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Meet the Member: Enterprise Exchange

In this #MeetTheMember blog, we speak to Benna McCartney, Director at Enterprise Exchange.

Benna tells us more about how Enterprise Exchange supports people facing additional barriers, such as people in prison, to launch their own businesses.

What is your background?

I’m a qualified life coach who trained with the Coaching Academy, and I’ve run a successful coaching business since 2003, specialising in confidence and self-esteem building and effectively managing major life changes.

I worked with Chichester College as a Community Business Coach, helping unemployed individuals start up their own businesses. I am well-versed in coaching people with convictions, the long-term unemployed and others with additional barriers.

I am an experienced entrepreneur, and I’ve run eight of my own businesses in total since leaving college at the age of 18. I’m also a volunteer for Gig Buddies and a singer in my spare time.

What drew you to working in the criminal justice/voluntary sector?

Even as a child I wanted to support people with additional barriers. We all make mistakes in life and I have always felt that people deserve a second chance.

What does your role involve?

Phil Ashford, my co-director, does most of the business development and delivery side of things; whereas alongside one-to-one participant support, I look after everything to do with the back end of the business. Phil and I describe ourselves as a pantomime horse and I drew the short straw to be the tail end!

Can you describe your organisation in a few sentences?

Enterprise Exchange supports people with additional barriers into self-employment. Not only do we provide business support, but we help build the confidence and self-esteem of our participants, which is essential for them to flourish. For an example of our work, watch this video of Joe Davies, who we helped on his way to launching a restaurant.

Do you have any top tips for people in prison who want to be self-employed?

Do a little of your business plan every day to stay focused. Ask others to help you if you get stuck. Get people on the outside to do research for you if you can and use your business as a positive goal for the future when times are hard.

What do you love most about working at your organisation?

Enterprise Exchange has supported around 5,000 people in the last ten years and I feel very proud to have helped so many people start a business doing something they love. We also have an amazing team. They’re a dream to work alongside and I am so grateful for each and every one of them.

What are you currently working on? What are your organisation’s biggest focuses right now?

Before COVID-19, we already had a cunning plan to focus more on an online self-employment course and we are currently rolling this out with partner organisations. We’re also very excited to have a new service called Your Business Builder coming out soon, which is our first programme offering self-employment support for B2C (Business to Consumer) companies. We are also delighted to have won an Innovate UK grant to deliver a self-employment programme in HMP Belmarsh using virtual reality and in-cell technology. The first of its kind in the UK.

What has been your proudest moment/achievement at your organisation?

Most recently, winning the Enterprise Engagement award through the National Enterprise Network. In recent years we were runners up, so it was amazing to finally win this prestigious award. Also being on ITV with Ross Kemp, supporting the men in Belmarsh Prison to become self-employed.

Do you have any routines/habits that help you succeed?

Training as a life coach has really helped me be more organised and to support others to stay well mentally and physically, which is especially important at the moment. Personally, I start my day doing tasks I enjoy from a wellbeing list. I am also a great advocate of power hours, which is where you choose the tasks you need to do for that day and do as much as you can in a timed hour. Sometimes I can get more done in that one hour than I can in a whole day!

Do you have any hobbies?

Singing, song writing, walking, reading and watching films.

Favourite book?

To Kill a Mockingbird. by Harper Lee.

Favourite song?

Indifference by Pearl Jam.

Favourite film?

In the Name of the Father.

Favourite podcast?

I don’t listen to so many podcasts, but I am quite proud of the first podcasts Phil and I did, speaking about our journey and the work we do.

What advice would you give to someone else in your role?

To make sure you have a good work/life balance. From my own experience, it is too easy to work 24/7 and burn out, and then you are no use to anyone. Spend a little time on a Monday to be clear about what needs to be done that week. Do one task at a time, rather than trying to multi-task which can add to stress levels. Lastly, to have a coach or someone similar, to make sure you have someone outside the business to be accountable to and to use as a subjective sounding board.

What do you like most about being a member of the Criminal Justice Alliance?

Being part of the fantastic CJA community, which enables us to support each other and our participants in the best way we can for the benefit of all.