Like an incoming government managing high expectations on a tiny budget, I’m launching a new initiative a day at the moment. Following on from yesterday’s launch of social enterprise book reviews series Beanbags Bookshelf, today sees the first of a hopefully ongoing series of interviews with top social entrepreneurs.
Because this blog is only a small part of my busy day job, most of these interviews are being conducted by email – I send the social entrepreneurs a series of questions to chose from, and they answer the ones they find most interesting or most relevant to what they do. In taking part in On the Beanbag, social entrepreneurs are encouraged to imagine they’re a trendy, central London-based entrepreneur taking a break from their hot desk (whatever that is) to sit on a beanbag and answer the questions.
Fittingly on the day the Social Enterprise Ambassadors hold an event to celebrate the work of the programme (report tomorrow), our first interviewee is one of those Ambassadors – as well being one of the people I admire most in my own field, social enterprise media:
On the Beanbag #1:
Name: Tokunbo Ajasa-Oluwa
Social Enterprise Name: Catch 22
Where are you based?: Tottenham, London
What is your annual turnover?: 180k
How many staff do you employ?: 5
Define ‘social enterprise’ in 50 words or less: A business with the agenda of making a social impact and addressing a social problem at its core.
What does you social enterprise do? We engage, train and champion excluded young talent (18-30) – i.e. those that want experience and a career within the media industry but can’t get experience due to their lack of experience and social profile…hence our name. We achieve this through our journalism training academy, youth lifestyle magazine and communications agency. These three pillars provide a sturdy bridge into the media industry for diverse talent that would not make it in without our support.
What is your social enterprise’s greatest achievement? Securing partnerships with some of the leading media organisations in the country and also securing our trainees permanent jobs within these organisations.
How is your social enterprise a bit like The Big Issue or The Eden Project? Catch 22 is like the BI because the people it aims to support are built into the fabric of what makes the business work. Like BI we work with a community of individuals that might be deemed as negatives in society “sponging off the government etc”. By working with them we transform a perceived negative into a positive that is contributing to the media industry and society at large.
Why did you start a social enterprise and not a charity? I identified becoming a charity as having some limitations that would compromise us as a creative industry organisation. I felt becoming a social enterprise would provide more flexibility regarding the manner in which we function and do business.
Which other social entrepreneur/social enterprise do you admire most and why? Fifteen was a great inspiration to me when I was getting Catch 22 off the ground (and still is to this day actually!). I think it is amazing the way they can turn around a young person’s life. A true reflection of the nature versus nurture argument.
What’s your advice for someone who’s thinking of starting a new social enterprise? Make sure you have a strong business model as your foundation and not just a cute idea. Without a strong foundation, it’s unlikely your social enterprise will stand the test of time.
Thanks a lot to Tokunbo for this. Comments on any of the points raised in this interview are, as always, much appreciated. The next top social entrepreneur On the Beanbag will be Craig Dearden-Phillips.
If you’re a social entrepreneur and you’d like to do an interview, send me an email and I’ll send you the relevant info.