Program: New York
Intake: September 2007
Current Roles: Co-Founder of Impact Central
Describe your business and your role within it.
I’m Co-Founder of Impact Central. Impact Central is an accelerator and mentor network for purpose-driven businesses wanting to scale. We also created an Angel network and we’re in the process of building an Impact Fund. We saw the opportunity to create an entire ecosystem for founders who are running a business and doing good at the same time.
How did you get into this line of business?
I have always wanted to be involved in a purpose-driven business. I spent a number of years in financial services, and always knew that there had to be more to life than this. After doing something like the Mountbatten Program, your view of the world gets broader and you realise that people are not going to hand you the perfect job on a plate. Sometimes you have to create it yourself. I did a couple of roles which were ‘sideways’ moves, to get more experience in certain areas. It was whilst doing one of these roles that I met my current Co-Founder, and we decided that we wanted to create something that hadn’t been done before.
How did you go about setting it up and getting established?
It’s been blood, sweat and tears. We started during lockdown. We had a goal of wanting to start our first programme in Sept 2020 and worked backwards from there. It was really stressful. We bootstrapped the entire thing. Had no money for marketing. Nothing. We had to develop relationships really quickly and network within the sector day-in and day-out. It was exhilarating on one hand and complete madness on the other hand. Creating a brand from scratch is REALLY hard. Especially when you have zero money to play with. I mean zero. We had to pull in every favour under the sun to get going. We eventually got a tiny bit of investment which lasted for a few months. We could pay our staff, but we didn’t have enough money to pay ourselves for 7 months. That was excruciatingly painful. I had to pack up my flat in London and move back with my mum in N.Ireland. It has been one of the loneliest and toughest experiences of my life so far. I have pushed my mind and body beyond what’s advisable and ultimately hit burnout in the summer. It’s been a hard lesson to learn. I’m learning to pace myself a bit more these days. It was touch and go if we would get more investment… but we did in the end.
I really believe in what we’re building, and I love what I do. It has come at a price.
What else is in the pipeline?
We’re looking forward to gathering people together from the Impact community in-person. We haven’t been able to bring anyone together at all, so it will be great to do that after Christmas. We’re kicking off with a Podcast launch party at the start of Feb and then we’ll do monthly meet-ups/networking events after that.
We’re also looking for our next round of investment to help grow the business and grow the team. We’ll be taking on our 8th cohort of purpose-driven businesses in Jan 2022 and launching our Impact Fund in Q2 2022.
What has been the proudest moment in your working life thus far?
Tough question! It’s been pretty special to build a business from scratch in the middle of a global pandemic and also create value for start-ups trying to make the world a better place.
What has been your biggest mistake/learning experience?
You need to block in time to rest. Your brain AND body need it. You’re more productive that way. I find it really hard to switch off when I’m really passionate about something. I hit a wall/burnout earlier this year and it hasn’t been much fun. I’m really focused on not doing anything that comes close to working on a Sunday, and also trying to make more plans to spend more time with people who are life-giving.
Who are your role models?
I really admire people who have a conviction about some sort of injustice in the world and make it their life’s work to do something about it. People like my brother, my Mum and from a business point of view probably people like Bob Goff / Ally Fallon / J.J Peters-on.
Any words of advice/wisdom would you impart to others thinking of setting up their own business?
Ask yourself the following: Are you really prepared to make huge sacrifices and not see any reward until quite some time in the future? The idea of that is ok, but the reality is pretty hard. If you’re committed to the problem that you’re trying to solve then go for it, just ensure that you have 6-9 months salary tucked away somewhere to keep you going.