Speaking up for a better world
A charity had an ambition to be more like the social entrepreneurs that use their service – funding themselves by selling a service. The answer was right in front of them: to charge people to hear the stories of the people in their network. In this blog, hear from Expert Impact about their journey to launching the first impact speakers bureau.
You will have heard a lot about ‘levelling up’ recently, the aim of policies being that wages and living standards in the north of the UK match those of the south. But it could just as easily apply to global prosperity.
Every couple of years Oxfam comes out with a startling fact about wealth inequality. The last one, in 2020, found that the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 percent of the planet’s population.
If this feels wrong to you, we’ve got some good news. Social enterprises have a proud history of diverting money to make a positive social impact. Whether that’s the company recycling and selling wood as a way to provide employment for people with disabilities (check out Oxford Wood Recycling), or the business that is a tea company and cafe on the surface, but is actually a mechanism for providing refugees full-time employment and work experience (hello Nemi Teas).
We thought the event speakers industry might be ripe for a bit of disruption. Once we’d explored some of the fees being charged, it looked like there was money to be made, and we thought we could divert this money to fund a successful mentoring service for social purpose organisations.
Since 2014 Expert Impact has supported more than 450 organizations who are helping the disadvantaged, bolstering social care, producing healthier communities and looking after the environment. It really works: post-mentoring our impact report found those social purpose organisations grew their turnover, staff and most importantly, their social impact. We get great feedback from the mentees too – 97% of them would recommend it.
Amongst those 450 mentees who lead their own businesses and the experts that are their mentors (we have more than 70) there was a lot of knowledge. Many of them were being asked to tell their stories at events already and, with the popularity of things like TED talks and Masterclass, we knew there was an audience out there of people thirsty for knowledge who are willing to pay. Not only that, but many companies, looking to inspire, motivate or educate their staff, see booking an engaging speaker as a worthwhile investment in keeping the talent they have.
We pitched our speakers agency idea to the Postcode Innovation Trust. We’d offer a new kind of speakers agency to those that existed already, with a roster of diverse, ethically minded speakers, many of whom are passionate about improving society, and we’d use the profits to help fund our mentoring service.
Happily, Postcode Innovation Trust thought it was an idea with legs, offering us £192,000 (a mix of grant and loan) to get it up and running, thanks to players of People's Postcode Lottery. We’d obviously need a website so people could see the kinds of speakers we could offer, but more importantly, someone with the contacts and experience to make our venture a success (we were lucky enough to find Venita Di Domenico).
Famous faces thought we were a good idea too – you’ll recognise many of them on our website. We’ve also got climate scientists and equality activists alongside prominent business leaders with a wealth of experience to share. Or, if you just want someone to make your people smile, we’ve got plenty of comedians ready to spread positive vibes at your next event. If our recent comedy showcase in London is anything to go by, they are guaranteed to send your crowd home with a spring in their step and a happy glow.
Just like any other startup, there have been challenges and a lot of learning in the months since we launched Expert Impact Speakers but we’re making inroads in the market and have heard from more than one contact that we’re ‘really shaking things up’.
We’re looking forward to helping event organisers find speakers to make company Christmas parties and awards ceremonies unforgettable in the busy period before the end of the year. And we’re proud to be one of more than 100,000 social enterprises in the UK doing business in a different way.