Social Entrepreneur Index Nominee: Stripy Lightbulb CIC
After being diagnosed with M.E. 12 years ago, Sally Callow has campaigned to raise awareness and tackle stigma related to the condition. She is now the managing director of Stripy Lightbulb CIC, a service which educates professionals on the issues M.E sufferers face.
What does your social enterprise do?
We tackle the global ME/CFS health crisis by educating the professionals (healthcare, business, education) who have a duty of care over ME/CFS patients about the true nature of the condition.
What made you start your business up?
I have had M.E. myself for the past 12 years and have been a global campaigner with ME Foggy Dog (mefoggydog.org) since 2014. Thousands of conversations with patients helped me to identify the need for education in three key sectors. Stripy Lightbulb CIC has three key objectives:
The stigma surrounding the illness will lessen as a result of the training
The support patients receive from participants of the training will be more beneficial and appropriate to the condition
Surplus will be put towards M.E./C.F.S. research funding, of which there is a severe shortage.
All of the above will come from our online learning platform.
How do you measure your impact?
Our e-learning platform launches in March 2018. We will be measuring our impact with course evaluation forms, improvements in support for patients, word of mouth referrals, the amount of surplus we are able to give to ME/CFS research at the end of each tax year, and feedback received from customers and patients.
What help did you have to start your social enterprise?
I am fortunate to have experienced LinkedIn connections to refer to with anything I’m stuck on, Social Enterprise UK and Action Hampshire have been very helpful with creating the framework of the business. I was also a member of the 2017/18 School of Entrepreneurs cohort but had to drop out after 3 months due to the level of energy required to attend the monthly all-day training days. I did learn valuable skills from the 3 sessions I managed to attend though, I also benefitted from part of the grant awarded to me.
How did you decide on what legal form would work best for your business?
I wanted to move away from a charity model, which is what has been used within the ME/CFS community for decades, to see if a business model would work better in terms of creating surplus to go to ME/CFS research. A CIC allows me to work for the benefit of the ME/CFS community, pay myself a reasonable wage, and have a board of directors to keep everything on track.
What’s the best thing about being a social entrepreneur?
The knowledge that you are working for the benefit of a community to bring about change.
What has been your biggest challenge when setting up and running your social enterprise?
Money. Everything costs money! I successfully crowdfunded £2k to cover start-up costs and without that, I would be stuck. There are so many new social enterprises all competing for the same pot of money. I am hoping to be self-funding once the e-learning goes live. I am hoping to avoid having to rely on grants/funding to keep Stripy Lightbulb CIC going.
What advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?
Prepare yourself to work hard, have lots of knock-backs, and struggle to find volunteers. It’s YOUR dream. Getting other people to engage with it can be difficult.
What information sources would you recommend (books, websites, organisations?) to help someone just starting their social enterprise journey?
Action (I used Portsmouth and Hampshire), Social Enterprise UK has lots of valuable information and helplines. There are lots of useful information videos on YouTube too from many different organisations.
What are your plans for the next 2-5 years?
Our plan for the first 2 years is to grow Stripy Lightbulb CIC enough to be able to afford office space in Year two. Our dream for year 5 is to own a business space with an addition training room to be able to deliver face-to-face training in addition to our e-learning. By year 5, we will be able to have training staff to deliver this training. My own personal ME/CFS is why Stripy Lightbulb CIC is an online training organisation initially. I do not have the energy to deliver face-to-face training myself.
Want to get involved with the UK Social Entrepreneur Index? Enter your nomination here.