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The Gift of Sharing

Karen Belu social enterprise mentor
In this guest blog, Kendra Walsh, Director of Expert Impact, talks about the impact of their Human Lending Library as a way of supporting ambitious social entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs all over the world are reinterpreting traditional business models to try and address some of the most pressing issues facing humanity. These are the businesses we need to succeed and see operating at scale (and that Expert Impact supports…but more on that in a moment). In the quest for growth and success, founders of any business will tell you that guidance and support from experienced entrepreneurs – people who’ve been there and done it themselves – is invaluable. Advice from these experts helps social entrepreneurs fast-track their growth and their social impact. The question is…how are experts and entrepreneurs supposed to find each other?

Introducing Expert Impact

Expert Impact is a not-for-profit organisation that connects founders who are ready to help with the people and businesses that need them. We use the power of introductions and advice to help social entrepreneurs achieve scale. When we launched in 2013, we were inspired by the idea of spotting your business hero at a drinks party and being able to make everyone else disappear so that one-on-one, you could ask them your most important questions and get their best advice. Since then we’ve explored and built on that idea, and now we have our ‘Human Lending Library’ – a free programme run by The British Library (which is soon to expand into a global network). The Human Lending Library allows aspiring social entrepreneurs to ‘borrow’ successful Experts for an hour of one-to-one advice and the potential for long-term mentoring.  

How does that work?

Many of the social entrepreneurs we meet launched their businesses with a deep desire to solve a particular problem. Often things start with a small, local project, and then pick up until the business needs to consider scale to achieve meaningful change. Finding yourself the head of a growing business with hundreds of decisions to make and battles to fight can feel overwhelming if you haven’t been trained for it, so getting support at the right time from a mentor who understands the challenges you face is priceless. It can be the difference between throwing in the towel and finding another gear to keep on going. To date, Expert Impact has provided 180 social entrepreneurs with one to one mentoring from some of the UK’s most successful and experienced Founders. On average, these businesses grew 58% in the six months after meeting an Expert, and they now generate £22,500,000 in turnover and have created 760 jobs in the UK. We’re proud of the fact that 98% of those mentored would recommend our programme to friends or colleagues.

How has Belu helped us?

Where to start…?! When we go hunting for new Experts, we’re looking for people who have experience in running a company (ideally a brand or business that’s a household name), who are passionate about helping others make a social impact, and who are willing to donate their time to help do this. More than that, though, we’re looking for that spark or special ingredient where we know an Expert won’t just advise, but also inspire the entrepreneurs they talk to. Belu’s CEO, Karen Lynch, has been an Expert (that’s what we call our mentors) in the Human Lending Library for over three years. She’s a live wire with an amazing positive energy, and one of our most highly rated and engaged Experts. Karen has offered advice and support to 11 social entrepreneurs so far, and we can’t thank her enough.

The impact of her support

To demonstrate the impact of these mentoring introductions, we need to share some feedback from those who’ve been matched with Karen. We really couldn’t say it better ourselves:
“Karen was insightful, engaged, and genuine in our mentoring session. She’d spent time learning about our business model, our impact and our communications, and brought thoughtful ideas and questions to help us think ambitiously and broad. Above all, she was enthusiastic, interested, and optimistic!” Joanna Hamer, Juta Shoes (Since their session Joanna has run espadrille workshops for the team at Belu and now corporate workshops are a key part of their business model) “Imagine encapsulating all of your challenges into a defined list and an expert answering them in an hour, this is exactly what Expert Impact does. I cannot recommend it highly enough.” Cemal Ezal, Change Please
The Human Lending Library is open now at the British Library. If you run a social enterprise and want to be mentored by Karen or one of our other Experts, go to expertimpact.com/apply-now to get more information and apply. By Kendra Walsh, Director of Expert Impact

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