If you have chalked up decades of work under your belt and you have a ‘big birthday’ looming, this may give you reason to pause and stop and think to ask questions like: Am I doing my best work? Am I doing work that I proud of? Does my work have a positive impact on others?
As you get older the word ‘legacy’ may start to creep higher up the work value agenda. Therefore, if you have ‘made it’; achieved your familial and/or work goals you may start to look outwards to see what bigger impact you could have on the world. Think Oprah or Melinda and Bill Gates.
However, for some with less than 20 years of working left the dawning realisation that the second half of life is soon upon us and that the ‘dream’ has not become the reality may bring a sense of urgency and agency to pursue or create a working life that is full of purpose, passion and potential.
As a veteran of the working world you may want more than the shirt on your back to show for your years of work. So, if the job for the second or third act of your life is not out there or does not exist, CREATE it.
That is what Jacqueline Bleicher, Founding Director of the Social Enterprise, Global Urban Design did. Read more about her start-up story here.
Business Feature of the Week: Global Urban Design
1) Tell me about your business?
I’m the Founding Director of Social Enterprise Global Urban Design, we started as a Community focused Placemaking consultancy with social missions namely promoting sound urban design and inclusive placemaking principles, training and mentoring and collaborating with others on community benefit projects. Since launching we have evolved focusing on community and capacity building with an emphasis on underrepresented people. We value the community as experts of their lived experience, witnesses to the rise and fall of the places they call home. If you ask people of all ages what they want and need and give them the tools to communicate their ideas they are amazing resources for viable, practical ideas on how to improve and revitalise unused, unloved and neglected places. Our work currently takes the form of creating and delivering workshops, enriching design briefs, writing for community benefit, speaking, and collaborating with others. We have launched with a number of passionate community focussed people the Creative Community Placemakers Network in London, which is both a collective to bring together community groups, artists, designers, placemakers, urban designers, architects, planners, Councils representatives and BIDS and provide a safe space for open honest conversation, skills and knowledge transfer, networking opportunities and events around community placemaking, as well as being a platform for collaborations. Global Urban Design is also collaborating with 100%plus and CH Simple Design and working with Placemaking Europe on their Climate Change Action group.
On a personal note I’m also a part time lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University teaching the Environmental Sustainability Management Module. As opportunity allows, I speak to the younger generations about my career in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. I believe it’s important for young people especially girls to see ladies who look like them working in careers that are traditionally male dominated, so they can aspire to careers they want and are interested in, rather than following societal norms.
2) When and why did you set it up?
Global Urban Design is a young community focused business. I started the social enterprise in 2018 thanks to incredible support of my family who invested in me. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my husband Thomas whose quiet strength and encouragement let me know in a million ways that he believed in me and thought I could do this. There is also my mother Mary Shelly who has been an incredible role model throughout my life. She never set limits on my brother and I. She encouraged us to dream big, aim high and she had an amazing work ethic which made it possible for both of us to be educated to Master’s Degree Level. Just having people believe in you and demonstrate that belief is incredibly empowering.
I set up Global Urban Design because I wanted to start an Urban Design team. I considered the idea until finally I had to do something. I could stand still no longer. Once I decided to start the enterprise transitioning from an employee to an employer mindset was relatively easy. When every decision is down to you, there is nowhere to hide, no one to complain about. If you don’t like something you can change it. I thought long and hard about creating a culture where I would want to work.
3) Where did you get your business idea from?
The community focused consultancy idea came from my professional experience. I worked in both the public and the private sector in large organisations for over 16 years and from those experiences, while there were well meaning people making decisions, the people and communities who were most impacted on by those decisions were not represented around that decision-making table. It was preferred that the community was voiceless. I saw first-hand the folly of that tact as a disenfranchised community can mobilise to have their voices heard at the end of the development process. I learned from my observations and resolved to shape places and do development differently, with, for and by the community.
4) How did you set up your business?
I took time to research different legal structures. I knew I wanted to be a different kind of company, so I resolved on a social enterprise limited by guarantee with an asset lock. Social enterprises trade, in addition to providing social value. Global Urban Design (GUD) is exempt from using Limited by virtue of our mandate to promote sound urban design principles. I set up the social enterprise online and used a 3rd party broker that offered the legal structure I wanted in addition to incorporating the company for me. It was a remarkably easy process. One day I was Jacqueline Bleicher the next I was Jacqueline Bleicher GUD Director.
5) What problems did you encounter? How did you overcome them?
As a new Social entrepreneur, I knew nothing about Social Entrepreneurship. I was networking at every opportunity to get Global Urban Design and my name out there. Going to event after event and building a massive collection of business cards that I wasn’t converting into a client or a commission. I mentioned my challenges to Danna Walker Founder of Built by Us, and she directed me to OLMEC a programme for ethnoculturally diverse people considering starting a social enterprise. I applied on got on the programme. There I learned about writing a business plan, developing a marketing strategy, and many other vital lessons. I highly recommend the programme.
More important than the knowledge transfer on the course was the post course support, webinars, newsletters and having a support group. My cohort stayed in contact after the classes ended and we support each other. We rejoice when we achieve goals we set in class or realise plans we made while on the OLMEC programme. It’s very important to build a peer support group. someone you can talk to who is a little further ahead on their journey who can advise as to how to solve a problem you are encountering that they have already solved. I am also looking into getting a business mentor. I mentor others most recently on the Fluid Diversity mentoring programme and can see the value it makes in my mentees with setting and achieving goals and setting new goals. Having someone supportive who can help you see things from a different perspective and keep you accountable is invaluable.
6) What 3 skills have you utilised and developed in setting up and running your campaign?
My strengths include being personable, people tend to like and trust me, being organised and thorough and being an amazing coordinator, I can bring a disparate group of people together and unite them around a common vision and I seem to do that in several different settings and roles. I am at heart a people person. I benefit from positive social interaction which I find energising and I value quiet and calm to be productive and creative. I need both prospect and refuge.As an SME I am using those skills in the collaborations Global Urban Design engages in so the CCPN
and 100%plus collaboration previously mentioned. Global Urban Design needs to grow for me to have the team or collective that would enable me to perform at my optimum. I can move mountains if I’m helping someone else, if it’s just me strangely, it’s harder to make progress. I’m investigating changing the company’s legal structure and bringing on new directors. People, I like, trust, respect, admire and work well with, who share the vision for Global Urban Design, so we can grow the enterprise together.
7) What 3 pieces of tech or resources could you not live without that help organise and manage your day/time? E.g. iPhone Cal, Safari, WhatsApp, Social Media
I swear by WhatsApp it’s very immediate and somehow people are more accessible. LinkedIn is my number one source of business opportunities and great articles. My LinkedIn feed is educational and inspirational, and I can lose a good hour just seeing what’s new. Love LinkedIn. Skype is great, yes there is Zoom, but Skype is still free. I confess I am not a tech savvy person. I still write appointments in a diary, watches don’t work for long on my wrist even with a new battery and I while I would love an expensive phone I opt for a functional phone as I tend to drop my phones. I’m pragmatic.
8) What have been the benefits to you in running your own business?
There are many. I can work on the projects I feel passionately about for Clients whose vision I believe in. I can devote time to pursuits and causes I feel align with GUD’s core missions and I can write and speak on subjects that further GUD’s mission and facilitate skills and knowledge transfer in addition to mentoring. I have more freedom and flexibility to do more in my 24hours. I can also choose to work in an environment that suits me and my way of working and being productive.
9) What has been your proudest business achievement so far?
Winning my first commission. Beyond being compensated for
your time it’s a tangible reminder that someone values you and what you have to
offer enough to hire you. Its’ an incredibly validating experience. It is even
more rewarding to see your impact and know you’ve delivered a high-quality
successful project and have a happy satisfied client.
10) In hindsight, what one piece of advice do you wish someone gave you when you started out?
Keep your eye on your goals but know that it may take you longer than you expect to realise them. When I started, I was incredibly optimistic. I thought I would have been bringing in income on par with what I earned in the private sector if not better. I very quickly realised I would not be working on the scale of projects to which I had become accustomed as an SME. I had to adapt and evolve. It became about finding my niche and offering services I could deliver credibly in my current reality with the resources I had. It takes perseverance to find what works for you and to source work.
Want to find out more?
Global Urban Design is a creative, Social Enterprise limited by guarantee. Placemaking consultancy services support social missions including training, mentoring, capacity building, promoting sound urban design and inclusive place design principles, writing for community benefit and collaborating with others on community benefit projects.
Are you a women in business? Have you got a Start-Up Story?
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