Words of wisdom to help you through your social enterprise journey

Scott Hay – Founder, Potential in Me; Tracey Muirhead – CEO, SSE Scotland; Audrey Mutongi – Founder, No1 Befriending Agency; and Amy and Georgios.

Trade Up A School for Social Entrepreneurs Scotland programme is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, in partnership with Lloyds Bank and the Scottish Government. The programme was funded to explore ways we can support social enterprises to become more sustainable and less reliant on grant funding.

This blog is the second of a two-part series, in the last blog our Funding Officer Amy McLaren and Knowledge and Learning Officer Georgios Pappas went on a mini tour to hear directly from students about how the Trade Up programme has worked for them. In this blog, Amy and Georgios share the learning they’ve taken away from the day.

Beyond the inspiration and warm welcome that we got from listening to the journeys of each social entrepreneur, we also learnt lots about the challenges faced when starting up a social enterprise. We felt it would be beneficial to share three bits of key learning that we took away with us along with some insight from those we met.


1. It can be a lonely and isolated journey at times.

At the early stages, it can feel that you’re on your own and no one ‘gets it’ or is around to help. Connecting with people early on is crucial – it makes the journey feel like a collective effort and people bring a unique set of skills that complement each other. One of Trade Up’s key features is connecting the students with each other and facilitating peer-to-peer work.

This is something Scott from Potential in Me has experienced, and he explained that the support network was imperative for him in his journey.

“Setting up as a social enterprise was exciting and from day one I had a focus on sustainability, however, I lacked the knowledge, experience and support to grow the business.

“Being part of the School for Social Entrepreneurs’ Start Up programme, and now the Trade Up programme, was like a lifeline for me. It provided the comprehensive package of support that I needed and the peer support on both programmes has been invaluable”

2. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries.

Your social enterprise has the potential to grow arms and legs and it’s probably not going to be what you expect it to be, but you should roll with it and love it as much as you can. There’s a good chance that interesting opportunities will show up – don’t be scared to pursue them! 

Thanks to the Trade Up programme, Amanda from Clydesider Creative Magazine has found herself becoming more confident.

Amanda commented

“Trade Up has been an amazing experience. I have learned plenty of practical skills which are helping with everything from financial planning to team building but without a doubt the most important learning over the past year has been about myself.

“I am starting to find my voice and have confidence in my ability to do what I set my mind to.”

Georgios and Amy with the Clydesider Creative Magazine team and Tracey Muirhead, CEO of SSE Scotland


3. Social enterprises often struggle striking a balance between the “social” and the “enterprising”.

Focusing too much on one usually comes at the expense of the other so thinking about sustainability and various income streams from the get-go is a wise idea.

It’s also important to have a good social/work life balance in a personal capacity. This is something Audrey from Befriend realised through taking part in the Start Up programme.

Audrey told us

“I’ve found that in-order to do good, I need to be good to myself first. Self-care is number 1 for a social entrepreneur who is looking to change the world.

“Make sure you do something you personally enjoy every day – even if it’s just taking a ten-minute walk in your favourite park.

“Love yourself first before you endeavour to change the world!”

We hope this gives you an insight into the rollercoaster journey that starting a social enterprise can be! If you’re on a similar track, we hope you found reading other people’s experiences useful, and can take a tip or two away with you.

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