Over the years, I have had the privilege of being named Yorkshire’s Young Entrepreneur of the year; I have received support off Sir Richard Branson and was even crowned the Duke of York’s Inaugural Young Entrepreneur of the year.
This was for a previous business which supplied camping equipment to festival goers and afforded me the opportunity to speak all over the western world such as the European Union in Brussels, The University of North Carolina in the states and even the far reaches of Macedonia (I still couldn’t point to it on a map!).
However, all of this would one day come to an end when I fell into a significant amount of debt and made the idiotic, life-altering choice to sell drugs. I was arrested and sentenced 28 months in prison. I lost my business and my reputation. The papers pick up on it and shared the story far and wide.
Being released from prison and starting a social recruitment organisation which has supported over 130 people into employment has not been an easy feat but has been incredibly fulfilling on my journey to becoming a social entrepreneur and Managing Director.
Next week, I will be speaking in the Catholic University of Lisbon as a guest lecturer in their ‘business ethics’ class. This is the furthest from home I have been to do a speech since my release and yet it is still a shorter commute than I make to support our work in the South West of England!
I will share with the students the price you will pay of running an unethical business and then the importance of sewing your community into any business you are involved with. You do not have to be a social enterprise to do the right thing.
I will share the challenges of being a ‘Social’ ‘Enterprise’. To be ‘Social’ we must put the candidates we support at the centre of everything we do.
To be an ‘Enterprise’ we must be sustainable and financially independent in a sector that does have clear or accessible funding structures. This is the fine line we must constantly walk to ensure we are here in five, 10 and even 50 years time.
It is a huge privilege to be invited to inspire a cohort of next-generation social entrepreneurs and to prove to them, using Offploy as a template, that you can be financially-independent and make a positive impact on your society.
As I begin to write my speech, I cannot help but feel incredibly grateful for the position we are in as an organisation, the team members we have involved and the opportunities we are all afforded by making this journey together.
You can follow our work in Lisbon via twitter