Poised as we are between the annual Eurovision songfest and that other talent show – the European elections – it’s seems fitting to be able to report that my social enterprise development journey has recently had a massive boost from winning a slightly different kind of competition.
I’ve entered competitions from an early age – the ones involving an element of skill; I have no time for lotteries. As a nipper, I used to spend hours in the library (remember, this was way before the internet) with my mother, researching what famous people did before they were famous, and other obscurities. I never won any big prizes, but I think the information-gathering was a great education and it was a lot of fun doing it with my mum who also entered competitions. I ended up winning more than she did (much to her annoyance).
Once infected, the ‘comping bug’ may lay dormant for years, but it never goes away. A year or so ago I won the competition to name the new community cinema where I live (the Royston Picture Palace since you ask). My ever-supportive wife said mine was probably the only entry (in fact, there were over 50) and there was equal scepticism from that quarter when I entered my most recent competition.
These days any competitions I enter have to really ‘hook me’ first. That was the case with one run by Wenta – the people behind the six business incubation centres in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire that are members of the ‘My Incubator’ family (see shameless plug below).
We were asked to tweet our business ideas – simple as that – the winner’s prize being a year’s free workspace and business support in an incubator of their choice. My background in marketing means I like the challenge of expressing ideas clearly and concisely, and you don’t get much more concise than a tweet.
So what’s my business idea? ‘The Repair Shed is a social enterprise run by/for older men at risk of loneliness – making, mending and learning’ [112 characters]
To cut a not-very-long story short, I’ve already tried out my hot desk in the Stevenage Business and Technology Centre and winning this competition could not have been better timed. As readers of a blog post on my second 100 days with the School for Social Entrepreneurs in Ipswich will know, I’ve recently decided to get down to the serious business of developing my business after six months of playing at being an entrepreneur.
I live in one corner of Hertfordshire and The Repair Shed will be in the opposite corner – in Hemel Hempstead. Although I’ve had access to desk space at Community Action Dacorum in Hemel, working from home most of the week has been the logical thing to do to save travel time, petrol costs and, of course, the environment. But being at home has its downside, principally the distractions… from trips to the coffee shop and running across Therfield Heath, to polishing my shoes and repairing our storm-flattened garden fence. And, yes, entering competitions on Twitter…
Stevenage is about half way between home and The Repair Shed, but I suspect it will be much more than a stepping stone in developing the business. The new discipline of joining others working on their enterprises, with onsite business advice, should work wonders for my focus, productivity and learning. It’s also a smart place to work; on hearing the Stevenage My Incubator had a cafe and showers my wife suggested I move in and live there permanently.
So I may not have won Eurovision (although I do sing in a choir and had a beard for 25 years) but I do feel my own competition win could be just the ‘douze-points’ vote of confidence I need. Watch this (work)space and thank you judges for your wise decision.
For more about Wenta’s business incubators, go to www.myincubator.co.uk