BFP: What do you do?
SM: I work for Youth Business International, a global network of non-profit initiatives which help young people to start their own business. We currently operate in 33 countries and last year helped nearly 8,000 young entrepreneurs, with a combined package of access to loan capital, training and mentoring.
I’m responsible for YBI’s communications work – helping to raise the profile of the work that we do around the world. This includes the YBI Entrepreneur of the Year competition which shows the impact that successful entrepreneurs can have on their local communities.
I also am responsible for Global Entrepreneurship Week in the UK. Global Entrepreneurship Week is a campaign that runs in over 120 countries (YBI’s members host it in 9) – to promote entrepreneurship.
BFP: What is the best part about your job?
SM: I enjoy the international nature of my work, working with colleagues from very different countries and cultures who all agree on the same thing – the importance of helping aspiring young entrepreneurs.
It's probably the individual success stories that are the most inspiring though, and certainly getting our 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year, Amir Asor from Israel, onto the business TV channel CNBC last year to show off his business to millions of people was certainly very rewarding.
BFP: What has been your greatest challenge?
SM: The challenges of building a network, and getting not just agreement but buy-in from around the world should not be underestimated! It takes a lot of hard work and effort to really develop projects collaboratively. Just because a project makes sense for one organization, that doesn’t mean that it would automatically work for other organizations in our network. Sometimes this means that things take longer than they might in a more traditional structure but on the flipside, when you get things right, the impact can be huge.
BFP: What advice can you give others facing a similar challenge?
SM:Consultation is key, as it giving plenty of time to plan projects. I think also keeping things simple is important too. Its very easy for things to get complicated very quickly, but if you want the maximum amount of people to engage with you and understand what you’re driving at, then you’ve got to keep things simple.
BFP: If someone wants to do what you do – where do they start?
SM:Well, I’m not sure how traditional my journey was as I started off my career as a business journalist, and then moved into CSR and communications at the International Business Leaders Forum before moving to Youth Business International. Probably the consistent element through that has been my interest in ‘stories’ – being a business journalist taught me how to work out what was interesting from a communications perspective, as well as of course how to write and present. And of course it gave me a love of deadlines, which I like to think keeps me on track and helps to juggle competing priorities!
BFP: What do you hope to get out of being part of this community?
SM: I like the diversity of Business Fights Poverty – there is a huge range of people in the network, professional with quite different jobs and at different levels, but all with a shared belief in the role that business can play in development. I think its great to be part of such a positive, forward-thinking community.
Thank you to Steve Metcalfe for taking the time to do this interview.