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Home / Resources / News / From entrepreneur to mentor

From entrepreneur to mentor

As part of international #womensday we want to celebrate the impact young women have on helping other young people cope with making a living. That’s why we’re really chuffed to share with you the third part of our interview with Sarah Drummond @rufflemuffin Co-Founder of @wearesnook and Director of @thisisthematter.

You were talking earlier about the fact that some people know what their skills are and are really articulate and others less so. Does that explain why you used start-up techniques?

There is a lot of design thinking and entrepreneurial methodology in the programme. We focused on what skills we wanted to develop in each workshop. We thought that the best way was not to talk about develop entrepreneurial skills but getting your voice heard.

We just did some feedback with young people and it depends who would engage with @thisisthematter, but they said they would want to know how to get stuff for their CV. We’re using a hybrid of different methodologies. What’s important is not just researching problems but helping young people identify opportunities.

With the first pilot in Edinburgh, they had their own ideas they wanted to take forward – like with the community planning partnership. Because they had something to aim towards, they incubated a new start-up. It’s not an idea that will make money, but something they will run with and that’s good enough for us. There are a lot of outcomes that we didn’t perceive. It’s interesting how they’ve kept with the core values bit spun it out without realising.

Finishing off with your own experience of trying to make a living, what was the motivation for you to start your business?

It was kind of like a happy accident. I graduated and led the MyPolice idea which won the SI Camp competition and then it got funded and I met Lauren. I was about to do a Masters. At the same time, I was working in the public sector and getting really annoyed at everything that was going on. I realised that inside the system, I couldn’t effect any change, there was too much bureaucracy and not enough freedom to do anything remotely risky, innovative or unknown.

@mypolice came up and Channel 4 funded it. They said “before we give you funding, you need a bank account”. We were like “we need to set up a business”. We sat down with @cassierobinson who said “you have got more in you than just one project”. It’s a mission around people-centred innovation, openness, collaboration and democracy.

So @wearesnook started and it just kept going. We’ve now got eight members of staff and an office that you need to handle like a business. Now things are a lot more serious, you need to pay bills and people’s wages and we’ve become more competent.

@redjotter and I both had a plan to become business owners at some point, but we didn’t think we’d do it so young. We started a business when we were 22. I had expected to move to London to get industry experience for 10-15 years. We just went with it and had consistent hope that everything would work out all right.

I was reading an article yesterday about Generation Flux – this willingness to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty in the future and that is the start-up mentality. Teaching young people to deal with uncertainty – universities and councils are still not there yet. If you can get that mindset in your head, it helps you deal with this shift. It’s just about making it happen, everyday, as you go along.

You’ve been successful over the last few years. What type of support would make it easier for you to do what you love doing, so you could focus on that really intrinsic mission you’ve got?

Money! We’ve realised that there are a lot of challenges in the public sector that stifle innovation. We’ve really set up more of a prototyping way, we’re an incubator for start-ups. To be able to do that, to take time off to think about the future, that’s so hard at the start of a business. What we do is apply for funds that give us money to plug that gap. Many friends I know just can’t get funding though.

What I find is that the business and entrepreneurial sector is still old school. They don’t quite understand the possibilities of technology and new ways of thinking. A lot of funding is going out for safe wins, like a mechanics business, family shop or print studio. I’ve got a friend who’s come up with a way to link up young people with manufacturers. She’s been turned down several times!

It’s about getting a better understanding of new trends and ways of doing things that the business sector needs to better support start-ups and experimentation, research and development.

Even paying someone’s rent would be good. When you get funding, you have to spend it on a website, you can’t spend it on yourself. If they just gave someone some rent and food money. That’s the big missing thing, you have to support the people that are going to make the enterprise happen and not expect them to do it for nothing.

Sarah focuses on making social change happen by re-thinking public services from a human perspective. With a Masters of Design Innovation from Glasgow School of Art, Sarah is a social entrepreneur, unashamedly proving the value of design in central government and defining a meaningful role for designers in the public sector. Her work challenges the role design can play within the public sector, and as the winner of the first Scottish Social Innovation Camp, Sarah is ambitiously challenging the way governments operate and make policies through initiatives such as MyPolice.

As a fellow of Google, Sarah has a flair for using technology as an enabler and thrives leading processes of change, putting design at the heart of organisations and complex systems.

Prior to being the Director of @wearesnook, Sarah won £20,000 for a community in Glasgow by giving local people the tools and confidence to build their own social enterprise. She also spent a year working inside Skills Development Scotland alongside their Service Design and Innovation Directorate to embed the design process in their organisation.

Sarah’s service design expertise and public sector innovation knowledge has recently taken her to keynote in Taiwan, Australia and America.