Jacki Davenport, Co-Founder and Director of Slinging London CIC, told us how joining Bloomsbury Beginnings gave her new energy to grow her social enterprise
It wasn’t an easy decision to join the course. Our organisation, Slinging London CIC had been successfully offering support and advice to new parents since late 2012 with our first sling library. Our North London Sling Library branches in Bloomsbury and Enfield were always oversubscribed, as was our East London branch in Leyton, and we were incredibly busy keeping up with the face to face delivery at all three libraries, coordinating our library volunteers, and all the behind the scenes administration.
But while we knew we were making a huge difference to the parents we worked with, we were becoming disillusioned. Our business model did not generate enough profit for us to pay ourselves and we desperately needed to step back from the day to day operation and consider whether we could monetise more effectively and rekindle the passion we had for helping parents bond with their babies, and travel more easily around London.
Our mentor Nancy Hey, who was also a Bloomsbury Beginnings’ alumni, recommended that we invest the time and money in attending the programme. Over lunch on the terrace at the Calthorpe Garden Café, Becky, my co-founder and I talked through our challenges with Ann. She seemed to understand the dilemmas we were facing and we decided to take the plunge. I committed to attending the course, and Becky came along to the first and last sessions. I was worried that I would not have the time to go to the sessions, let alone follow up on the advice it would give us.
My reservations were soon overcome – I loved getting together with other parents who were going through the same struggles as me. Brainstorming about others’ businesses, really helped me to think about mine. I also felt supported as a professional and parent, as I was given time to reflect on my priorities, my strengths and my future goals. Ann and Nicole who facilitated the programme knew exactly how to help – offering concise, powerful advice and building my confidence as a founder. And I made it to every session, because they gave me such a boost, however I was feeling. Even when my little girl had broken her collarbone, I was able to bring her along and she was made to feel welcome while I got on with the session.
In between sessions Becky and I somehow found the time to work on our lean canvas too: we came up with a business model that has a clear problem to solve, an early adopter customer group and a proposition we can both feel excited about. It will still require more work and more energy to get that model off the ground properly, but we feel positive knowing we have found a clear pathway to follow thanks to the course. I would recommend the course to any parent running a social enterprise who wants to rediscover their ‘mojo’!
2020 Update: If you’re inspired by Jacki’s story, our next course starts in January 2021