I joined The Circle in the summer of 2016 as Facilities and Services Development Manager. It had been a difficult year for me personally. I had closed down my retail business at the start of the year and was working for another organisation in the city which wasn’t quite the right fit for me. Prior to opening my own business, I had worked for the University of Dundee for eight years and was experienced in and enthusiastic about communication, marketing and administration. I needed something to get my teeth into, where I would have a level of autonomy and be in a culture that needed initiative, effort and resilience.
When I started working at The Circle, there was only me and Kirsty in the team. Kirsty was running ACK and also the sole person operating The Circle. That meant my remit was very broad – ludicrously broad – but I loved it. I got to work raising awareness of what we were doing, looking after tenants, bringing more tenants in, facilitating room bookings and tea and coffee, sorting out non-domestic rates paperwork, organising events, dealing with repairs, invoicing… I can’t actually remember it all but the days passed quickly and we were getting more bookings and more tenants. The Food Train, Cornerstone, Lumilo, The Story Edge, Ashton McGill and Uppertunity all moved in. The Circle was working and we were demonstrating that there was potential in this idea to create a community hub in Staffa Place.
Then fate intervened and I went into labour 14 weeks early and had a little boy while in London. For any workplace, a member of staff disappearing off on maternity leave 14 weeks early is challenging but for The Circle losing the only full-time member of staff for the foreseeable future required a considerable pivot. Luckily, Paul was already working on a project with ACK part-time and was well-placed to take on the challenge of managing The Circle on and is now The Circle Manager.
When it was time to return to work after maternity leave, I wanted to work part-time and the only suitable role was that of Business Development Officer. I knew I wanted to stay at The Circle and I had the right kind of experience to take on the role, so while nervous about the change, I jumped right in. I have a good work-life balance at The Circle and it fits well with Leo’s needs and my own career aspirations. I have friendly and committed colleagues and tenant organisations I truly admire for the valuable work they do. We are respected and valued employees. We are also part of a city success story with award wins, a full house of tenants and good community relationships.
Business Development is a challenging area of work. I try and understand what is going on with the business community in Dundee and be sympathetic to their challenges while looking for opportunities for partnerships. We are unusual in the voluntary sector in that we are very comfortable trading and financial sustainability has to be at the core of what we do in order to facilitate our social impact. I think this commercial awareness means we understand a corporate point of view and can demonstrate a return on investment in us. In the year ahead, my role will broaden from looking at corporate partnerships to supporting all our services to maximise their potential and trying out new initiatives. The Circle is a proven social enterprise success and now I want to play my part in optimising our performance for the local community.
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