My 'sleep out' journey to entrepreneurship
Since starting my journey by creating Social Bite when I was just 21 years old, I've learned a lot. I had to learn to think on my feet, work long hours every day, say goodbye to weekends and be surrounded by work all the time. I also learnt that that is not sustainable! But I'd have to say, I've learned the most in my last year of work within this incredible organisation, that I have to pinch myself most days to believe I co-founded.
Our Sleep in the Park events focused on calling adults to come together, sleep out and get sponsored so that we could raise significant funds and awareness for change. Discovering that under 18s were an untapped resource to Social Bite, has been transformative for my role within the organisation. The inbound contact we had coming from young people all over Scotland was inspiring. They were perhaps even more compassionate than us adults about making the world a better place and taking care of people in the very worst circumstances, so much so they were willing to put on their very own sleep out events to help. When we launched Wee Sleep Out in late August 2018, I couldn’t have foreseen that 5000 young people would in just 2 months organise their very own events and raise over £100k to include themselves in our exciting movement to end homelessness.
One of the really special things that came from Wee Sleep Out was the workshops that myself and the Wee Sleep Out team were able to hold across Scotland. As well as information on homelessness and Social Bite, I started to talk about social enterprise in general, and how becoming an entrepreneur wasn’t something unobtainable, something ‘other people’ did, but rather something anybody could do. In particular I was struck by how many young women and their teachers would come up to me after the workshops, saying how they felt it was important to have a role model they could relate to. While I would never have previously considered myself a role model, it really made me consider the female role models who have helped to shape the entrepreneur I myself have become.
Being surrounded by strong women has been a fundamental part of my growth with the Wee Sleep Out
project in the last year. Our strong yet gentle CEO, Jane Bruce, is a constant source of encouragement, trusting me to run the project how I see fit and helping me to think out of the box. Our Chair, Roz Cuschieri, has led the Board with a level of reasonable thinking paired with empowerment I could never have dreamt of. The combination of these inspiring women has enabled me to step out of my logistical roles for the first time and nurture my creativity, something which can be rare in the world of business.
In truth, I’m not a massive fan of the “women in business” angle because I just want to be seen as a person, with a brain and competency just as apt as the next person. Whether it’s taken me this long to step out of the more logistical and lesser known roles because I’m a woman, or just because I was 21 when we started and felt I was in over my head, has been something I have debated in my mind for some time. However, one thing I know for sure is that the introduction of Jane’s presence in the organisation in the last 4 years, and more recently Roz’s leadership at Board level has both calmed my nerves and boosted my self-confidence. What happens next, is ultimately up to me. Watch this space.
Alice Thompson and Josh Littlejohn co-founded Social Bite in 2012.