Five years and counting…
For this week's installment, our founder Beth has picked up her metaphorical pen and written a blog reflecting on the first five years of PIE. So get yourself a cuppa, and enjoy!
Today I sit here a little bit bewildered to be honest about the fact that PIE is now 5. Five years. Wow. The last five years have flown by in the blink of an eye – yet I also can not remember life before I had the honour of running this social enterprise.
Back in the Autumn of 2017, I attended a number of Business Start Up courses. I’ll be honest – I had absolutely zero idea of how to start or run a company, and these courses helped me not only focus on what I needed to do, but also have the confidence that I COULD run a company! One of the key things I remember from the first of these courses though, was the stark statistic that we were told about how few businesses would make it to Year 3. And here we are completing Year 5.
When PIE first started, it was just me for the first couple of years. This meant that my own and the company identities and journeys became intrinsically interlinked. This has both made the highs amazingly high, and the lows excruciatingly difficult. I have felt every moment – and I am still to decide if this is a positive or a negative part of being an entrepreneur. Over the last three years we have grown the team (there is now a core group of seven of us – SEVEN!) which has helped enrich our offer, and ensure that the lines between myself and PIE are a little more clearly defined. The team I have around me are phenomenal – I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to have helped to take PIE on the next part of it’s journey. Both professionally and personally, they are a dream team to have onboard.
When I reflect on what we have achieved, I feel an enormous sense of pride and honour about what I now get to call ‘work’. We have supported over 4500 people across the North West since January 2018, including supporting young people, women and families through the darkest parts of the Covid 19 pandemic. We’ve developed programmes that have made a real difference to young people’s lives, being the starting point for them to move into successful careers. We have worked with women who have been at breaking point, and helped them build back to a position of being ready to work again. We have worked with whole families and seen their children grow up and move on to the next chapters of their lives. We now employ three other members of staff (as well as myself), and have contracted numerous other individuals and companies to support the projects we deliver. Someone said to me the other week that none of this work would ever have happened if I hadn’t ‘taken the plunge’ and decided on a rainy March day that I was going to resign as a teacher. That’s a pretty big thing to get your head around – the fact that one personal life decision that I made has gone on to have a ripple effect on so many others.
Thinking about writing this blog has made me reflect on what I am proudest of, and what the best bits have been. The truth is – I can’t pick one. The last five years have been full of little moments of pride and joy, of fist bumps and squeals of excitemnt. But when I think about what has had the biggest impact on both myself and PIE's development, it has to be the connections and relationships that have been formed.
Years ago, my Dad told me that you should never stick at a job because of the people you are working with. He said you would continue to maintain the connections and friendships that were important, and go on to develop new ones once you moved on. This was the part of starting it alone that scared me the most – the isolation and the lack of ‘people’ around me. However, I have been blessed to not only develop an amazing support network of fellow social entrepreneurs, educators, mentors and just general good eggs – but to have formed some genuinely amazing new friendships. Some of the people who have entered my life over the last five years I can no longer imagine life without. The relationships maintained from my ‘old life’ as a teacher have been invaluable, but the new ones have helped harness the development of a sustainable business (as well as keep me sane and offer understanding ears and shoulders!). My life feels richer because of these people. We are a company that deals in people, and positive relationships are at the absolute forefront of everything we do. We work with, and we work for other people – and I feel blessed by the people who have worked with and for us to help make a difference to the lives of others over the last five years.
So – what will the next five years hold? I hope further growth – we are launching our first programmes across the Pennines in January 2023 (Leeds here we come!), and are looking to expand the work we deliver into primary schools more widely. I hope that we can soon offer more employment opportunities and develop even more collaborations with other amazing social enterprises. But most importantly to me, is that we continue to do a little more good every day. Making a difference across the communities we work with, and generally helping make the lives and futures of those we work with a little brighter.
Thank you to each and every person who has played a small part in the first 5 years of PIE. You will never know how grateful I am. Here’s to the people who have made my pipe dream of a company a lasting reality. And here’s to the next 5 years and beyond.