Goodbye Nicola! A ‘few’ words on three years spent developing a start-up social enterprise

Our Business Development Officer, Nicola Donnelly, leaves us this week after three years at The Circle. She is moving on to a new role at Carolina House Trust as Marketing and Recruitment Officer. Before she left, we grabbed a ‘few’ words about her time at The Circle and what she has learned.


The first time Kirsty gave me a tour of the building that became The Circle, I was more than a little wary. It was huge, dark and very, very empty. What did compel me, was the potential. And Kirsty’s vision. To turn such a sad, sprawling centre of redundant employment training into a buoyant, bustling and productive hub for the community. The particulars changed as we tried and tested different services that would lead us to the goal but enabling people and organisations to thrive remained at the centre of our endeavors.

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Why Dundee? Scotland’s only ‘More Than Profit’ training programme launches this month in the City of Discovery

Dundee as a centre for social reform

In its recent history, Dundee has seen a transformation of its waterfront, the opening of V&A Dundee, a renovation of its railway station, the attracting of major hotel chains and the award of UNESCO City of Design. The city is making big strides in building on its cultural reputation and bring visitors from across the world. The impact of that work is to be applauded.  

While it gives many in the city a boost and we consider how to make the most of the opportunities this shift brings, we cannot ignore the other story playing out in a tale of two cities. 

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What needs to change for social entrepreneurs and charity leaders to truly make a difference?

An opinion piece by our Founder & CEO, Kirsty Thomson.

How often do social entrepreneurs get asked how much money they are really earning? Do we ever ask if their take home pay is enough to cover their bills?

Who is looking out for their welfare?

More than most start-up support organisations fixate on “social” objectives yet sit back and watch founders take £500 per month in salary. This is something that needs to end for founders who are investing everything in tackling social objectives with no one looking out for them.

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Come volunteer at our Community Café – 3 roles available

The Circle Café provides Living Wage employment and training for one year to looked-after young people and care leavers. We run this in partnership with Barnardo’s Works, Leisure and Culture Dundee and Dundee City Council. It has been funded by the Community Lottery Fund.

Based at Staffa Place, in the Strathmartine Ward, The Circle is a community hub and offers affordable space to charities, social enterprises and small businesses. We support organisations with a More Than Profit approach to become sustainable and make a social impact. Our other services are offices, room bookings, consultancy and The Circle Academy.

The Circle Café currently employs a Café Manager, Café Supervisor and one Young Start Trainee.

Since opening, The Circle Café has had steady attendance over lunchtime and has a growing list of corporate clients who order buffets. In order to continue their growth and support the trainees appropriately, we are looking for volunteers to help us.

Volunteer posts

  • Cooking in the café and serving to our tenants and visitors during our opening times.  Experience is preferred and help is needed from 9am to 2pm, Monday to Friday.
  • Administration – diary and bookings, orders and email communications. Volunteers are welcome from 9am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.
  • Promotion – delivering menus and flyers to businesses in Dundee. Can do this at any time but direction and materials provided from 9am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. Mileage paid, if applicable.

If you are interested in volunteering please call 01382 699990 or email reception@thecircledundee.org.uk

Danielle du Plooy

Solving social issues: meet the people who inspired The Circle Academy

For the past three years at The Circle, and for many years in her career before that, our Founder & CEO, Kirsty Thomson has been meeting people with a vision. Their exact motivations differ but their values are the same, they are not prepared to sit by and watch people around them struggle in their lives. They see a problem in their community, they have sought to understand it and they want to implement solutions. Crucially, they also want their work to be sustainable and make an impact.

Time and time again, we have seen such people struggle. We have seen organisations start with great intentions, but the reality is that they don’t make the impact they want. They struggle to maintain an income beyond start-up funding, they don’t have the right governance in place, the skills of their boards don’t have the right balance and they lack the capacity to meet their aims. They then become disheartened and can face personal hardship. There is currently no programme in place to intensely and robustly nurture and challenge people who have the passion and ideas to make changes that improve the prosperity of communities.

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I don’t work for a start-up. Can I join The Circle Academy? – Enterprise training for staff

Leaders of organisations are increasingly looking for their staff team to be entrepreneurial. Public sector cuts are commonplace and demands on services are increasing. Having to offer more services with less resources in place is a common theme in the Public and Third Sectors and embedding entrepreneurial thinking is essential to get organisations on track.

A cut in grant funding or the loss of a key contract would be catastrophic to many organisations providing essential services to the most vulnerable in our communities. Older people, people living with disabilities, minority groups, those struggling with their mental or physical health, people living in poverty and children are most likely to be adversely affected by the failure of public and third sector organisations. We need to ensure that the vital organisations doing this work and the teams working within them are properly supported.

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Pros and Cons of The Circle Academy

We know that if you are starting a More Than Profit business you will be faced with several programmes that could support. We want to be clear about how The Circle Academy compares. We have put together a list of pros and cons, so you can choose the best programme for you.

Pros

The Circle Academy is delivered by people who have owned their own businesses. They understand the personal and professional challenges you will face and draw on their own experiences.

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Founder and CEO of The Circle enrolled in Business Accelerator Programme Scale-Up Scotland

Kirsty Thomson, Founder and CEO of local social enterprise, The Circle Dundee has recently been enrolled in the Scale-Up Scotland programme. Scale-Up Scotland is a leadership programme that is delivered through an 18-month cohort-based programme. This is aimed at ambitious entrepreneurs and businesses with the potential and desire to substantially grow their businesses.  

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