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  • amandaarmstrong00

Citadel Changing People's Lives

David Brazer has one goal, to change people's lives for the better. He believes that given the right circumstances and environments, anyone has the ability to reach their full potential, so he provides them with just that. A social entrepreneur full of drive and determination, David and his team at Citadel have overcome incredible obstacles to continue delivering training and opportunity to those who need it most. Here is his story.

What does your social enterprise do?

My Social Enterprise supports the most marginalised unemployed and young learners into employment, training and career support through innovative programs.

Our programs are designed to support people at specific stages of life’s journey. Citadel focusses on Employment, Ignition Training Centres are designed as garage spaces to give people who are more ‘hands on’ than academic, practical skills in the Motor industry but also help with critical thinking skills, Accredited Qualifications, something for their CV, self-efficacy, confidence, real work experience and a reference. Unlimited Potential is designed to give people self development and entrepreneurial skills for self-employment.

What made you start your business up?

In 2007 I met John. He was a new client with Cerebral Palsy. John couldn’t speak; his gait was twisted, and he was in constant pain. John had made it to college to do a course there and he asked me to help him find a job to put something back into the community. I found John and others like him inspirational and decided to set up my business to help the most marginalised to succeed.

How do you measure your impact?

We have used a cost benefit analysis tool created by the council to input the data of clients from before they start to after they leave us. Data is provided on qualitative and quantitative results such as Employment found, New skills and qualifications achieved, increases in confidence, addiction becoming under control, mental health improvement, making friends. The best way we know to understand the impact of the measures is when they tell us that we have helped change their life. They are the ones who do it but to get that feedback makes it all worthwhile.

What help did you have to start your social enterprise?

I didn’t receive help to start. I worked my way up from adviser to operations manager elsewhere so learned the trade but took a leap of faith setting up my own company doing these things.

How did you decide on what legal form would work best for your business?

I consulted a solicitor as I wanted the service to be not for profit social enterprise and he suggested the way forward.

What’s the best thing about being a social entrepreneur?

Changing people’s lives. That’s what we do it for. When they have social anxiety or haven’t worked for 18 years as one of our clients recently had and he has now accessed a job. He originally came with his son who has Asperger’s and he has also gained his qualification and is working. That has changed the motivational, psychological, financial prospects of the whole family.

What has been the biggest challenge that you have overcome (or that you’re still working on)?

Last year I spent thousands of pounds on a new Training Centre which burned to the ground one Friday night. We found out about it on Saturday night. It was the hardest time of my life. I had to keep the contracts running, the service running for the service users, worried about the staff and their livelihoods.

I had a poster on my wall, a quote from Winston Churchill which read "If you’re going through hell, keep going". My ceiling was burned and half hanging down, partly covering the quote with the words ‘Keep Going’ still visible. I decided by Monday morning that this is what we would do. I told the team and we were back in business 30 days later. Not only that but I decided to set up another centre in Sheffield which opens soon.

What advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?

Success is never about can or can’t, it’s about will or won’t. There is a two-step success formula that can’t miss as long as both steps are followed.

1 - Start

2 - Finish

Too many people fail because they fail to do one or both of these steps. All of the steps in between are just learning sets.

Why do you think social enterprise is important?

Too many people are written off and consequently put off from achieving their true potential by people who put them down and damage their creativity and aspirations while they are young. Their beliefs and therefore their imagination are suppressed. Everyone is born to achieve and all it takes are the right circumstances and environment to show the world what they can do. Social Entrepreneurs are often from this background and they are the ones who understand how to unlock the potential in people, teams and society in general. They do this in a way that is people and needs led not geared towards making money fast. That’s why Social enterprise is needed.

What’s been your most rewarding experience as a social entrepreneur?

There have been many ups and downs and it is far from an easy ride, however whenever a client who has been written off and his or her life is changed by their determination, it makes it worthwhile. We have been honoured with many awards (all lost in the fire), one at the House of Lords. We have managed to get lottery funding twice through hard work. We had a visit from Shayne Ward from Boyzone and we even managed to take our apprentice to the Palace and give him an experience that he never imagined could happen and will never forget.

What information sources would you recommend (books, websites, organisations?) to help someone just starting their social enterprise journey?

As it is a passion of mine we have recently started a project called Unlimited Potential where Social Entrepreneurs get together and support new Social Entrepreneurs. I have written a book on the subject called "Anyone can do Easy".

I would recommend and Social Enterprise UK as a beginning and the local Community Voluntary Services.

What’s been the most surprising thing about creating a social enterprise?

The most surprising thing is how difficult it has been to get people and organisations on board to work together. This I think is due to the way funding works in the sector which sometimes precludes them from utilising a whole person complex needs approach due to the fear of double funding issues.

What are your plans for the next 2-5 years?

This month I am opening another training centre in Sheffield and developing new projects entrepreneur support, speakers college and online course development regarding making a living online for people who find it difficult to leave the house.

What is the biggest change you would like to see in the world?

I would like to my daughter’s generation safe in the knowledge that we have reversed the destructive forces that threaten the planet and regenerate the environment they rely on. I would also like to see a world without boundaries and borders and protectionism.

What have been your three proudest moments as a social entrepreneur?

Starting Citadel when everyone said I couldn’t. Finding the courage and strength to rebuild my training centre after losing everything in the fire. Being recognised with many awards after being nominated particularly Entrepreneur of the year.

What would you say to encourage more entrepreneurs to consider the social impact of their businesses?

It is a fact of business life that the more people you support the better it is for your business. It’s all too easy to focus on making money. We need to focus on making a difference to as many people as possible and success and money come through doing this sincerely and effectively.



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