startup

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

THINKING IS GOOD. TALKING IS GREAT. DOING IS BEST.

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A Manifesto powered by CLO PR and Mac&Moore

CLO PR and Mac&Moore have teamed up to turn words into actions and to alter the landscape for the next generation of women in work. We have created a manifesto and an action plan based on three pillars of doing things properly, doing things differently and creating a platform for people on their way up.

If every journey begins with a single step, this manifesto is ours. We’ve thought about the route, planned the journey, talked about how we’ll get there, so there’s nothing left for us to do except for getting started. We want to create long-lasting, impactful and infrastructural change across both traditional workplace structures and the new but rapidly developing freelance economy.

A united front

Why bother teaming up at all? We’re both established businesses working in the worlds of marketing and PR, why not just get on with it ourselves? CLO PR creates positive impact through targeted and award-winning PR, allowing businesses to be kick-started and reach their target audiences in a long-lasting, memorable way. Mac&Moore currently provide creative and strategic marketing to businesses of all sizes who want to create strong foundations and truly stand out from their competitors. We feel that through the complementary skill sets of the two businesses, alongside a matching mind-set, our efforts will be far more powerful united. We’re hoping it won’t stop there, with several other tactical partnerships in the pipeline.

We must start somewhere

We’ve chosen to create an action plan in distinct, specific areas where we feel like we can make the biggest difference. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something, and that’s where we want to start. By recognising the individual areas in which we can create the biggest ripples of change, we’re striving for those ripples to reach out and connect with others to create waves.

Creating positive action

The core function of both Mac&Moore and CLO PR is to work closely alongside businesses who are looking to build something great. We are never afraid to challenge the status quo, confront the thought process behind certain ‘norms’ and tackle the potential issues blocking brands from achieving explosive growth and success. It, therefore, made absolute sense for the focus of our actions to be in this space. We’re working closely with some incredible businesses looking to create supportive, successful and inclusive cultures that allow all people to thrive and contribute. To do that, we’ve had to recognise and identify the problem areas and work together to resolve them. This can be difficult and uncomfortable at times, but no real change started without a little discomfort. By confronting issues head on and engaging people, rather than isolating them, we can create sustainable impact.

We need to ensure these businesses are built on solid foundations, and here to last, so that this better way of working can benefit future generations, not just our own. As three individuals we are also incredibly experienced in our separate but connected fields, and that’s why we're stepping in as a trusted voice with the right tools to share our knowledge. We aim to build a bridge to allow others to succeed in this present and precarious climate.

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Our manifesto is built on the following three pillars:

DOING THINGS PROPERLY 

- There is so much choice out there now that the working world is changing and evolving. Our extensive experience can help build trust in clients and partners.

- The value of partnerships. We curate strong teams with the right skills to do the job properly.

- We’re always learning. The traditional training/career paths offer learning and development but where do you go to advance your knowledge when you work for yourself? We can help both each other and acting as a trusted source of information for juniors stepping into the field. We’ve been inspired by so many others creating specific, positive change in their own fields already such as The Other Box, 72 and Sunny and many more.

DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY

- Always challenging our own bias and echo chambers by listening and opening ourselves up to the experiences of others

- Stepping out of the London bubble, we recognise that successful businesses and people thrive outside it. We want to support those who are looking to take their business to the next level

- Engaging and including men in the conversation, not isolating them. We recognise the reality of the current state of play and by working together to educate, inspire and empower, we can make the best progress towards real, tangible and sustainable change

A PLATFORM FOR PEOPLE ON THEIR WAY UP

- Providing workshops, resources, mentorship and events to those working in the freelance or small business community

- Offering the social stop gap that is currently missing when you work for yourself (watch this space for a very exciting festive event coming soon where we’ll be partnering with the glorious Jess Sims at The Doers to make some serious magic!)

- Championing and hero'ing people who are doing incredible things in their field but who might be on the tipping point of achieving amazing success and need a bit of help to get them there.

We are really excited to get cracking, please get in touch and let us know if you want to be involved or have any thoughts … there’ll be plenty of opportunities to connect and collaborate along the way.

In the meantime, make sure you’re following both @weareclopr and @macandmoore on all the socials to make sure you don’t miss a minute… and while you’re there you should 100% follow @thedoersUK as well!

Love and all the good vibes,

Claudia, Nat & Jess 

THE FEMALE FOCUS SERIES: SARA & MARIA, FOUNDERS, WELL&TRULY

We do love a good snack at CLO PR. No more so than one which is on the healthier side so less of that guilt is hanging over us. Move over Walkers, Well&Truly have got our back when it comes to satisfying, wholesome snacks. We spoke to one half of Well&Truly, Maria Trechman, about her desire, along with her sister-in-law Sara, to challenge the oh-so-clean world of ‘healthy eating’ and the outdated ‘guilty pleasures’ label of mainstream snacks. We love the fact that the brand is packed full of positivity!

Being two female founders hasn’t held us back. If anything, our investors outright said they were excited to be backing an all-female team.
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1. What drove you to set up Well&Truly?

My sister-in-law Sara and I both felt that there was a serious lack of great tasting snacks that weren’t really bad for you. The old kale crisps just didn’t quite hit the spot for us taste wise, so we set out to un-junk and improve the nutritional profiles of classic snacking favourites such as Doritos and Nik Naks without compromising on the great taste. Snacking should be a pleasure and we don’t think the word “guilt” should have anything to do with it.

2. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt in setting up the business?

That having a co-founder to share all the ups and downs with is invaluable, and that everything always take longer than you expect whether it’s the development of a new flavour or the listing with a new customer. 

3. What has surprised you most about the process?

How many investors are genuinely excited about the F&B space - it’s fantastic to be pitching something that everyone in the room can see, feel, smell and taste. We often let our products do most of the talking!

4. What has been the thing you've most struggled with that you've had to overcome?

As a start-up you face challenges on a daily basis. You need to juggle so many roles and tasks which you don’t always have experience in, but being co-founders has helped us a lot as we always have someone to bounce ideas off and challenge each other. One of our biggest challenges is staying on top of cashflow to make sure we can continue to grow quickly. We’ve put in place several models to help us monitor this and stay one step ahead.

5. Have you needed to raise investment? If so, how have you found it and do you think being female founders affected the negotiations?

We’ve done two investment rounds to date and found the process surprisingly enjoyable albeit very time consuming. Being two female founders didn’t hold us back, if anything several of our investors outright said they were excited to be backing an all-female team. It also enabled us to apply and secure funding from AllBright, the all female fund.

6. What's the one thing you'd like to change about the food industry?

We’d like to see more frequent range reviews to be able to introduce new products more often, and a reduction in the amount of plastic packaging. We’ve just reduced the plastic in some of our packaging by 20%, and whilst this doesn’t go anywhere near solving the problem, it’s a start. If all food brands did the same that would be a pretty great improvement vs where we are today and a good platform for further reductions.

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7. The number of snack brands out there on our shelves is incredible. Was it ever a worry to be part of a busy marketplace? What do you think has ensured you're still firmly in the game?

The snacking market is hugely exciting, and there’s been a lot of innovation at the healthier end of the spectrum in recent years. We try not to worry about the competition but instead focus on doing what we do as best as possible. The key to our success is our no-compromise approach when it comes to taste and health. When it comes to snacking taste is king, but today’s consumer also demand improved health credentials and Well&Truly delivers both.

8. Many women experience the so-called 'imposter syndrome'. Is this something you’ve experienced and do you have any tips on managing it?

Dips in confidence happen to most people and we’ve definitely had periods where we’ve questioned ourselves. We work hard on recognising the signs of self-doubt and the negative effects it can have on performance. It’s an ongoing journey!

9. Where do you get your inspiration?

The London start up scene is hugely inspirational and we constantly meet up with other founders to share stories and learnings. This is where we have learnt the most and try to give back as much as possible to other founders who are just starting out.

10. Who do you look up to?

Any working parent holding it all together whilst finding time to care for their little ones is a hero in our books! 

11. What does 2018 hold for Well&Truly?

2018 is a hugely exciting year for Well&Truly with the launch of our rebrand going live early this summer, new exciting flavours hitting the shelves - including our first vegan flavour -and an acceleration of our international business.

12. If you weren't doing what you do now, you'd be....

Looking after my baby boy whilst thinking up new fun business ideas in the baby space! I’m pretty sure Sara would be setting out to scale another crazy high mountain in the Himalayas (she’s done it before!) or trek across Greenland and then come back to set up an online sustainable start up.

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THE FEMALE FOCUS SERIES: ASMA SHAH, CEO, YOU MAKE IT

We met the firecracker, Asma Shah, who set up charity You Make It to empower young unemployed women to realise their potential regardless of their background. CLO PR is part of the charity's mentorship scheme to support some of the cohort to build confidence and skills in PR and publicity. We loved talking to Asma. She tells us straight the situation of fighting for true diversity in business and society.

We help to give women self-worth and a sense of entitlement to improve their personal and professional lives. Sisterhood is built into our programme.
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1.     What drove you to set up You Make It? 

My upbringing was such that I was raised by my single mum in Peckham on a council estate. My mum originally came to this country from Pakistan with my father and my 2 older sisters and myself and older sister were born here. She left a violent marriage while in London and welived in a refuge. From that moment on, my mum forged a successful career in education in which people believed in her and encouraged her to achieve against all the odds. Her determination for us to have a good start in life is what inspired me to set up You Make It. 

Once out of university I got into the creative industry but was struck by the sheer density of white privilege and I found myself losing out on promotions next to my peers. 2011 was the beginning of austerity in this country and I saw how people with backgrounds like mine were falling through the cracks in employment and support. This was topped with many years living inthe East End, where I saw how the divide between rich and poor had begun to build, with coffee shops never employing women of colour. In the aftermath of my mum passing, and the reflection this provoked her struggles and those of myself and sisters, I decided it was time to change what I was seeing around me and propel women’s lives against the odds. 

2.     What has surprised you most about the women who come through You Make It? 

Nothing. I am like them. I’m 44 now and know what it’s like to grow up in difficult circumstances. Women are resilient and strong. What does surprise me, though, is that the women who come through are not jumped on by employers. Statistics highlight that unemployment has dropped in London but this is not the case for black and Asian demographics. We’ve got a long way to go. I think Brexit and the Windrush scandal have started to show that people are acknowledging racism as real.

3.     What do you think is the biggest value women gain from You Make It?

We help to give women self-worth and a sense of entitlement to improve their personal and professional lives. Sisterhood is built into our programme. These women have tiny circles of friends and contacts. They may have depression or have suffered abuse and neglect. We show them that they’re not alone. People in working class backgrounds are not exposed to lessons on how to build contacts - we help them to grow their network and their confidence. 

4.     What’s been your proudest moment since starting up You Make It?

Every graduation event is a proud moment. It’s when myself and the team are truly reminded why we’re doing this and hear the journeys the women have been on. It’s always a time when I think, ‘Oh my god, this works!’ and a chance to reflect on the fact that I took risks to set up a company with £3k, juggling paid work. The number of programmes we launch double every year and it’s still working.

5.     The rise of #metoo and #timesup has created an important opening in discussion on gender equality but it has also put fear into young women of what they may expect to experience in the working world. What would you say to those about to pursue a career?

On entering the workforce you’ve got to have a strong understanding of your self-worth. You Make It does exactly this - it coaxes it out of our cohorts. If you’re confident, you’ll be in a better position to challenge discrimination in the workplace. It’s important to be fearless. 

A You Make It member of the cohort presenting her business ideas to mentors.

A You Make It member of the cohort presenting her business ideas to mentors.

6.     Many women experience so called imposter syndrome. Is this something you’ve experienced and do you have any tips on managing it?

This is not just an issue of gender. Company management - particularly run by white middle class men - has a responsibility to build cultures that promote and reward people based on their merit, rather than just because you look and talk like them. 

7.     You Make It currently operates within the area of Hackney and Tower Hamlets. Are there plans to expand to other areas?

I have thought long and hard about building impact in other areas. However, we have created something in the East End, as I understand it and I am part of the community. We’re looking at ways of growing it by sharing knowledge of how we work with other organisations and how they can apply our model. Sharing what we do for others to do it feels right, otherwise we risk diluting our mission.

8.     Where do you get your inspiration?

My personal experience and being a responsible member of society by looking at inequality and deciding what needs to happen are both inspiring to me. Also, the women we work with inspire me - they make me carry on. There is an element of accountability and the need to contribute to the social and cultural capital we’re building together.

Company management has a responsibility to build cultures that reward people based on their merit, rather than just because you look and talk like them

9.     Who do you look up to?

Myself. I appreciate my background, of being one of 4 girls where there was not always an emotional focus on us as my mum was often working. I respect what I’ve managed to do from where I’ve come from. I also think ‘look up to’ is interesting - I believe we’re all equal and no one should look up to anyone.

10.  What plans does You Make It have in store this year?

As a charity, we’re fighting for survival. We have programmes locked down until the end of the year but it’s all about raising funds to continue the good work. We're focusing on a mix of traditional fundraising and partnering with organisations and sponsors for the 2019 programmes. We’ll be doing more thinking around how to share our model through a You Make It Knowledge Hub which will share practice with stakeholders who want to learn from us. 

http://www.you-make-it.org

5 MINUTES WITH....LAVINIA DAVOLIO, FOUNDER OF LAVOLIO

At CLO PR we love sweet things. Sugary sweetness can make the world go round, right? We were delighted when Lavinia Davolio, founder of Lavolio, agreed to be interviewed as we've been watching her ascension into the confectionary hemispheres with a greedy eye. Have a read of what pumps Lavinia full of energy and passion to build a highly successful boutique confectionary, miles apart from her former career in finance.

1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up Lavolio?

It’s something I didn’t know at the start but you need to put the customer at the centre. This sounds like marketing spiel but it’s not. You need to create a product that people love when they try it. Your product needs to be good enough to convince them to become ambassadors so that they can help tell your story.

2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given when you started?

A mentor down the line once told me to choose what you’re going to be - as a brand - and stick to it. It’s been the best advice – you need to be the brand - live and breathe it everywhere. It’s all about consistency and brand awareness isn’t easy. Even the clothes I wear reflect Lavolio. People coming into my shop will notice that my scarf matches the wallpaper. You should see my car!

3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?

No. It’s a rollercoaster ride and you feel the times when things go badly. You need to be an optimist. Resilience and persistence are key. There are moments when things aren’t going well, when I’ve made mistakes and changed direction. What helps me is to have a long term goal (rather than shorter monthly goals) where it’s not clear where the road will lead but I have the understanding that things will go wrong. I get a lot of clarity from listening to the customer experience.

4. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?

Six months in the making I was stocking in Fortnum & Mason. This created a lot of credibility and reach. A lot of other things have happened. It’s not magic and it’s hard work. We care about every single customer and we try our best to be better than the big guys. Opening our brick and mortar store in Parsons Green was momentous because it’s centred on listening to customers and wanting to give them that first hand experience. The store gives us a base to add on new services, such as  personalisation where people can build their own box of treats.

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5. Who is your inspiration?

Many different people inspire me in different ways. I reach out to people who I admire. You’d be surprised at who will become a mentor or sounding board if you ask. Everyone I admire have a lot more experience and have been successful and as an entrepreneur the one thing you don’t have is experience. In my case I wasn’t always in food and I’ve had to learn new skills such as digital marketing and brand building. It never gets easier as I’m always learning to do new things.

6. What keeps you motivated?

I’m driven by the desire to create and see something that was an idea becoming real. The shop existed in my mind - I could visualise it - while customers have helped it become a reality in various shapes. For me, a goal is a dream with a deadline.

7. What business or brand do you look up to?

When it comes to understanding brands I do a lot of research into trends. My previous career was in finance, which required me to know a lot of things. I used to read The Economist, now I read The Grocer! My friends make fun of me – they say I am an encyclopedia (my previous career in finance demanded me to know a lot of things). I take different levels of inspiration from different brands. For example, fashion and luxury for Lavolio’s communications. We are an alternative to chocolate but people like chocolate so we take inspiration from chocolate brands. The inspiration comes down to what the goal is.

8. If you weren't doing this, you would be....

This isn’t a job I got, I invented this job to reflect who I am. If it wasn’t creating chocolates I’d still probably be cooking because it inspired Lavolio. I’d be doing more writing and cooking.

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5 MINUTES WITH...CASEY BIRD, FOUNDER OF THE FREELANCE CIRCLE

Meet Casey Bird, who is trailblazing the advertising, marketing and design world to give freelancers the chance to anonymously share their experiences and get a heads up on agencies others love, or loath. The Freelance Circle is helping to change the way businesses think about and work with freelancers. We take our hat off to this lady....

1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up The Freelance Circle?

I’d say one of the biggest lessons from launching my review site, The Freelance Circle, would be to ‘trust your decisions’. As a founder you need to really trust your own opinion and thinking – you know the answer, so why ask others? Don’t get me wrong, opinions matter, but only from the right people. Otherwise, you end up with an overload of different opinions and confuse yourself, when the only one that matters at the end of the day, is yours.

2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given when you started?

Be patient. Don’t expect miracles overnight. When I first launched The Freelance Circle, I wanted to wake up the next day with millions of freelance reviews from all over the world and Beyoncé tweeting how badass my idea was. You have to work hard and dedicate thinking time to build a credible brand. These things don’t happen overnight.

3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?

It’s been one year since ideation and 6 months since the official launch – so I’d hope I don’t want to give up yet! Over the last few years I’ve had many business ideas, however with this idea, I knew there was a real insight into it and a real need, and thankfully that ‘spark’ hasn’t died and instead fueled me to keep going.

4. What's been the biggest milestone for the organization so far?

In just 6 months we have now reached 200 organic reviews – no paid advertising, no paid search – just freelancers genuinely wanting to share reviews on their experiences and agencies ready to listen. That has to be one amazing milestone so far. The second would be 2 London based advertising agencies contacting us already to ask for more information on the reviews and asking to collaborate to use our insights to make their workplace better, not just for freelancers but permanent staff too.

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5. Who is your inspiration?

Generally speaking, anyone who is pursuing their dream and saying no to the status quo inspires me – people who put themselves out there and maybe fail or succeed, are inspiring. I am also constantly inspired by people who stand up for what they believe in, and stand up on behalf of those who can’t – or whose voices aren’t heard. But if I was answering the question in terms of just business I would say a mainstream inspiration is Richard Branson and an industry inspiration is Cindy Gallop.

6. What keeps you motivated?

There are 2 things, firstly the goal to make a difference to freelance and work culture and experiences both for the freelancers and agencies. And there’s the fact I love being my own boss.

7. What business or brand do you look up to?

Facebook and Virgin, both as businesses and brands. As brands they treat their employees fair and equal, offer brilliant maternity /paternity pay, work-life balance, unlimited holiday, flexible working. This is the future of work and how you retain great staff.

8. If you weren't doing this, you would be....

A travel writer.

 

https://thefreelancecircle.com

 

5 MINUTES WITH...SHEEZA SHAH, CEO OF UPEFFECT

Sheeza set up the crowdfunding platform, UpEffect, after she saw a great need to empower businesses doing good and give them the means to make a tangible impact on the ground. This young woman has big ambitions for social good in business. We're really excited about what's going to come next for the platform.

1. What motivated you to set up UpEffect?

While completing my Masters in Computer Science at the University of Nottingham, I volunteered for various nonprofits and continued to do so post graduation but soon learnt how inefficient the world’s most “reputable” nonprofit organisations were. Many aid projects required long-term solutions and most aid was dependent on donations which meant impact was always limited. I realised that we were going about it wrong - if we were to tackle today’s greatest problems, it could only be achieved and scaled through business.

After spending many months engaging with social enterprises and understanding best practices, in 2016, I launched UpEffectwith my cofounder, a crowdfunding and support platform for sustainable businesses doing good in the world. We're unlike any other crowdfunding website. Instead of simply providing another platform for campaigns to raise money without any help, UpEffect employs industry best practices to make sure founders are creating exceptional campaign pages and building a “crowd” to back their projects. In essence, UpEffect allows smaller fish that get neglected on larger platforms to convert their powerful ideas into successful campaigns, not only to meet a funding target but also to successfully launch a product to a loyal customer base.

Campaigns on most crowdfunding platforms suffer from limited curation, lack of personalised support, and mass-market focus.  In stark contrast, UpEffect’s enterprise solution approach and campaign consultant model drives their 100% success rate. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are not well positioned to support impact businesses as they rely on sensational stories and one-offs for their success. Hence, 56% of Kickstarter and 90% of Indiegogo campaigns fail, while 9% of Kickstarter campaigns have failed to deliver a single reward to supporters, essentially pocketing the crowdfunded money.  UpEffect is completely revolutionizing this model.

2. What’s the once piece of business advice you wish you’d been given?

I’ve made countless mistakes during the course of my journey. No one ever tells you how hard running a business is. The media has continuously glamorised entrepreneurship and painted many startups as “overnight successes”. There is no such thing. It takes a lot of resilience, tenacity and strength to run a business. 

3. What do you think are the qualities of a good entrepreneur?

Persistence. Most startups fail purely because the founder gave up trying. It takes many years of hard work, learnings and improvements before you start seeing results. 

I also think discipline and embedding healthy habits are vital in building a successful business. Looking after your personal health is the most important thing you can do for yourself, your customers and your team. 

4. You talk about embedding healthy habits into your schedule. What are your healthy habits?

When I made the decision to run a 100% remote business, I taught myself the importance of self-discipline. There are so many advantages to having the freedom and independence to work from anywhere in the world but staying motivated can be a real challenge if you don’t have structure. 

Every day, I plan my to do list for the next morning; a list typically made of 3 - 4 large tasks. This ensures that my brain is not scrambling for information in the morning or trying to remember all the things that I need to get done. It also means that I’m able to focus on personal development before I get started on work. I typically start my morning with prayer, a 20-minute run, getting ready and breakfast. Owning my morning and ensuring I make time for myself has been monumental in building a positive mindset. Also compartmentalising my days so that I focus on specific areas of the business in large blocks has really helped with task management. 

I try to wrap up the day between 6 and 7pm so that I have an evening to look forward to. Founder burntout is very real and incredibly tough to recover from. After having experienced it, I now take many measure to actively avoid repeating past mistakes of overworking myself. It’s just not worth it. Health is the most important thing. You can run a thriving business by managing your tasks and days well. It all comes down to discipline and organisation. 

5. What’s your greatest achievement so far?

Maintaining a 100% success rate in helping our companies get funded. It brings us so much joy to see the transformational journey of the entrepreneurs that we work with everyday. Witnessing an idea convert into a successful business and make a real impact in a community is incredibly satisfying. 

Sheeza at the MC Awards.

Sheeza at the MC Awards.

6. What do you think defines success?

It’s very difficult to define success. I don’t perceive success to be a destination. but rather a journey. You achieve one goal, then you move on to the next. We keep pushing the parameters of success in our lives, whether it’s at work with regards to a promotion or landing a particular client at your business, or it’s with finding the right partner and having children. The list grows as we progress in life, therefore, I personally don't attach a definition to success.

7. What keeps you awake at night?

The ultimate goal of UpEffect is to help every business go ethical and aid the fight against all forms of poverty. I love that we’re a driving force behind many businesses that are actively working on building a healthier planet and raising the standard of living for many local and global communities.

8. What social enterprises would you love to work with?

Brands like Warby Parker, Lxmi, The Krotchet Kids and The Soular Backpack are doing incredible work in the field of social entrepreneurship. We would also love to work with more local businesses and artisans to raise awareness on their work and connect them to a global marketplace.

9. If you weren’t building UpEffect, what would you be doing?

Probably working as a tech product manager for a social enterprise. I couldn’t see myself working for a non impact based company, I would need to be contributing to sustainable change through my work.

https://www.theupeffect.com

5 MINUTES WITH...RICHARD SINCLAIR, FOUNDER OF SNO

Richard Sinclair is more than ambitious, he's a daredevil. A former Executive Producer of the BBC, he's constantly pushing boundaries and his latest expedition is turning over millions. He is the founder of SNO, the ski holidays provider with the goal of making travel more accessible to more people. That's no mean feat. This guy is inspiring in bucketloads.

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1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up SNO?
Always be recruiting. Truly great people are hard to find, but they change your business, and your life. Constantly seek them out, to come and join the mission. In my former life as Executive Producer at the BBC, incredibly ambitious and motivated talent was literally on tap because everyone wants to work there. If I had a new cunning plan, I could speak to HR and find a small cadre of experienced film makers and Oxbridge grads to grab it by the scruff and go make it happen. The real world is not populated with over-achievers, so the trick is to be constantly searching for SNO men and women. We’re always looking for people “like us”.

2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given when you started?
Hire A-players, then enable them to get on with it themselves. I see why the likes of Jobs and Musk constantly looked for amazing people to join the mission. If you lead well, these great people don’t need to be managed, so you can focus instead on removing barriers and being an enabler for them… these A-players can achieve goals creatively and autonomously, and they’ll feel much more fulfilled having created their own solutions.

These people also constantly have a growth mindset and, like me, take great pleasure in constantly learning. They love figuring out how to do new things, or do the same things better… working hard on the business but working hardest on themselves. There’s nothing more powerful than striving for mastery, to make you stand out in a crowded world, filled mostly with the ordinary.

At SNO we’re always looking for people who are fun to work with, but also very ambitious and switched-on. Culture is so important so I’m always quietly trying to figure out if this person is a SNO man or woman.

3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?
No. Never. I should qualify that. There have been times when I thought I should carefully consider if it was the right thing to do, when the extremes of work-volume and financial-stress were too much for loved ones around me, or risked being damaging to my most important relationships… but I never wanted to quit, I just took time to consider on a few occasions whether I ought to.

4. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?
Probably passing the £5m revenue mark. It’s an abstract goal, but signifies much more to us, as we’ve reached the ability to do many more exciting things.

We were in profit by year 1, but only just, and with little more than cash for very meagre growth-funding and self-sustenance. Fortunately, I was happy to live in penury for the first 3 years, to liberate those extra few per cent for growth projects. My better-half was less enthusiastic about watching our car and clothes and house slowly age and wear, but utterly supportive, first taking on the role of FD and later COO. While I’m pimping the engine, she keeps the wheels on!

Business coaching tries to help you delineate working on the business versus working in the business and it’s dead right. My first job at SNO (after initial setup) was to quickly engineer myself out of the day to day operations, which has allowed me to work almost entirely on growth. This approach is essential if you want to scale, and goes back to your first questions, because the answer is to hire A-players and then also create processes, so that the day to day functioning doesn’t rely on the founder in any way.

5. Who is your inspiration?
I think, like most people I have many, but I learned a lot about what a human is really capable of, on a month-long expedition to the Magnetic North Pole with the remarkable Dr Mike Stroud. He was partner to Sir Ranulph Fiennes on their famous unsupported expeditions to the South Pole and many other epic endeavours. I found great strength after being tested beyond a level which I’d have considered breaking point.

I was 4 weeks away from land, out on the frozen ocean, having lost over a stone in weight and struggling to lead a film crew who were also far out of their comfort zone. Taking the battery we wore in our underwear (to keep at body temperature and ready to work in an emergency) I turned on the satellite phone for a rare call home. I vividly recall in mid-conversation, beginning to weep, for no good reason other than mental and physical exhaustion. My partner later said she was quite afraid for me, having recently seen pictures come back of the polar bear who came to eat us, and the team members with frostbite. I think that was awakening for me, from which I draw strength even now. To feel so utterly spent, and then find will, we can still go on. It’s powerful. Afterwards I put those lessons to the test by completing Ironman on six months of training and a few swimming lessons. I take huge strength from those learnings, that our limits are actually much greater than we know, if only we can steel the mind to go on.

In my day to day life I have to say it’s probably my boys Jimmy (9) and Charles (7). Their amazing combination of naïve joyfulness and a constant thirst to learn and know more, is a kind of nirvana to me, and a lofty goal for adults with more complex lives. My ideal is to combine that growth mindset with the imperative to recognise and grasp those moments of joy whenever they present themselves (often with those boys).

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6. What keeps you motivated?

I’m not sure how to pin it down to one thing. It’s all incredibly exciting. I think what really floats-my-boat is the knowledge that, when we have 10 times our current spare-profit (to use as growth funding), I can immerse myself almost entirely in growth projects. We still have more than 90 per cent of our ideas still in the tank, waiting to go. That will move things forward enormously. It’s exciting because it’s a compounding effect. I can feel the curve steepening, as our profits increase and we get our hands on more growth money, to fund more and more ambitious projects.

7. What business or brand do you look up to?

I like the approach of the Virgin group, in focussing on a great brand (customer experience and brand marketing), and not being industry-specific. I’m not from “travel” which means that, while we want to be successful in this industry first, I think a memorable brand like SNO can do almost anything, if it’s careful to be about a promise of a particular kind of experience. Beyond that, we’ll make SNO itself a brand to look up to, as we work on our mission to democratise travel. After universal access to healthcare and education, I think travel is the third great boon of our age. If we can make travel easy and ubiquitous for the world (not just the wealthy part) I believe that is our best chance of fixing the horrible disconnect and misunderstanding that plagues mankind. Technology, well-combined with people, is the way to genuinely disintermediate the travel industry, and we’re working on something that I think will change the world. How we’re going to do that, I’ll have to let you wait and see.

8. If you weren't doing this, you would be....

I might return to my university passions, where reading Cognitive Science gave the thrill of learning fundamentals in AI, neuroscience and psychology. This influence will feed directly into SNO in our upcoming machine-learning projects. Or possibly still making TV. The BBC was central to my formative years, where I gained my consumer-centric instincts at Watchdog, slaked my thirst for science and tech at Tomorrow’s World, and then found my passion for travel while running Holiday. These great influences and more from Auntie and its incredible people, can be found now at the heart of SNO.

http://sno.co.uk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=s3LAuwPNO4g

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