Social Entrepreneur Index Nominee: WildHearts Group
Dr Mick Jackson, Founder and CEO of WildHearts Group (which provides business supplies, services and training programmes) talks to us about his business and the WildHearts Foundation that benefits from its profit.
What does your social enterprise do?
The WildHearts Group is a world-leading B2B Social Business. Over £20 million has been invested across our social initiatives to date, transforming over 1 million lives globally. The WildHearts group of companies provide essential business supplies, services and training programmes to our corporate customers. The profits and infrastructure from these businesses support the work of the WildHearts Foundation.
Our foundation is the leading provider of microfinance for the rural poor in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe and the largest manufacturer and distributor of free reusable sanitary pads for vulnerable girls in rural South Africa. We also created and run Micro-Tyco, the world’s largest ‘Values Driven Entrepreneurship’ competition. To date over 45,000 young people have benefitted across 25 countries.
What made you start your business up?
After returning from a life-changing high-altitude mountaineering expedition, I resolved to align my business activities with my deepest personal values and work towards ‘Business for Good’.
How do you measure your impact?
WildHearts social impact is measured by the number of lives transformed through our global social initiatives, annually. The WildHearts Foundation is part of the WildHearts Group. This enables us to maintain close control of our initiatives and directly measure and evaluate impact.
What help did you have to start your social enterprise?
When I started WildHearts, I was amazed at how my existing entrepreneurial network was so keen to help. For example, my existing corporate lawyers provided our legal work pro bono.
How did you decide on what legal form would work best for your business?
WildHearts has deliberately sought to retain flexibility in respect of how its corporate businesses are structured in order to allow them the freedom to seek private investment, form strategic partnerships and maximise opportunities for growth. A perfect example of this is WildHearts Horizon, which is a joint venture between WildHearts and The Document Warehouse which is the largest document management provider in South Africa.
WildHearts Foundation, as a registered charity, is an important component of our Group. It provides our customers with the certainty that the profits earmarked for social programmes will be utilised accordingly. We provide full visibility through our accounts and other reporting in terms of how a customer’s spend translates into funding for the foundation.
Transparency, accountability and outcomes are more important than legal form.
What’s the best thing about being a social entrepreneur?
Every day I get to align my personal values with my daily work. Through WildHearts I fulfil my ‘whole self’ rather than just my ‘transactional self’. As we say at WildHearts, ‘Even a bad day at the office saves lives.’
What has been your biggest challenge when setting up and running your social enterprise?
Scaling rapidly/organically whilst channelling profit into our social mission.
What advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?
Clarify your ‘Why’ and don’t let the pursuit of your social impact distract you from the need to create a robust business model.
What information sources would you recommend to help someone just starting their social enterprise journey?
Babson College publishes excellent reports, books and articles for entrepreneurs. For example, The New Entrepreneurial Leader was a key influence in the creation of Micro-Tyco.
Social Enterprise UK is another influential network that I would recommend joining.
Some other helpful materials for start-ups include;
https://www.socialenterprise.org.uk/start-your-social-enterprise - Good information on the start-up process addressing the unique challenges of starting a social enterprise.
https://www.socialenterprise.org.uk/Pages/FAQs/Category/FAQs - Useful FAQs for Social Entrepreneurs
https://www.the-sse.org/ - The School for Social Entrepreneurs runs courses that may be useful for start-up social entrepreneurs.
What are your plans for the next 2-5 years?
To date, we have transformed 1 million lives globally. Over the next 5 years, we aim to transform 1 million lives annually. I also want to demonstrate that Social Business can achieve significant global scale.