Donna is the Fundraising Manager for Young Enterprise Scotland (YES), where she is involved with raising funds and representing YES externally. Donna told us she is very excited to be working with “some really wonderful and inspiring people at YES and, of course, raising lots of money for the continuation and development of its services”
Donna qualified as a solicitor in 2009 but decided to leave law and focus on working with young people and charities.
Young Enterprise Scotland (YES) is a charity with a mission to inspire young people to learn and succeed through enterprise.
Easyspace recently caught up with Donna for a chat:
Q1. Donna, tell us a little bit about your background, and what led you to becoming the Fundraising Manager for Young Enterprise Scotland (YES)
Well firstly, ‘hello’, my name is Donna MacLellan and I am very honoured to work for the rather remarkable organisation Young Enterprise Scotland (YES), a charity that inspires young people to learn and succeed through enterprise. I am very excited to be taking part in this interview, so thanks for having me.
Great first question – my pathway to Young Enterprise Scotland is an interesting one…
After 5 years of university and 2 years of training, I qualified as a solicitor in 2009. I enjoyed this legal post, but deep down there was something telling me that this was not the career pathway for me. These unsettled feelings lay dormant until I had illness and injury strike my family. At this point I realised that life is indeed too short and as a result I left the corporate world to focus on a job that would allow me to ‘give back’.
Since then I have had an amazing experience as a fundraiser for some really exceptional charities. Most recently, in January 2015, I started the role as Fundraising Manager for Young Enterprise Scotland and it is incredible. A super charity with values I can truly related to, a great team of people to work with and most importantly, a clear and achievable missions statement: ‘to inspire young people to learn and succeed through enterprise’.
Q2. Tell us about Young Enterprise Scotland (YES) and how it helps people.
Young Enterprise Scotland is a charity at the forefront of enterprise engagement with young people, aged 5 to 30, from all backgrounds across Scotland.
The aims and objectives of the charity are to: (1) enhance the entrepreneurial attitudes of young people in Scotland; (2) improve the enterprise skills of young people in Scotland; and (3) strengthen the work readiness of Scotland’s school and college population.
We are committed to supporting thousands of young people to develop their skills and knowledge of business, enterprise and employability via four main areas: Bridge 2 Business, Company Programme, YES Academy and YES Learning. Our services are delivered by our YES trainers, staff and volunteers in primary and secondary schools, further education colleges, prisons, secure/residential units and community groups. Each activity adheres to the guiding principle of ‘learn by doing’ and embodies our values of integrity, enthusiasm, creativity and collaboration.
Q3. Tell us more about the YES programme Bridge 2 Business, which aims to support college students into business. What does this involve?
Bridge 2 Business is an interactive and engaging programme to inspire, connect and support college students into business. The Bridge 2 Business programme offers college students first hand opportunities to engage with appropriate entrepreneurial role models.
Role models who are relevant to college students who have an interest in setting up their own business now or in the future or for those who are looking to take enterprise skills to their workplace. Alongside the opportunity to meet and engage with role models the programme will help connect college students with the great networks that exist in Scotland to support our much needed start-up businesses.
In addition to inspiring and connecting our college students, we also offer the college students the chance to apply for a small grant to help test out their business ideas and will match those successful with a mentor from the local business community who will be able to assist as they progress with their business plans.
Q4. Describe what college students go through when they take part in one of your Bridge 2 Business programmes
The students at the Colleges get involved in a number of ways to help them get inspired, connected and supported into business. The main activity are our Inspire ‘EM sessions – These are Enterprising Masterclasses for young people to meet with and learn from successful role models – ‘Local Heroes’. They are held within College classes to suit the needs of college courses.
In addition they might get involved in a Bridge 2 Business Challenge – Our Bridge 2 Business Challenges provide fun and beneficial opportunities in support of Inspire ‘EM events. Our challenges offer students funding, with which to co-ordinate the planning and management of an Enterprise activity, leading to potential SQA accredited training in support of their studies.
Q5. Bridge 2 Business offers college students first hand opportunities to engage with entrepreneurial role models known as Local Heroes. Tell us about these role models and the type of advice/assistance they offer.
Our Local Heroes are very important to Bridge 2 Business. As well as telling their story through the section on the website they also can get involved in supporting some of the challenges we run in college, perhaps giving an insight to their entrepreneurial journey and inspiring the next generation. Generally they are still in early business stages as this is most relevant to the audience.
Q6. Can you tell us of any success stories from Bridge 2 Business that have completed your programme?
There are many stories from Bridge 2 Business that are a success in differing ways. Whether it is the students who has learned new skills and understanding about business who goes on to work in an organisation in a more entrepreneurial way or whether it is someone like RENATAS LORENZO LUZAITIS who has gone on to set up his own business when leaving college and starting into University – success comes in many shapes!
Q7. From your experience, what are the most common problems startups face?
I don’t like to see things as a problem and this is what we try to encourage in the mind-set of young people – more so as a barrier or a challenge to be worked through or around. That said, the main challenges they face are still around lack of financial capital and human capital through a lack of a network that someone older may have. That is why we encourage them to validate their ideas through market testing face to face or online through platforms such as Etsy.
Q8. How important do you think having a website is for a startup business?
In my mind, being online in some form is vital for all young businesses. Again, the shape of the online presence will vary to meet needs, however, a good clear, simple to use website goes a long way for any new business. Whether it is a brochure of their work, a route to be contacted by or a route to direct sales it brings about a sense of professionalism that people now expect.
Q9. Do you think there are enough resources, funding opportunities, grants, etc to help new businesses get started? How easy is it for them to access?
There is a whole raft of support out there for new start-ups in Scotland – in fact we are very fortunate to be in Scotland and have the entrepreneurial eco system that we have. Finance is not always the key to taking the first steps and having someone to listen to and to discuss ideas with is so important in the early days!
Q10. What’s it like being the Fundraising Manager at Young Enterprise Scotland (YES)? Describe your typical day.
It’s great being fundraising manager at Young Enterprise Scotland, I love it. I am a people person, a social butterfly and very creative – some of the key skills required for fundraising.
My typical day, well that is a tough one to describe as each day is different; another part of the job that I love.
Take my day yesterday for example, I always start my day listening to an inspirational you-tube video about fundraising and enterprise, to see what new ideas I can bring to YES. When I arrived at work I had a meeting with the Chief Executive of YES, Geoff Leask, to discuss my plans for the coming week. That meeting turned into an inspiring hour chat about the ‘YES message’ that we want to tell donors and supporter, because without them we wouldn’t be able to do what we do here at YES. (So a big shout out and thanks to all our supporters – we truly appreciate it).
Then, it was some desk time to write applications to Trust and Foundations to ask for support of one of our four programmes: YES Academy, YES Learning, Bridge 2 Business and Company Programme. I really enjoy getting some silent time to sit down and immerse myself into an application and tell the trustees about one of the many success stories of Young Enterprise Scotland.
After that, a nutritious lunch to keep me sustained and going throughout the day. Then, and this was my favourite part of the day, I was meeting with one of our successful entrepreneurs and supporters; hearing about the impact that Young Enterprise Scotland has had on his life. I will use this valuable meeting as an example of the work that we do when I am our networking with new people and nurturing new supporters.
Q11. How difficult is it raising funds for Young Enterprise Scotland (YES)?
Super question; the optimist in me says ‘it is not difficult to raise money for YES because we are a superb charity, making a difference to thousands of young people every year, helping them to succeed through enterprise’.
However, in reality it is not that simple. It is sometimes difficult to raise funds for YES because individuals and organisations don’t always realise that we are a charity and are in need of support to enable us to continue to do our work and inspire young people to succeed.
It is my job to get that message out there and let people know that we very much rely on support (whether that be financial, in-kind or voluntary support) from members of the public and organisations. If you are reading this and think ‘I would really like to support a charity that recognises potential in young people and inspires them to succeed’ then please get in touch.
Q12. Of all the projects you’ve been involved with at YES, what has been your favourite?
As I am relatively new to this role, I am still learning about YES and finding my feet as a fundraisers for the charity, which is a very exciting position to be in. As I always say, I am like a sponge absorbing everything right now.
However, if I had to choose, I would say that my favourite project so far is preparing a corporate supporters package for companies, businesses and organisations out there who are supporting (or would like to support) YES. One of our values is ‘collaboration’ and we very much believe in forming partnerships and working together with corporate supporters.
If you are interested in becoming a corporate supporter and finding out more about working together, then please get in touch as I would be delighted to hear from you.
Q13. What advice would you give to somebody thinking of starting their own business?
Get started – don’t spend for ever talking about it, thinking about it and planning it. Get on and do something to help validate your ideas. Start small and learn from doing!
Q14. What are your plans/goals for the next 6 months?
We have significant plans at Young Enterprise Scotland as we look to grow our activity across schools, colleges and community enterprise activities. The skills gained from our activities are so important in today’s world – we will continue to enhance young people’s entrepreneurial mind set, improve their enterprise skills and strengthen their work readiness – exciting times!
Thanks Donna from everyone at Easyspace.
If you want to find out more about Donna and Bridge 2 Business, then click on the links below for more info:
- Twitter – @bridge2business
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