Social Entrepreneur Index Nominee: Smart Resourcing Solutions
Sophie Milliken, Managing Director of Smart Resourcing Solutions discusses her journey to becoming a social entrepreneur and how her business is helping prepare graduates for the recruitment process.
What does your social enterprise do?
We work with Universities to help prepare their students for the graduate recruitment process by running assessment centre simulations. We do these on a large scale with our biggest event being for over 2000 students. Our events allow students to practise a realistic assessment process in a safe environment and receive valuable, individual feedback on each element of the process. This experience develops students’ confidence and aspirations, allowing them to compete more effectively in the graduate job market.
What made you start your business up?
I actually started up the business because I wanted to move back to Newcastle from London and stay within the graduate recruitment sector. Opportunities in this niche market were small in Newcastle so starting a business seemed a great opportunity to continue what I loved doing. I look back and think it was a brave move but it was the best thing I could have done.
How do you measure your impact?
We measure impact in several ways. A key measure for the universities is how many of their students have secured placements or graduate jobs. With the courses we work with at one university, they reported a 42% placement rate last year vs 8% average across the university. We also measure confidence and knowledge of the students via anonymous surveys pre and post-event. We always see a significant increase in student confidence with every event we do – some even have 100% of students feeling very confident after completing the programme.
What help did you have to start your social enterprise?
I set the business up in 2013 with a business partner who left two years ago. We didn’t have any formal help in the first couple of years but then became aware of local initiatives run by NBSL and RTC North and became involved with some of their programmes. On a personal level, I have formed strong networks within the North East and nationally to allow me to collaborate with other businesses in our sector. We are currently on the Scale Up North East programme.
How did you decide on what legal form would work best for your business?
We took advice from a solicitor and accountant about the best approach and it was decided a limited company would be the best option for us.
What’s the best thing about being a social entrepreneur?
I LOVE hearing about students we have worked with securing their dream jobs. Nothing can top that!
What has been your biggest challenge when setting up and running your social enterprise?
A big challenge I faced was a couple of years ago when my business partner left. I was really worried and my confidence dipped for a short while. I look back now and see it was the catalyst for much of the great work we have done since. Being the sole director allowed me to take risks and try things out. This has led to new opportunities and partnerships I could only have dreamed about a couple of years back.
What advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?
If you are passionate about something, go and do it. Consistent action linked to a passion is a recipe for success. I would also advise building a strong network of people and organisations who can support you.
What information sources would you recommend to help someone just starting their social enterprise journey?
I’m a big fan of networking groups to build up your support network. At a local level, I think Forward Ladies North East is good and I also am a member of the online platform the Female Entrepreneur Association. I love business books for inspiration and always have one on the go. I just finished Powerful by Patty McCord which is about the culture at Netflix.
What are your plans for the next 2-5 years?
We are working on a programme for Widening Participation students which we piloted in November and are now rolling out to other universities. We are able to offer students taking part a level 3 accreditation in Employability Skills as recognition for their learning which we think is a real benefit that will look great on a student’s CV.
I am also shortly announcing a massive collaboration which will have a significant impact on our business and is super exciting!