Social Entrepreneur Index nominee: Living Liberté
From its roots as a blog to now including workshops and free online resources, Living Liberté is helping to change relationship experiences for the next generation. Dancer turned social entrepreneur, Helen Victoria, tells us about her business.
What does your social enterprise do?
Living Liberté is a social enterprise tackling Britain’s relationship abuse from a preventative perspective. We provide educational workshops and online resources to educate young people about what a healthy relationship looks like. By doing so, we believe we can make a significant difference in the prevention of potential future harmful relationships.
What made you start your business up?
I started Living Liberté as a simple blog page sharing articles about the possibilities of life beyond abuse. I had just escaped from a highly violent long-term relationship and I started the concept with a belief in providing freedom for sufferers of relationship abuse.
The blog grew a strong, international following which led me to launch Living Liberté as a social enterprise, providing workshops and online resources to educate young people about safe, healthy love and relationships.
The journey of Living Liberté began eight years ago as a simple blog concept, started by a girl full of fear. It stands proudly today as a strong tool for change, representing the true possibilities of life beyond relationship abuse.
My grandmother lost her life in a violent relationship. I nearly lost my own life in the same way. I believe that if we’d had access to relationship education then things could have been very different. This will always be the true motivation behind Living Liberté.
How do you measure your impact?
We pay close attention to the analytics of our website, measuring the use of the free online resources we provide. We also use SurveyMonkey and live audience response to measure how effective our workshops are, and if attendees have taken away the three key lessons we teach. These are the two key ways we measure our social impact at this time.
What help did you have to start your social enterprise?
I applied last year to UNLTD for a development fund. I have recently received news that they have awarded Living Liberté £4,000 to grow the business - which is fantastic news!
I have also recently been awarded a travel fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, to go and research relationship education in both New Zealand and North America this coming year, which will hugely benefit the enterprise.
How did you decide on what legal form would work best for your business?
UNLTD are not only funders, but guides also. They have helped to shape the legal plans for the company.
What’s the best thing about being a social entrepreneur?
I spent many years being a professional dancer, which was my dream career. It was an incredible experience and it gave me opportunities to travel and perform all around the world. But being a social entrepreneur has been more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined!
Every day that I work on Living Liberté feels like a fresh opportunity to make the change in the world that I believe in - there’s really no better feeling.
What have been the three biggest challenges that you have overcome (or that you’re still working on)?
I am so passionate about my work that it can be hard to build in time to reflect on how far the project has come. My ballet training means I am very able to push through exhaustion, but I recognise that this isn’t beneficial to my social enterprise. I am gradually learning to take time out so that I can be fresh and focused for upcoming tasks. It’s a daily practice!
Another challenge is the public perception that relationship violence is something middle-aged women suffer from. In reality, unhealthy relationships happen to all ages. My work is from a preventative perspective, which is why it is primarily aimed at secondary education students. I aim to change the public view of what domestic violence 'typically’ looks like.
When I started out with my social enterprise, I had a fear of managing the financial side of things. I was afraid to tackle this area as I didn’t feel confident dealing with mathematics. I sought the support I needed to overcome this, and I am proud to say that I feel this personal and professional challenge has been overcome!
What advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?
Find something you believe in, and the rest will follow. To be successful, you need to be powered by passion more than anything. You need to know that you’ll love your work in a few years time, not just in the current moment. Don’t pick a business based on predicted popularity - choose it based on your strengths and personal beliefs.
Why do you think social enterprise is important?
Building a business that measures its success socially as well as financially is incredibly powerful. I think that if more businesses appreciated the importance of making social impact, many company directors might be surprised at the opportunities and the staff motivation results they might experience.
What’s been your most rewarding experience as a social entrepreneur?
Every time an individual gets in touch to share how the work of Living Liberté has helped them, I am inspired. Seeing the results of incredible amounts of hard work makes everything worth it.
Being awarded funding was also an incredible experience - not only because of the opportunities it brings, but in knowing that the world values relationship education. Just knowing there is a wider belief in what I am trying to do is incredible motivation.
What information sources would you recommend (books, websites, organisations?) to help someone just starting their social enterprise journey?
I highly recommend using the wide variety of free resources and online support that companies such as UNLTD, School of Social Entrepreneurs, and UMi provide. I also recommend seeking the support of a mentor who is knowledgable in the area you hope to impact. Doing both of these things has given me much more confidence in my work than I might have had otherwise.
What’s been the most surprising thing about creating a social enterprise?
The most surprising thing about creating a social enterprise is that there is so much incredible support out there! Not only from funders and support organisations, but from the public. Our world is changing massively at the moment, both ecologically and politically. I think now more than ever people are open to supporting ventures that bring positive, change-making benefits.
What are your plans for the next two to five years?
I plan to start rolling out the relationship education workshops that I have been developing, now that we have the funding support to be able to do so. My expansion plan is to employ domestic violence survivors as worship leaders in order to create full-circle social impact.
What is the biggest change you would like to see in the world?
I see the world in a positive light. I am very aware of the challenges we face, but I try to focus instead on what is possible. I would like relationship education to be valued as an integral part of our national curriculum, so that young people can learn the skills we all need in how to build healthy, happy relationships and prevent future abuse.
What have been your three proudest moments as a social entrepreneur?
The first time someone got in touch for free mentoring, the moment I received news about the funding award, and each and every time I speak publicly about the work I do. I never underestimate the value of every small achievement, as it all builds the social impact I aim for with my work.
What would you say to encourage more entrepreneurs to consider the social impact of their businesses?
If you believe in something enough, then anything is possible. I was not a businesswoman - I was a dancer! But I was a dancer with a deep, strong belief in making a difference to abuse prevention in the UK. If your passion is strong enough, the rest will follow.