SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR INDEX NOMINEE: SORTIFIED
We meet Richard Collins, Creative Director of Sortified and one of our nominees for the Social Entrepreneur Index 2020.
What does your social enterprise do? Sortified is a progressive social enterprise that supports people, communities, and community organisations with an overall aim of making things better for people. Most of our work is supporting social businesses to be more sustainable, helping them to grow and thrive. We do this by developing improved service models, supporting organisations to think more strategically, and utilising financial strategies to seek inward investment and to increase income and revenue. We also run some local projects and services that work directly with people to improve life outcomes.
What made you start your business up? I was working in the statutory sector, leading commissioning teams that were making real differences to local services. Then austerity came along and I was increasingly being asked to make savings and efficiencies. After several years of working in this way I began to be told to make significant cuts in services, and I decided it was time to move on and do something more positive, supporting people and communities directly.
How do you measure your impact?
We have an in-house social impact measurement system that utilises baseline data and ongoing feedback and measurement to analyse journeys that people, communities and organisations going on, and where we have had impact. We capture this information in terms of outcomes, and then seek to highlight this in terms of improvement metrics, financial impact, or narrative stories. While it is nice to have data that can be analysed, we really like to capture real life stories and quotes. They mean a lot more to most people.
What help did you have to start your social enterprise? In the beginning we were completely on our own, but we quickly linked up with key partners and other organisations, and it has been by using collaborative approaches that we have found success. It has been difficult at times, and we have had to learn an awful lot of new skills, but I would never go back to working for a council again.
How did you decide on what legal form would work best for your business?
We didn’t want to run a charity as we didn’t want the bureaucracy and some of the limits that can come with that model. We also didn’t want to be a limited company as our social ethos is at the centre of everything we do. We also knew that some of the work we wanted to do would be grant dependent.
As a result it seemed most appropriate to be a community interest company that allowed us the freedom to trade as we wanted, allowed us to receive grant funding, gave us the control we needed, and allowed us to be a not for profit organisation.
What’s the best thing about being a social entrepreneur?
Being able to make a real difference, and seeing what I do on a daily basis having a positive effect for people’s lives
What have been the three biggest challenges that you have overcome (or that you’re still working on)?
Not having a team to deliver my ideas, I have to do a lot of this myself!
Learning some IT skills that I never knew. We are too small to have an IT department
Seeing the level of need within some of our communities, and not being able to support everyone
What advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?
Talk to other people. There are lots of folk who are willing to chat, share and support. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Why do you think social enterprise is important?
The social economy is the future of how we should all work. There are lots of talented people out there, and a lot of community lead. We need to support more people to support their own communities through social business.
What’s been your most rewarding experience as a social entrepreneur?
Getting positive feedback from organisations to say that you have really helped them to survive or thrive, and hearing how they are able to support their communities with our help.
What information sources would you recommend (books, websites, organisations?) to help someone just starting their social enterprise journey?
There is lots of amazing information on Social Enterprise UK's website, but to be honest a good look through Twitter can be super useful in finding folk to follow and engage with.
What’s been the most surprising thing about creating a social enterprise?
That there are still lots of people who don’t know what a social enterprise is. Maybe we all need to talk about this more.
What are your plans for the next 2-5 years?
We want to carry on what we are doing, and to grow so we can support more people and more community organisations. We do however, need to negotiate the Covid-19 crisis first and make sure we support other social enterprises through it as well. That way we will all be here to support our communities once we begin to recover from this challenging situation.
What is the biggest change you would like to see in the world?
The end of social and economic inequality.
What have been your three proudest moments as a social entrepreneur?
Employing our first member of staff
A client saying that the strategic plan that we wrote for them has become their ‘bible’ and they don’t do anything that isn’t in their core offer
My youngest child realising that what I do helps people, and that is a good thing
What would you say to encourage more entrepreneurs to consider the social impact of their businesses?
There is no reason for any business not to work socially so why not look at social enterprise as a way forward. Its worth thinking about how you can benefit people and communities, while running the business that you want to run.