by Melanie Glass (@devinshb)
SSE Fellow Melanie Glass has just celebrated the first anniversary of her business Devenishgirl Bakery operating as a social enterprise and to mark the event is writing a series of articles covering her journey; from taking the leap of faith to start a social enterprise, to the impact their work makes, how to dream bigger and several other themes.
Taking the Leap
Eighteen months ago I reached a crossroads in my professional career: I’d been working for a national youth charity for 11 years and, for the last three, had been helping set up social enterprises as a means of developing our trading arm. One of the social enterprises – Devenishgirl bakery – allowed me to combine my passion for baking with my skills as a community educator, thus delivering pre-employability and social enterprise start-up programmes to marginalised young people whilst teaching them to bake within a community kitchen. But I was unsettled and, for quite a few months, began to think about what I could do if I left the charity. And then one of the Directors suggested that I should think about setting up Devenishgirl bakery as my own business.
Over the next several months – and a holiday in Cyprus – I came to the decision that I needed to take a leap of faith and set up my own business. For those involved in that process they know how painful that time was – the fears, the doubt, the uncertainty and, at times, blind panic. But, once I made the decision, I immediately felt a sense of relief and excitement. Yes, I would miss working for the charity, but this was the right time. That was the inspiration – I think of it as permission – to take the leap of faith and decide to step out from the charity and set up my own business that would trade as a social enterprise.
As I look back to that time I recognise that fear, inspiration, my maverick nature and Northern Irish determination played a part.
Fear was a major player in my decision to leap when I did – fear of not achieving what I thought I was capable of professionally; of always wondering ‘what would have happened if’ I set up my own business?’ – but didn’t; of stagnating and settling for a job that provided me a salary rather than pushing me to learn, grow and change; and fear of never knowing what it would be like to set up and develop a social enterprise providing a positive environment for marginalised young people to develop and flourish.
Over the past few years I have had the privilege of working, and meeting, with some amazing women who have challenged, encouraged and inspired me to become more of the person I want to be. Part of that challenge was also recognising that, if I wasn’t careful, I would simply continue to see them as an inspiration without allowing that inspiration to turn into action. And so, through being inspired by them I became inspired to leap…
Life as a Maverick
Being a maverick has its good points – and bad. But I have realised more and more that if I don’t listen to my inner maverick I stagnate, become restless and rather grumpy! And, in the months before I made the decision to set up in business, my inner maverick was screaming at me – but I was trying to ignore it! But, over time, I begin to dream and wonder what it would be like to take Devenishgirl bakery as it was and turn it into a social enterprise. Gradually the restlessness turned into belief and, that in turn, helped me come to the decision. My inner maverick was now in full ‘let’s set up a business’ mode and the dreaming began.
Take growing up in Northern Ireland with a family of brothers, add in 6 years of life as an Officer in the RAF, too many experiences of being told I wouldn’t achieve what I wanted because I was a woman and allow to develop over the years into a recipe for determination. Then turn that determination into dreams of creating a social enterprise that would not only enable me to utilise my skills and passions but would also enable to achieve social change through the programmes and opportunities I could offer to marginalised young people. The result? Taking a leap of faith to set up a business in 2014.
On the 13th February 2014, Devenishgirl bakery officially became a Community Interest Company and I became the Founder and Owner of my own business. It hasn’t been easy but, looking back, I am so glad I took that leap of faith and am now about to start our second year of trading. Fear, inspiration, my inner maverick and determination will keep me going!!