20 inspiring Scottish social entrepreneurs

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Some of them have been around for decades, others are barely out of school, but TFN believes all 20 of these social entrepreneurs are truly inspiring

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16th May 2017 by Susan Smith 2 Comments

1. Susan Aktemel – Chief executive, Homes for Good

1. Susan Aktemel – Chief executive, Homes for Good

Languages graduate Susan Aktemel is one of Scotland’s original social entrepreneurs, having launched Impact Arts as a sole trader with a social product in 1994, when the term was barely known. Impact Arts let her combine three things she loved – business, working in Glasgow’s communities and the arts. She continued as chief executive of Impact Arts for 18 years, growing it into the national charity it is today. In August 2014, Susan launched her second social venture, indulging her other great passion – property! Homes4Good is Scotland’s first social enterprise letting agent and a unique joint venture with London-based social impact investors Impact Ventures UK, to create a portfolio of over 500 high-quality homes for people in need of social housing by 2020. As well as looking after landlords’ properties in the central belt, it helps people’s lives improve through providing a quality home. It currently manages 270 properties and is growing every day.

2. Graham Bell – Chief executive, Kibble

2. Graham Bell – Chief executive, Kibble

Graham joined youth organisation Kibble in 1993 and got into social enterprise by accident! In 1995 Kibble was facing closure due to the loss of its 100% grant funding, and adopting a social enterprise model enabled the organisation’s rebirth. Continuous investment, on-going learning and a strong commitment to its 1840 charitable mission means that today Kibble is recognised as Scotland’s specialist provider of services for young people at risk. Based in Renfrewshire, Kibble provides care, education and young workforce development for young people from across Scotland. Under Graham’s creative leadership, Kibble has developed a range of social enterprises that provide training and skills development opportunities. These include a vehicle mechanics business, promotional printing, second-hand furniture sales, catering, gardening, picture framing and now gokarting at theexperience.org.uk in Hillington Park.

3. Audrey Carlin – Senior executive director, Wasps Studios

3.  Audrey Carlin – Senior executive director, Wasps Studios

Audrey Carlin heads up Wasps Studios, Scotland’s largest provider of affordable high-quality studio, office and working space to the creative sector. Wasps accommodates 900 artists, creatives and cultural tenants in 17 locations from Selkirk to Shetland. Audrey is a chartered town planner by profession, with over 20 years experience in regeneration. She joined Wasps in March 2015 following six years with Clyde Gateway Urban Regeneration Company. Audrey has led on £40 million worth of award winning projects in recent years including the £10m Olympia building in Bridgeton, Glasgow. Much of Wasps’ work involves bringing historic buildings back into use as artists’ studios and bases for creative enterprises – helping regenerate communities. She is also leading on the development of the £4.5m Briggait Creation Centre project. Wasps became a fully self-financing charity and social enterprise in recent years and was awarded Scotland’s Social Enterprise of the Year in 2014 to reflect this achievement.

4. Sylvia Douglas – Founder and director of MsMissMrs

4. Sylvia Douglas – Founder and director of MsMissMrs

A former community mental health worker for East Renfrewshire Council, Sylvia Douglas set up MsMissMrs to help empower women and girls to move on from tough backgrounds. Sylvia spent much of her teenage years in residential care and became a mum at just 15, so she knows first-hand the challenges women can face getting on in education and work. Her own determination to succeed enabled her to get a degree and a professional job. Now MsMissMrs training empowers other women to take control of their lives by helping them build physical, emotional and psychological resilience. It is supported by Sylvia’s Empowerment Pants range of superhero underwear, a recent Social Investment Scotland and Asda Social Enterprise Developer Academy finalist. Could we see empowerment pants on a supermarket shelf soon? Watch this space.

5. Edel Harris – Chief executive, Cornerstone

5. Edel Harris – Chief executive, Cornerstone

Edel Harris joined Cornerstone as chief executive in May 2008 having previously been deputy chief executive of Aberdeen Foyer, which is responsible for a range of social businesses focused on providing work experience for young people. Edel carried this entrepreneurial spark to Cornerstone, which also runs cafés, a gift shop and a print and promotional business. Edel’s background is in health promotion. Holding a first class honours degree in health and social care, she worked for the Metropolitan Police and NHS Grampian and has experience in leading a commercial social enterprise and in developing new social care services. As an avid football fan, she also enjoys being a director of Aberdeen Football Club Charitable Trust. She is also taking the third sector mainstream by sitting on the board of Opportunity North East development body and as President of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce.

6. Josh Littlejohn – Chief executive, Social Bite

6. Josh Littlejohn – Chief executive, Social Bite

The founder of Social Bite is probably Scotland’s best known social entrepreneur, having earned funds to develop the social business by getting the likes of Bill Clinton, George Clooney and Richard Branson to speak at his other venture, the Scottish Business Awards. The son of entrepreneur Simon Littlejohn, who runs seven restaurants across Scotland, Josh knew he wanted to launch his own business when he left university in 2007. After a few successful ventures in event management, Josh was inspired by Nobel Peace Prize winning economist Professor Muhammad Yunus to explore the potential of a social business in Scotland. Since opening Social Bite in 2012, Josh has developed the business into Scotland’s first social enterprise sandwich shop chain, now consisting of five shops in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen. Josh is committed to more than profit and creating a cause-driven business, so a quarter of Social Bite staff come from a homeless background.

7. Alan Mahon – Founder, Brewgooder

7. Alan Mahon – Founder, Brewgooder

Alan (pictured above left with Josh Littlejohn of Social Bite) cut his teeth in the social enterprise world through sandwich shop Social Bite, before creating Brewgooder, a craft beer label which donates 100% of its profits to clean water projects all over the world. Alan is inspired by the possibility of turning everyday acts of consumption, like drinking beer, into a force for social good. Alan led the launch and growth of the corporate catering arm of Social Bite in 2014, which now brings in £1 million a year for the social enterprise, making it one of Scotland’s largest independent caterers. Alan has also managed the operations of the Scottish Business Awards, the leading gathering of business leaders in the UK, which has seen President Bill Clinton, Sir Richard Branson, Bob Geldof and George Clooney come to Scotland as keynote speakers.

8. Chris Martin – Chief executive of Callander Youth Project Trust

8. Chris Martin – Chief executive of Callander Youth Project Trust

Chris Martin (pictured accepting the 2016 Scottish Charity Award for exceptional employee) is managing director of Callander Youth Project Trust. He started working with the charity five years ago and has taken it from a small room in a local learning centre to now running the five star Callander Hostel, café and events venue. Chris is a social entrepreneur who has a background in both formal and informal education. He studied English literature at the University of Dundee and subsequently completed his degree in community learning and development whilst managing his own business. Chris has received national acclaim for his work at the youth project, which has been recognised with a number of high profile awards. In the first year after opening the Callendar Hostel at the end of 2015, it welcomed 6,000 overnight guests, generated £100,000 and provided much needed training and jobs for young people in the rural town.

9. James McIlroy– Chief executive, EuroBiotix

9. James McIlroy– Chief executive, EuroBiotix

James McIlroy is one of Scotland’s youngest and most impressive social entrepreneurs, setting up EuroBiotix CIC while still a senior medical student at the University of Aberdeen. The goal of EuroBiotix is to improve the lives of patients through the power of the human microbiome and to support health services and clinicians who perform faecal microbiota transplant (FMT). EuroBiotix is developing a range of market leading services that will catalyse scientific research and reduce the costs and hassle that are currently associated with FMT. James earned his BMedSci with Honours in Physiology from the University of Edinburgh. James has led Eurobiotix to multiple business competition successes, grant funding and governmental support. In recognition of his dedication to EuroBiotix and his entrepreneurial potential, James was awarded a highly prestigious Enterprise Fellowship at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. James is the first medical student to join the fellowship programme since it began in 1997.

10. Katrina McNab – Chief executive, Pulteneytown People’s Project

10. Katrina McNab – Chief executive, Pulteneytown People’s Project

Katrina McNab has been at the helm of Pulteneytown People’s Project (PPP) since it began in February 2003 with 1.5 staff and a £10,000 budget. Today it employs 55 staff and has a turnover of over £750,000. PPP delivers services throughout Caithness from cradle to grave, including care at home, housing support, a day-care centre, a learning centre, café and a community centre. Katrina was a late starter, starting an Open University degree at 23 while still looking after her two small children. She immediately uncovered a passion for social policy and the impact political decisions have on people. She went on to work at her local Citizens Advice Bureau before helping to set up a community association. She also stood as an independent local councillor from 2004 to 2011. For Katrina part of the love of her job is making a difference to people’s lives and the variety, which means she never gets bored.

11. Robbie Norval – Director of Lingo Flamingo

11. Robbie Norval – Director of Lingo Flamingo

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that speaking multiple languages can delay the onset of dementia by up to five years. This is why Robbie Norval decided to set up social enterprise Lingo Flamingo, which teaches foreign languages to older adults to postpone the effects of dementia and brain ageing. Through his professional career, Robbie has worked with vulnerable adults in various capacities and has seen the importance of communication and social contact for these adults. He has experience in teaching and understands the importance of flexible lesson plans to adapt to individual learning paths. Through his work with Lingo Flamingo he has developed his skills making language learning as accessible as possible and developing creative and fun learning activities for older adults.

12. Jennifer Paice – Chief executive of SafeDeposits Scotland

12. Jennifer Paice – Chief executive of SafeDeposits Scotland

Jen started her career in 2000 as a sales graduate for Snowdrop Systems, a growing entrepreneurial technology business in Oxford. After seven years, and an upward trajectory to management, she moved to New York as vice president of Scottish Development International’s financial services team. This position focused on promoting Scotland’s financial services sector as well as supporting MSP and government official visits to the US. On her return she went to work for RBS, and was promoted to chair of the RBS Lombard CSR board and director of origination with Lombard Asset Finance. Since taking on the top job at SafeDeposits Scotland in 2013, Jen has brought the housing social enterprise into profit, increased turnover to £1.5m in 2015, securing 60% of the Scottish deposits market and launching its grant-giving trust four years ahead of schedule.

13. Debra Riddell – Chief executive, Breadshare

13. Debra Riddell – Chief executive, Breadshare

Debra Riddell set up Breadshare in 2011 to bring the health benefits of good quality locally produced organic bread to her local community. Debra has an Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and extensive business, IT and project management experience, having successful managed of her own software development business for over 25 years. However, after developing her own artisan baking skills she was struck with a passion for engaging more people in the fun and nutritious benefits of real bread. Breadshare uses simple natural ingredients, including flour milled by its associate company RMR Milling in the Scottish Borders. With its home in Portobello thriving as a hub for community breadmaking, including workshops for children and adults, Breadshare has opened a sandwich shop in Edinburgh’s Leith and is now set to launch a third venture in East Lothian’s Penicuik, partnering with Penicuik Storehouse, a local community alliance. Breadshare produce can also be bought at a range of shops and markets throughout Edinburgh.

14. Craig Sanderson – Chief executive, Link Group Ltd

14. Craig Sanderson – Chief executive, Link Group Ltd

As chief executive of Link Group Ltd, one of Scotland’s biggest social enterprises, Craig Sanderson is responsible for driving forward the group’s vision and delivering sustained housing and related services businesses. Craig joined Link in 1975 and became chief executive in 1987. He has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Edinburgh University and is an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Housing. Craig has an enormous amount of experience in the housing sector, having worked in housing for almost 40 years, enabling him to grow the group to include seven businesses with 10,000 customers across 26 Scottish local authorities. He is a former board member of Social Enterprise Scotland, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and Scottish Council for Single Homeless. He currently serves on the Parliamentary Cross-Party Groups on Housing and Social Enterprise and City of Edinburgh Council Homelessness Strategy Implementation Checkpoint Group.

15. Jason Schroeder – Chief executive of the Scottish Men’s Shed Association

15. Jason Schroeder – Chief executive of the Scottish Men’s Shed Association

Jason Schroeder has been working on the men’s sheds agenda in Aberdeenshire for four years and is the founder of the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association charity. He is a founding member of the Westhill Men’s Shed and UK Men’s Sheds Association. Jason has lived in Aberdeenshire since immigrating from South Africa twenty years ago. He credits his time in the South African marines and taking over the family business at 22 when his father fell ill as instrumental in shaping his future as a social entrepreneur. These experiences taught him that money doesn’t make you happy but being of service to others can. Jason has seen first-hand the benefit to veterans who attend Men’s Shed, set up to give men a place to come together to work on projects. He initiates and supports interested individuals and local groups start their own sheds. There are now 32 active men’s sheds across 22 regions of Scotland.

16. Chris Thewlis – Director of GTS Solutions

16. Chris Thewlis – Director of GTS Solutions

Chris describes himself as a serial social entrepreneur. He is the director of GTS Solutions CIC, which operates in Scotland’s private security industry delivering soft facilities services and compliance training to the public and private sector. Beer for Good CIC is Chris’s second social enterprise, now covering two pubs. Both CICs social aims are to help young people to gain skills and qualifications to bring them closer to the jobs market. Chris has formed strong partnerships with key players such as the Princes Trust to deliver the partnership program Get into Security. A special relationship with Heineken has seen the creation of an affordable training and work experience programme to people under the age of 25 looking to enter the hospitality industry. Chris also sits on the board of Social Enterprise Scotland.

17. Jeremie Warner – Founder, Power A Life & Studio 2080

17. Jeremie Warner – Founder, Power A Life & Studio 2080

Glasgow-based social entrepreneur Jeremie Warner (pictured left), 27, hopes to make a big difference with the wee PAL he created in 2015 with fellow entrepreneur Stephen Spiers, 25. The pair have launched the wee PAL power bank, a portable charger for phones and gadgets. Using a buy-one, give-one philosophy, for every charger bought, the company gives a solar light, free of charge, to a child in an African Government school. These lights offer children without electricity the chance to study at night, helping them work towards a better education that can lead to more opportunities in life and a brighter future. Jeremie is already an old hand at social enterprise having also set up Studio 2080 in 2012 to empower communities in west Africa. Using a hands-on participatory design process, it create solutions to alleviate poverty for rural communities, specifically in areas of healthcare, education and agriculture. The University of Strathclyde Architecture graduate from Linlithgow is doing all this while continuing to study for his Phd.

18. Deborah Whyte – Director, Big Bright Star

18. Deborah Whyte – Director, Big Bright Star

Events manager Deborah has always enjoyed working in the not-for-profit sector but decided to turn her nearly 20-year-old events management company into a Community Interest Company. This has enabled her to focus more on her social purpose by employing people with disabilities and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Big Bright Star has a mission to run events with a social purpose and create positive social change. It will organise everything from conferences, exhibitions and trade shows to staff away days and family fun days. Deborah is currently working with AbilityFest 2016, third sector employment body EVH and Care and Repair Scotland. Educated at Edinburgh University, Deborah is also an actor and has just filmed a Scottish Government healthy eating commercial.

19. Ingrid Webb – Chief executive, Cope Ltd

19. Ingrid Webb – Chief executive, Cope Ltd

Ingrid Webb is chief executive of Shetland based COPE Ltd, which develops employment opportunities for people with disabilities. COPE Ltd consists of five businesses, including the Shetland Soap Company, which could soon be selling its products in your local supermarket after taking part in the Social Investment Scotland/Asda Supplier Development Academy. Ingrid is a native Shetlander who returned to the island in 2012 after working for six years with Life Without Barriers, an Australian organisation providing out-of-home care and disability services. Ingrid is passionate about promoting fairness within our society and building the profile of social enterprise in Scotland. In 2016 she was highly commended in the Highlands and Islands director of the year at the Institute of Directors awards and also reached the final of the EY entrepreneur of the year awards. COPE Ltd also currently holds the accolade of being Scotland’s social enterprise of the year.

20. Mel Young – President and co-founder of the Homeless World Cup

20. Mel Young – President and co-founder of the Homeless World Cup

Mel Young is recognised as one of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. He is the president of the Homeless World Cup, which he co-founded in 2003. Under his leadership, the organisation and its partners expanded globally, working in 74 countries and touching the lives of over 100,000 homeless people per year. Previously, Mel worked as a journalist and editor with a social conscience, co-founding The Big Issue in Scotland and Senscot (Social Entrepreneurs Network Scotland). He is also the former president and honorary president of the International Network of Street Papers. Mel’s success means he’s equally under demand outside the third sector, currently carrying out the role of chair of Sportscotland, a non-executive director on the board of Glasgow Life, and a member of the World Economic Forum Sports Agenda Council. He is a lifelong supporter of Hibernian FC and the author of GOAL! The story of the Homeless World Cup.

But where is...?

But where is...?

​Do you know someone who could have featured in our list? Or would you like to know more about one of the inspiring social entrepreneurs featured. Leave a comment below to tell us what you think.

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4th August 2016 by Linda Fay

Great list of inspirational people. I was proud to have Craig Sanderson as my mentor and loved learning more about leadership with Sylvia Douglas via SocEnt Academy.

31st May 2017 by notch

hi