A key part of our programmes are ‘Witness sessions’ when students hear from inspirational speakers (witnesses) who have first-hand experience of the issues our students are facing. Like witnesses in a law court they give testimony about what it’s really like to start and grow social organisations. Our Witnesses are some of the most inspirational entrepreneurs around who take time out of their very busy lives to help our social entrepreneurs. We’d like you to meet them and be inspired!
Meet: June O’Sullivan, CEO London Early Years Foundation
What does your organisation do?
We provide high quality nurseries for children from all communities across London.
How did you get involved with your organisation?
Our organisation was originally a small local charity and I shaped it into a large, London-wide, independent social enterprise. I believed that charity was not the best means of providing nurseries and we could ‘do good by doing business.’
What’s the hardest decision you’ve ever made as a social entrepreneur?
The hardest decision for me is always having to see staff go. Many staff have been loyal and hardworking but the move to social enterprise means some people cannot do what is necessary to make a business work so have to part ways.
Are you ever tempted to stop being a social entrepreneur and get a “normal job”?
What’s your top tip(s) for social entrepreneur’s on measuring impact?
Top tip – It is firstly to understand the concept of social enterprise impact and secondly be able to articulate what is looks like for your business. At LEYF we have built social impact into our core business:
a. Firstly, we provide high quality nurseries for children in a way that allows us to subsidise nearly half of the children from poorer or disadvantaged families.
b. Secondly, we employ locally which is important to some of the local economies in which we work. We also employ and train apprentices including young NEETS.
We weave a multi-cultural generational approach into the way we deliver our nursery provision which builds social impact.
Who is your (social) entrepreneurial idol and why?
There are many people I admire: I love the work Jenny Holloway at Fashion-Enter does, I love her resilience and sheer grit. I admire Mohammad Yunus and the way he has created a model that makes women independent and the cycle of influence that brings.
What would you say to your 18 year old self?
Get some good advice that helps you understand you own skills, interests and motivations. Get a mentor who can open doors for you and widen your horizons.
If you could only go to one more music concert, which artist would you see (living or dead)?
Ah, tricky. I spend a lot of time working out my seven records for my Desert Island Discs so sticking with one is hard! I think Mozart if he were alive but as he isn’t, probably Christy Moore or Francis Black.
Finally, what do you get out of witnessing for the SSE?
Enthusiasm, new contacts, positive attitudes.