Social Entrepreneur Index nominee: Inspirational Youth Ltd
Eamonn Madden started up Inspirational Youth Ltd to support young people and make a social difference, find out more about why he decided to set up his business and his proudest moments since starting up.
What does your social enterprise do?
Inspirational Youth Ltd deliver NEET prevention programmes in schools and have a proven track record in improving behaviour, attitude to learning, attendance and academic attainment.
Our proprietary method uses unique game-based scenarios which engage young people and raise their self-awareness and resilience, meaning a more productive and successful school environment for both teachers and students.
What made you start your business up?
I found conventional education challenging, lacked self-belief and looked up to negative role models. I left school with very little in terms of grades, only returning to education 15 years later and promised myself to support young people that could possibly be at risk of being in the position that I once was.
How do you measure your impact?
As well as having a clear Theory of Change, our social impact is very much data driven. We use school metrics to monitor attendance, punctually, behaviour improvement and changes in grades. Our impact assessments are specifically designed to record and evaluate the overall impact for each young person. Inspirational Youth also evaluates the social impact through feedback given from teachers, parents, young people and the community.
What help did you have to start your social enterprise?
When the motivation to start the social enterprise first appeared, I spoke to Peter Shaw (a mindset coach) who helped to fine tune who I wanted to support and then what the delivery would look like.
I spoke to a vast amount of people, everyone that had some form of connection of working within the youth sector. I figured out the best avenues to take from their advice and a month later Inspirational Youth was established.
How did you decide on what legal form would work best for your business?
Honestly, we didn’t decide. We incorporated the business and researched as we progressed. In the end we stuck to what we chose at the beginning as it rang true for our vision and mission of the business, a company limited by guarantee with a social purpose written into our articles and memorandum.
What’s the best thing about being a social entrepreneur?
The satisfaction of doing the work and applying myself to create value in the world. There is always a social mission to work on and tweak which keeps the business alive and fresh. As the need for social impact changes it keeps me motivated to finding solutions and engaged in creating impact as a social entrepreneur.
What have been the three biggest challenges that you have overcome (or that you’re still working on)?
Diversifying income - constantly coming up with ways to generate funds.
Building credibility at the beginning and getting in front of the right people.
Finding and retaining good staff – in this sector the whole recruitment process is challenging and ensuring new staff believe in the businesses vision.
What advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?
Whatever you set out to do, stay true to yourself and the organisation, especially when it come to funding. Stay true to your mission, if the funding or contract doesn’t fit move on.
You must remember, although you seek to create social impact and in some circumstances call yourself a “non profit” you are still running a business, operate as one.
Why do you think social enterprise is important?
Social enterprises are important as they put the priority of the beneficiaries first. Large corporations put profit and their shareholders first before any kind of social impact.
What’s been your most rewarding experience as a social entrepreneur?
One of the most rewarding experiences as a social entrepreneur was delivering my first ever programme at St Joseph’s college. The impact it created for the beneficiaries was apparent when they delivered their presentations at the end of the programme.
The presentations made me realise how impactful, meaningful and innovative interventions could be. My mum also came when the young men delivered their presentations about the programme and at the time she was the Head of the Rotary club in Streatham which donated refreshments for their celebration assembly.
What information sources would you recommend (books, websites, organisations?) to help someone just starting their social enterprise journey?
I would definitely recommend the SSE programmes. They were the best in supporting my growth and helping to expand my knowledge for running my social enterprise. The book Coaching for Performance by John Witmore, a must read for any leader.
What’s been the most surprising thing about creating a social enterprise?
Earning revenue. I knew some money would be generated however it was never the reason for starting the organisation. Over time I realised you can make a living and keeping evolving your passion for the rest of your life.
What are your plans for the next 2-5 years?
Refining the business and expanding. Keeping engaged with the needs of the beneficiaries to ensure we continue to make meaningful social impact.
What is the biggest change you would like to see in the world?
A revamp for the education system, the topics taught and how they are delivered to the next generation.
I feel teachers need to be supported and educated on how to deliver differently. I do not think we can patch up what we have, imagine the possibilities if we were to start from scratch with a blank slate.
What have been your three proudest moments as a social entrepreneur?
Winning the YEF contract, changed everything for me. I was not sure at that time if the business could keep progressing but the YEF added new life into the business.
When the youth mentors read back their feedback they’ve received from their mentees. It really makes a difference to know how much impact has been created through the interventions delivered.
At the beginning we had 3 directors. I always believed in the vision and what was possible but felt the other 2 viewed Inspirational Youth as a hobby. I wrote a very open letter to both of them. Subsequently they reassessed their commitment and stepped away.
What would you say to encourage more entrepreneurs to consider the social impact of their businesses?
You must stay in touch with your vision and mission daily. Make sure you know your vision off by heart and that every decision you make aligns with it. If asking for funding you must ask for what you want and believe in the impact of which your business is creating.