprised. I keep an active resilience chart with 4 quadrants - Resilience, Life, Personal Development and Leadership. Under each quadrant are key aspects of my life I need to keep in check and I refer to it regularly. It’s now habit to check my levels of resilience in real time and if they’re off balance, it’s time to address them.

Who is the female pirate of 2018 and the future?

Again I’ve been so impressed by Chidera - The Slumflower. She came down to Livity and did a talk - she is a special woman, articulate and channels her anger masterfully. The way she speaks vociferously about complex issues such as trans-identity is incredible.

Name the quote you live by

‘You don’t know what don’t know’. I spent half of my professional career believing I knew everything. I later got over my ego and realised that my knowledge is really small when I put my ambitions into context. As humans we have no comprehension of what we don’t know. And that’s okay.

 

Check out what Sam is up to on his quest to build the #bemorepirate movement by following @samconniff on Instagram and Twitter.