Here at SSE Hampshire, we like to take the time to recognise the work that some of our fantastic and very talented graduates are doing. This month it’s Sonia Wilson, founder of Populo

Populo, a social enterprise based in Hampshire, was founded by Sonia Wilson (FCIPD) to provide affordable, quality human resources support to small social enterprises and charities.
Sonia can help you in a range of ways, for example:
• Ensuring that your employment contracts and worker agreements are up to date, fit for purpose and comply with current legislation.
• Developing or reviewing your HR policies and procedures to make sure that you have all the essentials required when employing staff and that they reflect current best practice and employment law.
• Advising you on any specific people issues that you may have, e.g. managing a redundancy situation, or an employee’s poor performance.
Sonia also provides free HR telephone advice every Wednesday 10:00-12:00 to small charities and social enterprises.
We asked Sonia more about her work:

What was your motivation for founding your organisation?
After 20 plus years in human resources management I wanted to use my experience to support others in making a difference. As a result, I volunteered for a local small charity, Dentaid in 2012 and reviewed and updated all their HR policies and procedures. The gratitude from the CEO and Board of Trustees sparked the idea that if this small charity needed my HR support, then other small charities would be in a similar position.

What challenges have you or your business faced and how have you overcome them?
Challenges have included
• Becoming an “expert” in areas where in my previous career I have relied on others in the larger organisations I have worked for, e.g. finance, IT, marketing, social media, and administration.
• The realisation that networking was vital in raising the profile of Populo and getting into the networking arena which I had previously avoided!
• Building the profile of Populo and developing trust with small charities so that they will respond positively and use my services.
To overcome these challenges I have just got on with it and ploughed on through all the rejections, IT disasters and emails that I received no reply to!

Are you ever tempted to stop being a social entrepreneur and get a “normal job”? What keeps you going?
Yes I have been tempted to get a normal job and in fact last year I took on a part-time role for a charity to get my “working in a team” fix (it can be quite isolating working by yourself). I only lasted six months as I realised that the positives of being a social entrepreneur, for me, far outweighed the positives of being an employee!
What keeps me going is the knowledge that I am helping a wide range of small organisations keep their “show on the road” and maximising their impact in the communities in which they work.

What’s your top tip for social entrepreneurs?
Build a network of support around you of positive people.

Who is your (social) entrepreneur idol and why?
Arunachalam Muruganantham. He is from a poor family in southern India and he has revolutionised menstrual health for rural women in developing countries by inventing a simple machine they can use to make cheap sanitary pads. He developed this invention despite great personal cost – he nearly lost his family, his money and his place in society. I am impressed that his priority has been to help women in the most disadvantaged communities around the world and not to maximise his own wealth.