Fullwell Mill | Ian Morris | Interview

Fullwell Mill is a UK-based food manufacturing SME that has been running for over 20 years and has strong social and environmental aims in terms of the way it carries out its business.  We have invested significant resources – in time and cash – to develop and grow our key supplier SME partners in Africa & Asia over long periods of time, and have increasingly shared this expertise outside to help develop other supply-chains too, especially in the Organic, Fairtrade and ethical space.  Businesses and organisations FM has helped and partnered with in this respect include TWIN, Kuapa Kokoo, Traidcraft, Dr Bronner’s, Zaytoun, Ndali, Liberation, Bayer, Institute of Food Research, Shell, BNP Paribas, Mercy Corps, DFID, GIZ, Sida, Danida, USAID, Comic Relief, Fairtrade Foundation and Shared Interest.  We offer a range of expertise, including in an area we call ‘Energy & Appropriate Technologies’, which we have grown quite significantly over the last 5 years and are presently looking to further expand.  We have now developed a number of improved, appropriate technologies which are demonstrating real business benefits to a number of SMEs in Africa, as well as having very clear environmental benefits. i-genius met with Ian Morris, Overseas Project Manager, to find out more about Fullwell Mill.   Gasifier flame & boiler i-genius: How did the idea for Fullwell Mill come about? Ian Morris: The present day Fullwell Mill is actually a merger of two former companies, FM Foods Ltd and Tropical Wholefoods Ltd.  FM Foods Ltd was, as Fullwell Mill still is, an SME manufacturing healthy snack bar products, whereas Tropical Wholefoods was a pioneering Fairtrade & Organic brand of dried fruit and nuts.  The two businesses merged and Tropical Wholefoods became a wholly owned brand of Fullwell Mill. i-genius: Are you a social enterprise? Ian: Fullwell Mill does not regard itself as a social enterprise.  We are a company limited by shares that has strong social and environmental aims in terms of how it carries out its business, and has increasingly used this expertise and motivation to help other food/agri businesses to do the same.  Such businesses are often in the Fairtrade, ethical trade or Organic space, but we have helped some pretty conventional businesses too on occasions. i-genius: What difficulties have you experienced setting up Fullwell Mill? Ian: Being a manufacturing business there have been times where the high fixed costs associated with running a factory have created large cash flow issues. Equally there are instances in our business when cycle when, for purely commercial reasons, it would have been better to reduce staffing numbers but, being a Fairtrade company, we choose to take a longer view.  Other than financial issues, the major problem we have, and continue to face, is the difficulties associated with importation form the developing world. Delays, infestation, adherence to spec etc i-genius: What is typical working day for you? Ian: Like most people I don’t really have a typical working day, though I can say, again like most people no doubt, that it is spent in front of a computer.  I am in regular contact with our ‘Energy & Appropriate Technologies’ team based in Burkina Faso, West Africa, and I sure spend a lot of time sending and receiving e-mails, reviewing and producing documents, and talking to people by Skype, phone or in person.  I travel a few times a year, mostly to Burkina Faso these days, but not too regularly thankfully, as I have small kids that make sure I’m busy at home too. i-genius: What are ‘Energy & Appropriate Technologies’? Ian: These can be bio gas or gasification/pyrolysis systems that use waste streams (typically from agri-processing SMEs in Africa) to generate energy, so far in the form of gas, though we would love to get into electricity generation too, though this is more complex.  It can also be improved solar drying technologies, to enable, say, farmers to dry their product to preserve shelf-life and derive more value for their product, potentially via export.  We are also working in partnership with a French NGO to try and help women’s groups in Burkina Faso (initially) to manufacture charcoal from agri-waste streams, rather than firewood, to help reduce deforestation, reduce the time spent by women and children collecting firewood, and also helping women earn an income, or more of an income of their own.  We are also doing research to ascertain whether we might be able to develop simple, household or micro-community bio-gas units that can use cashew apples as input feed.  Many people do not know what a cashew apple is, but I can tell you that they go to waste in humungous volumes in cashew producing regions of the world, and we are working on different R&D activities to try and help farmers get some value – whether by development of a food product, development of an energy generation system that can use them as feed, or both.  Our focus for these technologies has been at the SME agri-processor level in developing contexts, to try and help these crucial business become more viable, as well as to improve the environment of course.  But as you can see we are also trying to see what we can do at the farmer, household and perhaps even community level.  These technologies have never been more important and pertinent. i-genius: Where would you like Fullwell Mill to be in 5 years time? Ian: I will have to narrow down my focus to the work on these technologies here, though I know my Directors would have plenty to say about where they would like the snack-bar manufacturing side of the business to go too!  Given the fact, and it is a fact, that there is so much need, and in effect, latent demand, for these kind of technologies, I would want to see us playing whatever role we can and is appropriate in the future to not just replicate, but really scale the adoption of these and other appropriate technologies as widely as possible and appropriate.  Those who know us, know we are an extremely open, flexible and pragmatic business, and so we are open to any new ways of working that can achieve this.  We are not protective about IP because we want these solutions to spread far and wide to do good, and are only interested in covering our costs in this area of work.  Or, if we do manage to make some profit then we will likely plough this into more R&D in the area.  We are small, though punch about our weight I think, and so we are always looking for useful new partnerships, as it is such a sensible and efficient way of developing and growing.  We are quite literally always on the look-out for new people to partner with, so if anyone reads this and wants to get in touch please write to me at: ian@fullwellmill.co.uk i-genius: What are the most crucial things you have done to grow and develop Fullwell Mill?  Ian: Building relationships, building partnerships, building our systems (but again in an appropriate way, as we’re a pretty small outfit), building our team, and building awareness about what we have done, can do and want to do.  I think we still have quite a lot of latent reputation and respect in different circles, and have not shouted about the great work we have done in the past, but need to change this if we are to really ramp-up our impact.  Few people benefit from being modest and quiet, sadly.  But we are a small team, and so have to communicate as strategically as we can, such as through this interview, for example! i-genius: How you have ensured that Fullwell Mill has become a sustainable business?  Ian: Fullwell Mill has decided to comply with a number of standards (e.g. Fairtrade, Organic, SEDEX etc), which ensure it reaches at least a required standard across these different schemes.  However, Fullwell Mill goes above and beyond these, as it believes more can and should be done, and our work in helping not only our own supply chains, but others’, is testament to this. i-genius: Tell us more about your fairtrade and organic brand ‘Tropical Wholefoods’: Ian: Fullwell Mill Director Adam Brett and his wife started Tropical Wholefoods in Uganda in the early 1990s. They were both working in Uganda at the time and wanted to help Ugandan farmers sell their fruits at good prices in European markets.  Solar fruit drying seemed the answer. It’s an affordable technology, uses only renewable energy (the sun),  adds value, extends shelf life, and makes fruits more transportable, retaining waste at the point where it is grown.  Fruits are sun dried when fresh and fully ripe so capturing flavour – and with our solar drying systems, no preservatives or sugars are added.  We set up a network of farmer suppliers with Fruits of the Nile and soon we were importing our first sun dried bananas and pineapples from farmers.  Our second supplier partner was Gebana Afrique in Burkina Faso who supplies us with dried mangoes and cashews.  Apricots, almonds and walnuts were to come next from Mountain Fruits in Pakistan.  For Tropical Wholefoods, Fairtrade means more than just buying fruits at Fairtrade prices. We also give technical advice to all our suppliers. This can be us helping with factory management and design, advising on organic and Fairtrade certification, or on best agricultural  practice.  Staff from Africa or Asia can also benefit from coming to our factory in Sunderland for in-house training.  We also help our partners get development funding to grow and improve their businesses. i-genius: What advice would you give to those starting up a social business/project?  Ian: The world is full of advice, ranging from terrible to incredible. Don’t get me wrong, advice is obviously incredibly important, and when you’re starting-up, you likely need lots of it.  But most of us can only give advice based on our own somewhat limited experiences, and so it is important to speak to enough of the right people (and the word right is so important) to get different viewpoints, pick-out common themes, and more importantly pick-out what makes sense to you, for you are the one that knows what you want to achieve and who will be bearing the responsibility and risks surrounding your start-up.  Have open ears and an open mind always, but remember that you are in charge, and that you get to decide what to do and not to do.  Be confident about what you know, though don’t let this slip into arrogance.  Where you have gaps, seek to fill these in appropriate ways.  Rome was not built in a day, and there are plenty of examples of successes which were initially trampled on, even jeered at, so you may need to be quite determined and thick-skinned at times. Main website: www.fullwellmill.com Fullwell Mill’s Faritrade & Organic brand: www.tropicalwholefoods.com   This interview was conducted as part of the i-genius ‘Innovation, Business Start-Up and Wellbeing’ interview series. If you would like to develop a particular aspect of your business or address something you are struggling with, then why not take our ‘Social Entrepreneur and Business mentoring’ sessions with i-genius Academy. To find out more, click here!
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FoodieTalk | Lilly & Fern | Interview

i-genius met with FoodieTalk co-founders Lilly and Fern to find out more about their new app, which allows you to discover people through your love of food. FoodieTalk is a location-based social dining network platform that brings people together at restaurants. The app facilitates the process of expanding social circles while having an unforgettable dining experience. FoodieTalk introduces a simplistic approach in combining the need to dine somewhere with the want to socialise. With FoodieTalk, eating out will become more fun and less work. –– i-genius: Where did the idea come from? Ravisara (Lilly) Limlahapun and Natcha (Fern) Phataraprasit: The idea started when Lilly moved to London  and started traveling solo in 2014. She met people in restaurants and realized that there’s a need to be fulfilled. Eating alone was getting boring. There are other individuals like ourselves that loves food and trying different restaurants, but rather than dining alone – it would be great to socialize at the same time. – i-genius: What is an average working day like for you? Lilly and Fern: Right now it is split between university and startup work. So half a day on each and the rest we spend at the gym and eating out. – i-genius: What difficulties have you experienced setting up FoodieTalk? Lilly and Fern: Our main difficulties are finding investments and an app developer. – i-genius: What make FoodieTalk unique from other apps out there? Lilly and Fern: FoodieTalk encourages people to discover each other through their love of food. We are restaurant-based and users get to eat where they want/when they want. – i-genius: What are the most crucial things you have done to develop FoodieTalk?  Lilly and Fern: In June 2016, FoodieTalk got accepted into an accelerator program. – i-genius: How will/is FoodieTalk become a sustainable business?  Lilly and Fern: We plan to expand to as many cities as we can around the globe. We’ll go where the cultural behavior is susceptible to our business. – i-genius: How do you best relax and detox from work? Lilly and Fern: We’re both foodies and globetrotters. When we have time, we usually spend it traveling, finding inspiration and gaining new experiences. – i-genius: Do you have any exciting projects you want to share? Lilly and Fern: Yes, of course! You can check our travel blog on Facebook at TravelDouble page. We’re also on instagram @traveldouble. We love to share our traveling experiences with everyone. – i-genius: Where would you like FoodieTalk to be in 5 years time?  Lilly and Fern: FoodieTalk will be a globally known brand and have earnings in the millions. – i-genius: What advice would you give to those starting up a social business/project? Lilly and Fern: Be happy with what you do and remember to make the business fun! Give back to society when you can. – i-genius: In one word, characterise your life as an entrepreneur. Lilly and Fern: Fern said freedom. Lilly said perseverance. –Website: www.foodietalk.co Facebook: www.facebook.com/foodietalkapp Twitter: @foodietalkapp Instagram: @foodietalk– This interview was conducted as part of the i-genius ‘Innovation, Business Start-Up and Wellbeing’ interview series. If you would like to develop a particular aspect of your business or address something you are struggling with, then why not take our ‘Social Entrepreneur and Business mentoring’ sessions with i-genius Academy. To find out more, click here!
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_SocialStarters | Andrea Gamson | Interview

Following on from our previous news story on _SocialStarters, i-genius caught up with its Co-Founder, Andrea Gamson to find out more about the space and opportunities she helps create to enable social innovation and change. i-genius: From idea to actualisation. How was the idea first born and how did you turn it into a reality? Andrea Gamson: Anna Moran and I were our target audience – we wanted to do our own thing, make an impact in the world, whilst travelling and meeting incredible people and learning new cultures. We couldn’t find a volunteer or career development programme that met our needs, so we created one. – i-genius: How did you get your first partners and sponsors? Andrea: This happened very organically – we utilised our existing network initially to secure the first few in Kenya & Brazil, and then beyond that we had a hit list of 4 or 5 ideal partners and contacted them all cold. The partnerships that felt right, and synergetic from both sides were the ones that developed the quickest. – i-genius: What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them? Andrea: Ah! We’re a learning business, so that means failure is inherent in all we do. We advocate in our training that failure IS an option! It takes the pressure off and allows a safe space for experimentation and trying things that may or may not work. It’s an important part of the start-up process. Perhaps the biggest lesson we learned was to mitigate risk – predicting what could go wrong and then putting procedures & communication processes in place to try to prevent disasters. We learned that the hard way of course 😉 – i-genius: What is the difference between a volunteer programme and a social movement as you describe? Andrea: We have both run volunteer programmes in the past, and done them ourselves as participants. We felt that traditional volunteer programmes are very one-way, and whilst you can gain soft skills you’re ultimately giving back. Then you go on your way. For us _SocialStarters has always been about creating a new generation of social changers who will lead the way moving society forward. Sure you might volunteer, but you’ll also get lifestyle coaching & redesign your life, gain work experience opportunities beyond the programme or start your own game changing enterprise. We create the space & opportunities for all our volunteers to engage in these activities. – i-genius: Tell us more about your immersion programmes? Andrea: For us, to tackle core business challenges, especially with grassroots clients you have to live and breath like a local. So a deep immersive dive into your clients and their customers/beneficiaries world is key. There’s also something in the headspace gained from leaving your life so far behind, that you create new brain energy, ideas and inspiration to figure out what change can be made back home. –– i-genius: What makes _socialstarters different and unique from similar initiatives?  Andrea: Our commitment to two-way transformation is what makes us unique. For those interested in development you can come and feel like you’ve made a tangible impact to a social entrepreneur’s life, equally our coaching initiative will see a volunteer exposed to tools that help them unlock their role as a social changer, and what a fulfilling life & career could look like for them.  We understand what it’s like to feel stuck in a career we’ve invested in, unsure if it’s possible to just go and do something different because that was us just over a year ago. i-genius: How have you built a successful customer base? – Andrea: There is an increasing community of people seeking opportunities that add value to their lives, and its through these groups online and in the real world that we’re able to reach out and engage with our programmes. We are developing an alumni programme at the moment that will look at how we continue to support them as they move into the next stage of their transformation journey. – i-genius: How do you define/measure the success of _socialstarters? Andrea: So long as people are applying, have great partnerships and long term impact from both our beneficiaries – I think that’s a fairly good measure of success. Plus on top of that, the feedback from our clients gives us a good barometer for the continued value of our specialist volunteers. – i-genius: Excluding your own. What company/business do you admire most and why? Andrea: I really admire the work of MakeSense. I think they’ve really captured a zeitgeist, and are a great example of the power of passionate, driven, loyal community networks. Similarly Escape The City are paving the way as a talent business for 21st Century employers to build specialist teams, and as a founding UK B-corps they’re demonstrating that impact and movement change can be commercial, which is exciting. – i-genius: In one word, characterise your life as a social entrepreneur. Andrea: Proud. – – This interview was conducted as part of the i-genius ‘Innovation & Sustainability’ interview series. If you would like to develop a particular aspect of your business or address something you are struggling with, then why not take our ‘Social Entrepreneur and Business mentoring’ sessions with i-genius Academy. To find out more, click here!
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The Genius Company | Soleira Green | Interview

The Genius Company works to power up genius in the world…. in businesses and leaders, through genius events, online learning and training. They specialize in training people how to access their own unique genius as well as how to access genius innovation on individual and collaborative levels. Soleira Green, i-genius member, Founder and CEO of The Genius Company tells us more about her work. – i-genius: Why is there a need for The Genius Company? Soleira Green: Imagine the world we’ll have when every single person’s genius has been unleashed and contributed. At the Genius Company we believe that all the world’s challenges can be solved by ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  So we’ve set about making that vision happen in the world. – i-genius: In what way is The Genius Company a social enterprise? Soleira: We train, coach, empower, connect and inspire people who want to make a difference in the world. People who are creating social, business, and educational innovation. – i-genius: What is an average working day like for you? Soleira: I work internationally as a genius coach while also sourcing genius training and events like the Genius World Conference, 15th May 2015 in London. I love working with people who are up to big things, ready to genius up the world. – i-genius: What innovative working practices have you developed for The Genius Company? Soleira: For the past 20 years I’ve been co-creating and articulating a new paradigm of business, leadership and education. I write about it, teach it and speak for it in countries around the world. We’ve created a new paradigm of genius collaboration where everyone’s genius is contributed and included, a space where collective genius thrives. – i-genius: How do you best relax and detox from work? Soleira: Actually I love my work so much that I don’t need to relax and detox afterwards. If you love what you do and do what you love, everything flows brilliantly. – i-genius: Do you have any exciting projects you want to share? Soleira: The Genius World Conference, 15th May 2015 in London where genius innovators from 6 countries are coming together to innovate the landscape of business, leadership & education. http://www.thegeniuscompany.co/genius-world-conference.html – i-genius: How do you measure the impact of your projects/work? Soleira: By seeing the shift in the world at large. For example, there are more exciting new paradigm businesses today than in 2000 when we first hosted our conferences to that effect. View our 2002 Corporate Soul Conference video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ey_9tn2NqU – i-genius: Where would you like The Genius Company to be in 5 years time? Soleira: To be well known for world-changing, innovational events that inspire social and business innovation. – i-genius: What advice would you give to those starting up a social business/project? Soleira: Think big and have fun making something new happen. Collaborate with people who get your vision and who are ready to make things happen geniusly in society and the world. – Our website is www.thegeniuscompany.co and the Genius World Conference page is http://www.thegeniuscompany.co/genius-world-conference.html– – This interview was conducted as part of the i-genius ‘Innovation & Sustainability’ interview series. If you would like to develop a particular aspect of your business or address something you are struggling with, then why not take our ‘Social Entrepreneur and Business mentoring’ sessions with i-genius Academy. To find out more, click here!
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Tengri | Nancy Johnston | Interview

The idea behind Tengri was conceived by Nancy Johnston, a social entrepreneur, when she was travelling with friends and staying with herder families in Mongolia. Nancy became fascinated by the delicate and interwoven relationship between people, animals and the land, developing a deeper understanding and respect for the bond between the herder families’ livelihoods, their yaks, and the Mongolian landscape. This experience inspired Nancy to set up Tengri. Armed with only a pen and a chocolate wrapper, she wrote her first business plan in a dimly lit ger (yurt). Back in London, with modest life savings and the support of an extended network of friends in fashion, design, community development, marketing, business and product development, Tengri was born. We met with i-genius member Nancy Johnston as a follow up to Tengri’s Crowdfunder campaign launch to find out more about Tengri and its beginnings.i-genius: Why did you start Tengri? Nancy Johnston: I started Tengri when I was finally brave enough to travel to Mongolia, a lifelong dream I carried with me for 20 years. The delicate relationship between the nomadic people living off the land and animals was mesmerizing. While I was there, I found out that wild animals, the land and the traditional nomadic way of life was at risk and threatened by permanent land erosion because of the unsustainable global demand for cashmere. i-genius: What does Tengri mean? Nancy: The word ‘Tengri’ was synonymous with ‘sky’ to the people of ancient Central Asia. It also referred to a pantheon of gods associated with natural phenomena, governing all existence on earth. i-genius: In what way is Tengri a social enterprise? Nancy: Tengri was set up as more than just a fashion label. As a social enterprise, we want to revolutionise the fashion and textile industry for the better by helping people look good, feel good and do good while helping to protect people, land and animals in Mongolia. Yak wool is as soft as cashmere, warmer than merino wool, hypoallergenic, environmentally friendly, sustainable and 100% natural and undyed. With time and success, 45% of our profits will go back to support the livelihoods of nomadic herder families who supply our wool. i-genius: What difficulties did you experience setting up Tengri? Nancy: Everything! From working with nomadic herder families and cooperatives halfway around the world, differences in language, culture, time zones, sorting international freight, import, customs, manufacturing, marketing, brand, designing packaging, entering the fashion world, building a team and a company, it has all been a steep learning curve. i-genius: What makes a good candidate for a CEO/Founder of a company? Nancy: Someone with a mission and vision, the ability to think big, be bold and drive that vision to fruition with relentless conviction, enthusiasm and energy. i-genius: What are the most crucial things you have done to grow Tengri? Nancy: Work with relentless optimism, enthusiasm and evangelism, and asking for help every step of the way. i-genius: Who’s/what’s been your continued source of inspiration? Nancy: Rock climbing, mountaineering, mountain biking, being challenged by the great outdoors and enjoying our natural world is what infinitely inspires me. I also have great admiration of Yvon Chouinard who is also a rock climber and founder/owner of Patagonia. i-genius: What’s the worst business advice you’ve ever received? Nancy: Any sentence that starts with ‘You can’t….’ i-genius: Tell us more about your latest crowdfunding campaign and why it’s so important?! Nancy: We are raising £40k of capital to bring yak wool to the forefront of the fashion industry.  We aim to preserve the Mongolian landscape and support the nomadic herders’ way of life, which is threatened by rapid industrialisation and permanent land erosion.  Yak wool is a sustainable alternative to cashmere and deemed by the United Nation’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre as a tool to fight desertification.  Mongolia’s pastures are the backbone of rural economy and food security for the nation! Find out more here: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/tengri i-genius: Any exciting projects/initiatives you want to share? Nancy: We are designing a collection made completely with 3-D knitting technology.  Watch this space! i-genius: What is your favourite motto in life? Nancy: You have one life to live.  Live it to the fullest. i-genius: What advice would you give to those starting up a social business/project? Nancy: Go into it with a ‘can do’ attitude. With the right mind-set, you can figure out how and find a way to do the rest. – This interview was conducted as part of the i-genius Getting Started interview series. If you would like to learn how to get started in your social business, then why not take our ‘Getting Started – Social Business Start Up’ online course with i-genius Academy. To find out more, click here!
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UpEffect | Sheeza Ahmad | Interview

UpEffect is a rewards-based crowdfunding and support platform for social good products. –Over 50% of crowdfunding campaigns fail on the major platforms, particularly niche products as there are thousands of mass-market products launching at one time. To help social entrepreneurs effectively utilise rewards-based crowdfunding, UpEffect has analysed the market data and built a platform optimised for campaign success. –They vet companies based on purpose + profit, quantifiable metrics and founder credibility. Selected companies then benefit from their network of crowdfunding experts, social entrepreneurs, marketeers, videographers and much more to help them convert their idea into a tangible campaign. –Sheeza Ahmad Shah spoke with i-genius about setting up UpEffect and social enterprise. ––i-genius: Why did you start UpEffect?Sheeza Ahmad Shah: I personally feel like each one of us was put on this Earth to serve a purpose, to create value for people, to tackle big problems and present viable solutions. Each one of us has been gifted with the world’s most powerful tool – the human brain, an organ that not even the brightest scientists, doctors or so-called experts have been able to fully comprehend. As humans, we evolve, we grow, we get better and we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of entrepreneurial ventures being set up – this is a form of evolution –  humans no longer have the patience to wait for the big guys to solve our problems. Instead, entrepreneurs are taking control and solving problems on their own by creating mind-blowing technologies and products.There are a number of crowdfunding platforms in the market but very few doing it well. Due to minimal vetting, the leading platforms have an exceptionally low success rate (over 90% of their campaigns fail) and data has shown that 9% of campaigns have failed to deliver a single reward to their funders. Also lack of support availability means most ideas are unable to benefit from these tools, particularly social good products that get drowned by mass-market targeted campaigns.  – I set out to solve this problem to give social good companies a chance to thrive.– i-genius: Who’s/what’s been your continued source of inspiration? Sheeza: Social entrepreneurs who are breaking barriers and are creating measurable and sustainable social impact in communities are my continued source of inspiration. These days everyone is calling themselves an entrepreneur but a true entrepreneur is one who can support his or her work using verified numbers and results. Without credibility, it is difficult to inspire. – i-genius: In what way is UpEffect a social enterprise? Sheeza: The primary aim of a commercial business is to maximise shareholder wealth whereas the primary aim of a social enterprise is to maximise social value. To achieve this with a sustainable model, you need profit. – UpEffect is a mission-driven company, focused on both social impact and profitability. – i-genius: What difficulties did you experience setting up UpEffect?Sheeza: We had no prior experience in building a crowdfunding platform, therefore, we literally started from scratch. I spent a lot of days studying other platforms and researching their technology to break down every detailed technical requirement. It was a huge learning curve for me but each time we overcame a hurdle, I fell more in love with the solution and the journey. – The toughest part of starting a startup is finding motivational strength when things aren’t going as planned. It’s very easy to give up, infact one of the biggest reasons startups fail is because founders stop trying. It’s important to not feel defeated during the lows of the journey and remember the original vision to keep you going.  –– i-genius: What are the most crucial things you have done to grow/set up UpEffect?  Sheeza: Speaking to potential users and understanding their problem as well as getting their feedback at all stages of the product. Without direct input from users, it’s like taking a shot in the dark. – i-genius: What is your favourite motto in life? Sheeza: Whenever I’m faced with a challenge, I train my mind to believe I will get through it and believe me, we faced a lot of challenges with the technology. It was a new project for us but we got through it as we were determined to solve this problem. – i-genius: What’s the worst business advice you’ve ever received? Sheeza: The worst business advice I have received is: “there is a minimum age requirement for starting a business.” It’s simply not true. Time and time again, young individuals have shown that age is only a number and not a limitation to creating change. – i-genius: What advice would you give to those starting up a social business/project?Sheeza:1. Train your mind to treat failure as your saviour – without falling down, you can’t possibly know how to rise. There will be hundreds of no’s during your entrepreneurial journey but all it takes is one yes. – 2. Validate. Without getting direct feedback from your potential consumers, you will never know how useful your solution is. – 3. Figure out how the business will survive without public funding, grants and donations. Build a financially sustainable model for your social venture, your impact will be limited and short-lived without an independent revenue stream to keep you moving forward without spreading resources.– –This interview was conducted as part of the i-genius Getting Started interview series. If you would like to learn how to get started in your social business, then why not take our ‘Getting Started – Social Business Start Up’ online course with i-genius Academy. To find out more, click here!
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Martin Gilbraith Facilitator and Consultant | Interview

As a facilitator, trainer and consultant, Martin Gilbraith help groups, teams and partnerships work more effectively together to bring about lasting change. What drives Martin is his passion and commitment to make a positive difference in the world, and to support and enable others to do so as well. Through his freelance work, Martin Gilbraith believes that facilitation and facilitative leadership will be key to achieving a just and sustainable world for all. The great reward of his work today is to see people awaken to their own power to make a difference, and to their capacity to join and align with others to achieve common goals for the greater good – to awaken to the power of their participation and their leadership. We spoke with i-genius member Martin Gilbraith to find out more. i-genius: Why did you decide to go freelance? Martin Gilbraith: I had been working with clients for years in my previous employed role, so when I stepped down from that I thought I’d carry on with whatever client work came to me while I considered my next move.  I pretty soon decided that I had found my next move, so I registered my own company and never looked back.  After years in management roles, it is a treat to be responsible for and accountable only to myself. i-genius: What a good ingredient for a freelance consultant? Martin: A friend and fellow freelancer once suggested to me that anyone who could be comfortable without a regular pay cheque every month could do no better than be their own boss and work freelance, and I think she has a point. i-genius: Who’s/what’s been your continued source of inspiration? Martin: For my whole career I have been involved in various ways with the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), a global community of non-profit organisations and groups ‘advancing human development worldwide’. Many of the people I have met and worked with through ICA have been a source of inspiration for me, but most of all the practical methods ICA has pioneered by which ordinary people can and do change the world i-genius: In what way is the work you do related to social enterprise? Martin: Just as when I was employed as a charity Chief Executive, my income from client work enables me to volunteer and offer reduced rates and pro bono services to those causes that can’t pay higher rates. My most substantial volunteer commitment is as President of ICA International, supporting member ICAs in around 40 countries to support each other in their work. Many ICAs operate primarily through social enterprise, and most are actively seeking to to expand their social enterprise work. i-genius: What difficulties did you experience setting up your freelance work?
 Martin: I think I had it relatively easy because I had worked freelance before, and because I came back to freelance work after 15+ years working with clients and building my networks through that and various volunteer roles.  So I had my first freelance contract within weeks, and I was able to hit the ground running. The hardest part was stepping down from my previous role after so many years! i-genius: What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your client list? Martin: I have relied primarily on social media, especially LinkedIn to stay in touch with people I know and meet and twitter to reach out to new people. WordPress has been great for a simple but effective website and blog. i-genius: Whilst freelancing do you find it hard to balance free time? Martin: Yes, but it helps that my partner has a regular job so when he gets home I know it is time to stop work! Scheduling and booking holidays can be tricky, especially if clients are proving slow to commit to dates i-genius: How does facilitating play an important role in today’s society? Martin: People increasingly expect and demand to have a say and an influence in matters that affect them, and increasingly organisations are expected to engage with people to enable that – and increasingly they recognise the value of doing so for themselves and their own goals.  Fortunately, facilitation skills and tools are available and can be learned, and the facilitation community is growing to help people to participate effectively and to enable others do so as well.  I can’t think of any more important work to be involved in, than to support and enable others to bring about positive change i-genius: What is your favourite motto in life? Martin: “the past is approved, the future is open and the present is a gift”   This interview was conducted as part of the i-genius Getting Started interview series. If you would like to learn how to get started in your social business, then why not take our ‘Getting Started – Social Business Start Up’ online course with i-genius Academy. To find out more, click here!
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Richard O’Neill Storytelling and Skills Training | Interview

Richard O’Neill is a professional storyteller and writer who works in over 150 schools, museums and libraries a year. From the Imperial War Museum Manchester, to Idea Store London, small rural schools to the largest primary in England. His story ‘Hidden Gold’ is currently being used by the Department for Education and Skills as a ‘raising achievement’ resource. He teaches storytelling skills to a range of educators and other professionals. –– i-genius: Why did you start Richard the Storyteller? Richard O’Neill: I saw there was a need for an updated and contemporary storytelling service that would get people excited about communicating differently with each other whether for community engagement and development, education and business to business.or entertainment. I wanted to put the fun and entertainment back into communication. – i-genius: What makes a good candidate for a Manager? Richard: Passion, belief, determination and the ability to dream. – i-genius: Who’s/what’s been your continued source of inspiration? Richard: The children and adults we create our stories, performances and training for, as we’re continually trying to wow them with what we do. When we receive feedback about the positive impact our work has had on peoples lives that is the greatest inspiration you can have. – i-genius: In what way is Richard the Storyteller a social enterprise?Richard: At every opportunity we try and use our skills to benefit as many communities and individuals as possible by making many of the stories, books and methods we develop available to them free of charge. We also mentor as many people as possible as well as training them in storytelling skills. We have helped a number of others to start their own social enterprises, two of which will launch later this year. – i-genius: What difficulties did you experience setting up Richard the Storyteller?
 Richard: The main difficulty was persuading people that storytelling in the digital age was still a relevant and really useful thing, something very much of now and the future not just the past. Many people we spoke to had a very fixed view of storytelling and what a storyteller was; typically they imagined  a cross between a court jester and Gandalf. It was hard to overcome the stereotype. – i-genius: What are the most crucial things you have done to grow Richard the Storyteller?Richard: In a word quality, everything has to be quality nothing that is second best ever gets put out. We also encourage people to tell stories about our work. – i-genius: What about your work is unique? Richard: We create and develop all of our own stories and teaching methods so you can not get these from anyone else. We constantly look for new spaces and mediums in which to tell our stories and constantly look for ‘firsts’.For example we’re currently teaching storytelling skills in prisons and performing from market stalls. – i-genius: Why is storytelling important? Richard: Because its the most natural and effective way to communicate, hence why we get similar stories from different parts of the world. We believe that its the very essence of communication as the old saying goes ‘there have been civilisations without the wheel but none without story.’ We believe story is the beating heart of literature, films, TV, business you name it and I bet you’ll find it tracks back to story. We help people to rediscover the power and the joy of storytelling and encourage them to use it in all aspects of their lives. – i-genius: Do you  have any future plans? Richard: Yes, we want our storytelling skills and methods to be used more widely and aim to run more storytelling skills programmes and train more storytelling skills trainers. We have plans to take our most popular stories and characters like Sqeg, Jewel the Mule, Apple Juice Jones and Flat Faced Frankie to TV and radio. – i-genius: What is your favourite motto in life? Richard: Everyone has something special to offer the world. – i-genius: What’s the worst business advice you’ve ever received? Richard: Follow the trends – i-genius: What advice would you give to those starting up a social business/project? Richard: Make sure you are filling a genuine need and stick with your principles and push everything to the limit. – – This interview was conducted as part of the i-genius Getting Started interview series. If you would like to learn how to get started in your social business, then why not take our ‘Getting Started – Social Business Start Up’ online course with i-genius Academy. To find out more, click here!
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something good, something useful

something good, something useful uses creative community consultation to connect those initiating regeneration projects with those affected by them. We help strengthen relationships between local people and architects, developers, local authorities, housing associations, charities and arts organisations. something good, something useful adopts a positive, creative approach and works as a neutral platform to collate public responses to social projects. We present the results back to our clients in beautiful, accessible, engaging and ‘ready-to-share’ packages from e-books to short films, enabling service providers to listen to and engage with their service users more effectively. something good, something useful was founded by socially-engaged artist Eleanor Shipman as she was struck by the powerful role of art in enabling, provoking and encouraging honest dialogue on a range of subjects – from local regeneration, to the cultural identity of Londoners or what it means to be happy. i-genius spoke with Eleanor Shipman to find out more.i-genius: Why did you start something good, something useful? Eleanor Shipman: After working in the third sector and as a freelance artist I wanted to create a platform to creatively gather the opinions of people and connect them to decision makers. I lived with architecture students when I was studying and was struck by their lack of community engagement in the design process, and in contrast saw the huge value in the honesty and openness of people when asked for their opinion in a neutral creative context – these were the founding ideas for SGSU. i-genius: What difficulties did you experience setting up SGSU? Eleanor: Of course starting something from scratch is a challenge, and funding the business in its early stages is a work in progress. I am supporting the business with a part time job in gallery education and am lucky enough to have a hugely encouraging workplace and relevant job so there are always new ideas bubbling over. i-genius: Who’s/what’s been your continued source of inspiration? Eleanor: Working creatively with local communities is a brilliant platform to learn about people’s lives, concerns, ideas and opinions, and is a continued and infinite source of inspiration for me which is why I love what I do. i-genius: What are the most crucial things you have done to grow SGSU? Eleanor: Networking, networking, networking! I love meeting new people and approaching organisations as potential clients or collaborators, so I make a big effort to go to lots of networking events, join groups such as Urbanistas (a support group for women working in the public realm) and utilise social media. Just from an afternoon on Twitter following relevant people and messaging them directly I set up nearly 10 meetings – so it’s well worth it. i-genius: What makes your consultancy unique? Eleanor: something good, something useful is unique in that we care deeply about both sides of our projects – from the grass roots communities to the corporations and authorities. People are just people and we aim to mediate and creatively facilitate communication in a simple, accessible and engaging way for both sides – no one wants to read through a huge corporate-looking report, so we design ready-to-share infographics, creative reports and short films to explain the project quickly for everyone involved. i-genius: Why are regeneration projects important? Eleanor: Regeneration is an ever-evolving and unavoidable state of urban living, and often gets bad press as people feel they haven’t been consulted on the latest high rise or demolition. Sadly this is often the case, which is why SGSU aims to work with developers, local authorities and architects to make sure local voices are heard – and valued – in as much of the regeneration process as possible. i-genius: What advice would you give to those starting up a social business/project? Eleanor: Don’t be afraid to ask for help from those around you – skill swaps are a great way to help get things off the ground. For our launch, I designed a series of posters for the hall we held the event in instead of paying to hire it! Also, network like mad – and invest in good business cards! Photography credit: Steve Shipman.  Website: www.somethinggoodsomethinguseful Twitter: @somethinggoodsu – – This interview was conducted as part of the i-genius Getting Started interview series. If you would like to learn how to get started in your social business, then why not take our ‘Getting Started – Social Business Start Up’ online course with i-genius Academy. To find out more, click here!
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Artists Against Ivory

i-genius: What is Artists Against Ivory? Richard: Artists Against Ivory is a vibrant social enterprise with the purpose of ‘Helping elephants live forever’. It is our ambition to create a powerful voice for elephants through art, fashion, and education and our mission is to:Educate people about the ivory trade, and Raise funds for institutions at the forefront of reducing the ivory trade.We urge people to support our Indiegogo campaign with a small donation of just $2.00 to help feed orphaned elephants. Or a larger donation if wished. Please visit: http://igg.me/at/ArtistsAgainstIvory/x/5360058i-genius: Why is it an important initiative/project? Richard: Currently 36,000 elephants are killed every year for their ivory. This includes whole families; mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters. And little babies too. At this rate we expect that elephants have only 12 years remaining to enjoy their natural home. We need to reduce the demand for ivory so that our children can inherit and cherish one of the world’s most magnificent animals in its rightful habitat.And there is an even darker side: the ivory trade has been linked to the funding of terror groups and organized crime. We need to stand together for the elephants and against terror, drugs and trafficking.i-genius: What impact do you hope to make? Richard: Our mission is to:Educate people about the ivory trade, and Raise funds for institutions at the forefront of reducing the ivory trade.i-genius: How will you make the project sustainable? Richard: We are retailing women’s and men’s fashion, art and jewellery to:Sustain our organisation, Fund charities on the forefront of fighting the ivory trade and Make a fashion statement against the ivory tradei-genius: What book are you reading now? Richard: The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony – excellent reading!Our website www.artistsagainstivory.orgFacebook (please like us) https://www.facebook.com/artistsagainstivory
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