Peer mentoring for social entrepreneurs

by  SSE students Melanie Glass (Devenishgirl Bakery) and Rosie Ginday (Miss Macaroon)

We are two social entrepreneurs who meet fortnightly to talk business, gain support and advice from one another and enjoy a drink. We began meeting about 18 months ago and, initially, the meetings had a business focus. However, we were both challenged by a session we were leading on Rosie’s MACMADs programme which involved helping the young people develop a five year plan. We realised we were helping them create something that we ourselves didn’t have. This also coincided with Melanie being challenged by a book by Chris Guillebeau called ‘The Art of Non-Conformity’. In it he talks about developing a year plan and then, each November, reviewing it before developing a new plan for the coming year.

How it has evolved

So, at the start of 2014 we developed a year plan for our meetings – with a focus once a month on personal development and once a month on business development. This has helped us move from bringing random hand-outs, ideas and concerns to investing time in both our personal and business development. Topics for this year include Mission and Values, Enneagram, Collaboration, developing a 5 year plan, developing skills and practising pitch. We also have a quarterly review session, a six-monthly celebration and free sessions in case issues arise in our businesses that we need to discuss.

When we began meeting we would spend a third of the time catching up, a third of the time on discussing an issue and a third of the time on socialising (in the early days that involved a pub quiz!). Now we spend about one third of our time on catching up and two- thirds on our prearranged personal and business development sessions. Throughout the year we have become more honest and open with each other – there is no sense of competitiveness but, rather, a sense of being equal and supportive of one another. We have developed a level of understanding not only about each other’s business but also about ourselves as people. A sense of ‘This is me- warts and all’ is evident when we meet which means there is no need for pretence.

What it involves 

We meet fortnightly for approximately two hours in a culturally appropriate venue – for us that means somewhere that offers a good range of gin and beer – and at a time that works for us both. Once a month we meet in the city centre (near to where Rosie lives) and once a month in Harborne (near to where Melanie lives).

We take it in turns to prepare and organise the session – this may mean bringing notes, writing an article, providing hand-outs etc. The sessions are important to us and so are ‘set in stone’ – dates are in our diary for the whole year and it is rare for them to be changed.

What impact have the sessions had?

Throughout this year we have both become much more focussed on the future – setting goals and then supporting each other to achieve them. Goals that are not just business focussed but also encompass all of our life. This has helped us see ourselves more fully – we are more than social entrepreneurs – to become the people we are supposed to be.

Lessons learnt

Each session has been valuable in its own right and has helped us clarify our thinking and values. They have also helped us recognise what we are working towards and whether that is what we really want as opposed to what we think is expected of us. Adding in the personal development sessions have also helped us to be kinder to ourselves and more honest about our journey.

Why it works for us

We are two social entrepreneurs with micro-businesses based in Birmingham. Peer-mentoring works for us as we are relatively close geographically, have similar products in terms of the market but not close enough to be competitors, enjoy a few drinks out and believe that there is strength in collaboration.  Why not find someone within your sector and ask him or her out for a drink and start talking? Who knows where it could lead?


Miss Macaroon is a community interest company providing training and employment opportunities for marginalised young people through the hand baking of French macaroons. Miss Macaroon specialises in corporate gifts, wedding gifts and wholesale macaroons delivered nationwide. Founded in 2011 by Rosie Ginday a Pastry Chef trained at Michelin standard, Miss Macaroon has provided corporates gifts for many companies including EE, Orange, Pandora and Ted Baker.

[email protected]

0121 233 1679


Devenishgirl bakery is a community interest company based in South West Birmingham. Founded in 2014 by Melanie Glass, the social enterprise operates a community-based kitchen school offering commercial baking, skills training for marginalised young people, corporate events and experiences.

[email protected]


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