For Clare Geldard, Operations Director at I CAN, the children’s communications charity, having an Italian investment executive parachuted in to help her, was something she initially viewed sceptically: “My concern was that there would be lots of detailed analysis that wouldn’t result in anything; that I would be given lots of information, not get to ask questions and it wouldn’t impact the enterprise.”
Geldard was brought together with Riccardo Basile, from international investment firm Permira, through Social Business Trust as part of its new SBT Design programme, under which it aims to double the number of social enterprises it helps to grow.
Through SBT Design, Geldard can get practical, hands-on help to develop a strong business plan for the growth of I CAN’s trading arm, which she leads. Its products include Talk Boost, an early intervention programme to support young children with communications difficulties and one that’s having excellent results: data from the intervention shows that 79% of children participating catch up to within typical range in some of their language skills.
I CAN makes revenues from training and licensing tutors and selling the materials they need to deliver the scheme. With such promising outcomes, I CAN is keen to extend the programme to more schools and age-groups; but how?
Enter Basile with his analytical skills and deep experience of what it takes for businesses to grow successfully. He liked the fact that Social Business Trust could provide an opportunity for him to volunteer that uses his professional skills and, crucially, is flexible to fit with the demands of his job.
When he saw Geldard present at an SBT event, he was quick to make his case to work with I CAN: “Why? Because I thought there was a real viable business behind the social mission and I thought I would enjoy helping them scale up.”
Whatever Geldard’s reservations, they’ve been completely quashed and she’s thrilled with the difference that Basile and SBT are making. “The process for me is great because I gain all this knowledge, along with our head of business development and cascade it back to everyone in I CAN. You can see the people in the team working on this just drinking it up, they’re really so excited. I didn’t know we would learn so much from this; it’s so valuable.”
“I’ve been challenged in a good way: it’s like having a critical best friend. Having Riccardo’s knowledge and experience supporting me is phenomenal.”
Basile is also happy: “I find it very rewarding to do something engaging and valuable in addition to my day job; I really enjoy working with the I CAN team on building their long-term success as a social enterprise.”