Social Entrepreneur Index Nominee: Scholé
Adam Nichols, Founder and CEO of Scholé, talks to us about how he got started as a social entrepreneur, the challenges he faced along the way and how the company providing affordable, high-quality education in East Africa became successful.
What does your social enterprise do?
We operate low-cost private schools in East Africa to provide affordable, high-quality education to the mass market.
What made you start your business up?
A realisation that huge numbers of low-income families across Africa are turning to the private sector to provide education to their children, through dissatisfaction with the quality and accessibility of government schools, married with a belief that we could adapt international best practice in education to create a higher quality product than that offered by existing providers.
How do you measure your impact?
Exam results, measures of student progress and an annual survey of stakeholders including students, parents and staff.
What help did you have to start your social enterprise?
I am lucky enough to have accumulated a wide range of mentors and supporters from my previous career and this group has been invaluable in helping me to get started and sustain motivation through some of the more challenging periods in our journey.
How did you decide on what legal form would work best for your business?
Prior to setting up Scholé, I had spent my entire career in the voluntary sector. I had become very cynical about the charity model and its ability to create sustainable and scaleable solutions to social problems. I was therefore determined that Scholé would be a for-profit business.
What’s the best thing about being a social entrepreneur?
Running a business is, in itself, enormously enjoyable. Enhancing this enjoyment with a real sense of solving a social problem is fantastic.
What has been your biggest challenge when setting up and running your social enterprise?
Definitely securing investment. It took us five years to raise the major investment we needed to fully implement our business plan.
What advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?
Just get started. Take the first step, even if it’s a baby step. Do not spend too long analysing, theorising and planning. Even if you start on a small scale, just being in the game will give you credibility. It took Scholé five years to get major investment, but the conversations with potential backers changed dramatically after we were actually running one school.
What information sources would you recommend to help someone just starting their social enterprise journey?
I’ve tended to rely on mentors and peers for support.
What are your plans for the next 2-5 years?
We want to be educating 50,000 children by 2025.