It sparked something in me!
How is Populo’s business going?
It’s definitely going in the right direction, in the sense that we are now providing HR support to probably forty small charities, social enterprises and organisations, such as The Pink Place and The Organic Cookery School. And we’ve achieved that in over a year! I think it helps that we provide some free support over the phone, as well as paid HR consultancy.
Why did you decide to provide free support?
I provide free telephone consultations every Wednesday. I piloted a free phone advice line and I used Twitter to promote it. That was incredibly useful. It’s so good! I took the plunge to do it every Wednesday, for people just to touch base with someone about any issues, and for no charge. And we had a steady flow of people using it during this time, which has outcomes for more business.
Why do you think it works so well?
I think it works because there’s that element of trust. A telephone advice line; it’s almost like a test of how you come across. Then if they like the help you’ve given them, they’ll come back.
You seem to like Twitter a lot! Is it a good medium for promoting yourself?
I love Twitter. In fact, the University of Southampton used Populo as a case study of how to be marketed, either through Facebook or other means. I obviously decided to go with Twitter! But it’s really helped me market my business, and helped me to expand.
What kind of work have you done so far?
Most of the work I’ve done so far is almost like a health check. I audit their issues, and then make sure that the HR procedures comply with current legislations and that they are up to date. I also provide organisations with employment contract templates and advise them on how to get going. I make sure that they are sufficient, and implemented.
Where did your inspiration come from?
In 2012, I left my role in HR management to spend time reviewing where my career was going. I wanted to get some understanding of the third charity sector, and luckily there was a local charity called Dentaid, so I volunteered with them. I updated and reviewed their HR policy procedures, and when I was finished, they expressed appreciation. It sparked something in me. I thought, ‘surely there are other charities in this position who would pay an affordable rate for HR procedural advice…
So, what happened next?
I emailed Action Hampshire with a question in mind; how do I find small charities that need support? I was advised to research social enterprises, in addition to the School for Social Entrepreneurs programme at Lloyds Bank. Action Hampshire really put me on the path of becoming a social enterprise. I was signposted to someone I could talk to, who could help me with it. It was serendipity.
You speak very highly of Action Hampshire!
My experiences with Action Hampshire have mainly been through their School for Social Entrepreneurs programme, which helped raise my profile as I am now supporting social enterprises throughout Hampshire. I have loads of praise for their programme.
What would you say Action Hampshire provided you with?
Action Hampshire provided me with invaluable support from their staff, and also from the people delivering the programme itself. I really valued that mutual support and network. And through the programme, they provided me with free support; the free membership of Action Hampshire allowed me access to newsletters, opportunities, and political landscapes. What I also found really valuable was that they offer one-to-one free support to developing not-for-profit organisations.
And how was the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs programme in Hampshire?
It was great! It came just at the right time. I had this idea for Populo, so it equipped me with the tools and understanding of how to set up it up: through marketing, finance, legal structures, and so on. What I found really valuable though, was the mutual support from the other social entrepreneurs in the programme.
Was there a specific type of support throughout the programme?
Well, my two mentors complimented each other amazingly, and they gave me the opportunity for action learning. This method of teaching was very helpful. They give you space to discuss particular issues and how to move forward, with a group of other social entrepreneurs within the programme. It was something I’d always wanted to experience. They put out questions to the group, and then clarify what the issue was, before making you think about the solutions for yourself.
Do you then think this aided you in your development of Populo?
Yes; it really helped me move my social enterprise forward, as it gave me a sense of accountability. The proof is in the pudding! Since the end of the programme, us students have set up a group called Airbrick. We look at how we can support social entrepreneurs, to ensure their growth and development. And it’s especially good, because the School for Social Entrepreneurs provides a ‘start up’, and ‘scale up’ programme! It is this exchange of information, ideas and support that was the most valuable.
So, if you hadn’t had support from the programme from Action Hampshire, where do you think you would be now?
Either further back along the road; I would not have progressed as much as I have done. Or, felt so isolated and unsupported that I’d have given up, and done something else within HR.
Well it’s a good thing they were there to help!
Yeah, I’m certainly glad they were there to point me in the right direction!
Catch Sonia every Wednesday for a free phone consultation
Phone: 07584 731420
Email: [email protected]
Sonia was interviewed by Steph Roker, a student at the University of Winchester and a volunteer for Action Hampshire.