The Circle team at the Courier Business Awards

Along Came The Circle

CEO of The Circle and ACK, Kirsty Thomson, is to merge the two community interest companies this month as she marks seven years since founding her first organisation.

Kirsty founded Along Came Kirsty in 2012 following a successful career working for charities and universities in Dundee and Newcastle. Along Came Kirsty offered support to small, medium and national charities, social enterprises and small businesses. Along Came Kirsty became ACK in 2017.

In 7 years ACK raised over £3million and worked with over 250 organisations providing advice, consultancy, fundraising and networking opportunities. They supported organisations both in the UK and internationally, including clients in Sweden and Canada. ACK has directly employed a total of nine people as well as supporting funding applications that have created jobs for over 70 people throughout the UK.

ACK created volunteering opportunities for people interested in social enterprise and placements for over 30 young people from the University of Dundee and Abertay University. The organisation also worked with corporate partners across Scotland on training for the third sector.

Kirsty had witnessed many of her client organisations working in unsuitable accommodation and when viewing a former skills training centre off the Kingsway in Dundee with a client, realised it had potential as a community hub. The Circle was founded in 2015, launched in 2016 and the lease was signed in 2017. The Circle was set up to provide affordable offices, meeting rooms and community spaces in its Staffa Place location. By late 2018 The Circle was fully occupied for the first time with 17 tenant organisations and over 300 weekly visitors. We won Social Impact Business of the Year at The Courier Business Awards in October 2018. Kirsty was in the 2018 WISE100 list, which recognises the most inspiring and influential women in social enterprise, impact investment and mission-driven businesses in the UK.

The Circle has received several funding awards including the Grow it award from UnLtd, First Port and Resilient Scotland for starting up. We have also had funding for staff from Mathew Trust, Community Jobs Scotland and more recently, The National Lottery Community Fund Young Start.

In 2017 Kirsty participated in Entrepreneurial Scotland’s Saltire Fellowship programme which took Kirsty to Boston and Silicon Valley for 9 weeks. This fellowship was part funded by the Scottish Government and the Northwood Trust. The new perspectives that Kirsty gained from this time of personal development lead her to consider the merits of merging her two enterprises.

Kirsty ran ACK and The Circle in parallel for three years. Together with the Board of Directors of each organisation, she has decided the time is right to merge ACK and The Circle as both social enterprises evolve together to meet the community’s requirements.

The Circle will continue to offer offices and event space as its core activity while increasing the support it offers social enterprises. National funders, UnLtd, have selected The Circle as their Dundee base for the Resilient Communities programme and will continue to invest in local social entrepreneurs over the next three years. The Circle will continue the consultancy work offered by ACK with a redesigned training programme for social entrepreneurs. The Circle Academy will offer skills for organisations interested in a ‘More Than Profit’ approach and a newly appointed manager will utilise appropriate ACK Track programme resources. ACK’s Charity Chit Chat networking event will also continue to be run by The Circle team as well as the popular community micro funding event run in partnership with Creative Dundee, Dundee Soup.

ACK’s expertise in developing opportunities for youth enterprise training, volunteers and student placements will be harnessed in new projects. Once appointments are made to currently advertised posts, The Circle will employ a total of twelve people across the functions of room bookings, facilities management, business development, communications and marketing, consultancy, finance and entrepreneurship.

Kirsty said, “Over the last seven years it has been a privilege to lead a talented team of staff, committed volunteers and keen students at ACK into supporting our clients to raise over £3 million to deliver jobs, opportunities and services dedicated to addressing health and social issues. The support ACK has had from the community and businesses in Dundee and further afield for our clients has been inspiring and humbling.

It is the right time now for ACK’s services to continue evolving alongside The Circle as one organisation. I am thrilled that we will soon be joined by five more members of staff so we can embed The Circle Academy, consultancy and youth enterprise training for vulnerable groups into what we are already delivering and realise our ambition as a truly inclusive, enterprising and sustainable community hub.”

How can I book a room?

We have a variety of meeting and event spaces which can accommodate events from small one-to-ones to events with up to 80 attendees. The building has super-fast broadband and our rooms are equipped with screens for presentations. These spaces can be hired for as little as £6 an hour. Find out more here.(

What consultancy services do you offer?

With over 20 years of experience working with and supporting charities, social enterprises, community groups and individuals, we can offer a range of support and advice. If you would like to find out about The Circle’s new consultancy services, please contact jenny@thecircledundee.org.uk for more information.

How can I support The Circle?

There are a number of ways you can support  Sponsoring a specific space in The Circle will provide us with funds to invest in both community activities and physical improvements. Find out about our Corporate Sponsorship opportunities here.

Dates for your diary

Friday 5th April – The Circle Open Day

Thursday 30th May – Charity Chit Chat

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