*** Congrats WiSEE Sally! Sally has just scored place as one of the Big Venture Challenge winners! https://unltd.org.uk/bvc/bvc-the-winners-2014-profile-20/ ***
WiSEE met Sally virtually through the Guardian Social Enterprise Network (see the discussion here) and we thought her experience and business would be a great contribution to the WiSEE community. Let us introduce Sally, the founder and CEO of RunAClub. WiSEE asked her if she could share her story to inspire you – and here is what she had to say about starting up and staying positive!
Sally, could you tell us a bit more about your business?
SH: A few years ago some young people near where I live were causing a bit of mischief. It reminded me how teenagers can easily lose their way if there’s a lack of ‘stuff to do’. All they needed was a fun and safe place to go to channel their energies more positively. That’s when I set up the youth club.
RunAClub is a cloud based secure system for supporting clubs, or networks of clubs, in communities. We take the hassle out of running a club or group for volunteers and provide a secure back end to manage their members, volunteers and session information; sort out their policies and finances and also ensure they are up to date with various legislation. We support them 7 days a week.
We are a social purpose organisation donating 20% of our profits to the RunAClub Trust Fund which benefits our member clubs. RunAClub launched in April 2013 and already has 550 clubs on board and will be welcoming many more in the next few months. RunAClub works in partnership with NCVO, NCVYS, The Safe Network, Learning South West, The Nominet Trust, UnLtd and Big Issue Invest.
How did you find the process to start your own enterprise?
SH: Long winded. Costly. Time challenging. Scary and frustrating. Ours was an expensive outlay as the system was costly to build. I worked for a long time on it for no money and paid others. Now I draw a low salary and pay others in their roles.
Take us though the process of starting your own enterprise – any particular challenges you were facing?
SH: Finding start-up funding was the biggest challenge. After around 2 years of building a business model and searching for funding I finally found a Trust willing to take a risk in us.
What is the best part of launching and running your own social enterprise?
SH: Well I previously ran my own consultancy for many years so I am able to continue to be at the helm of something I believe in and give others work as well. It can be exciting when things go well.
How do you keep a work life balance?
SH: With difficulty. My husband is supportive. My daughter wishes I worked less, but at least I can take her to school and back and be home with her when she is poorly. Most of our team are women and work from home – we deliberately built that model to make the most of a talented pool of people. That’s flexible for them and although it can be challenging sometimes as all are part time, it can also be rewarding for the business too as the team are all dedicated to what we are doing. You also have to love technology to be able to cope with the flexibility.
How do you stay positive through the challenges inherent to starting a business?
By drawing on others to keep you motivated – you need staunch believers to keep driving you on when times are tricky. I just heard that an invoice we were expecting to be paid, may not be now. I put my head down and immediately launched into the next opportunity to ensure I don’t dwell. I never dwell, although I might rant sometimes! Dwelling doesn’t help – you have to move on. My motto here is ‘hold my nerve’. However at the same time I am looking at how to counter the problem of that invoice and looking at another route into it getting paid – it’s worked before!!
Any advice for our WiSEE Members?
- Have a very supportive family, friends and colleagues.
- Some nerve.
- Mustn’t be afraid to ask for help or money.
- Look out for new funding pots that are coming out to support social entrepreneurs.
- Don’t limit yourself to charitable status – private companies with social aims are really emerging now – and are getting funding!
- Be prepared to earn little for quite a while. And don’t be afraid to ask others to do the same!
* Big thanks to Sally for taking the time to share her inspirational story! If you would like to know more about the work RunAClub does, check out their website http://www.runaclub.com/. You can also tweet your thoughts, comments or questions directly to RunAClub on Twitter or on Facebook.
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