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Celia Hodson to new social entrepreneurs: “Go in with honesty and transparency”

by Mirabelle Morah / August 2021

Celia Hodson is a multi-award-winning entrepreneur also named Social Entrepreneur of the Year by Entrepreneurial Scotland in 2018, the national winner of the Great British Entrepreneur 2019 and Saltair Inspirational Women 2019 to name a few.

Having been a business executive with extensive experience in leading social change in the UK, Australia, India and Brazil, Celia retired early only to set up a ‘Buy One Give One’ period products social enterprise ⏤ Hey Girls ⏤ in 2018. Three years on and her trailblazing organisation has donated over 18 million period products to UK girls and women via a network of 200 donation partners! In an interview with SEWF, Celia shares her top tips on how to secure successful partnerships, how to employ the best team and SEWF’s impact on social entrepreneurs.

For those starting a social enterprise, what is your top tip for securing successful partnerships and collaborations?

To really make the most of a partnership, social entrepreneurs need to go in with honesty and transparency. They also need to understand that it’s a two-way relationship; it is give and take. All the best relationships are reciprocal; over the years I’ve found the best collaborative partnerships take both time and effort to establish.

What would you do differently if you had a chance to change things?

Looking back, I would have probably taken a bit longer to set up more of the business systems and processes before going live. When we launched it took off very quickly, which was great. But there was an element of us having to then build the plane whilst flying it. We had to retrospectively put policies in place, working things out as we went. However, sometimes that is the exciting part of social enterprise!

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Celia Hodson HeadshotAnd what is one top principle you live your life by?

Always employ people for the cultural and value fit first, with skills second. Skills can always be taught. We employ the best team in town because our business relies wholly on our people. We invest heavily in our people with training and development as we care about the wider impact we are making including employment opportunities – not just our core goal of helping to eliminate period poverty.

In what ways has SEWF influenced you and your work? And why would you encourage others to join SEWF 2021?

Being part of SEWF gives social entrepreneurs the opportunity to look up and lookout. Usually, social entrepreneurs are so busy focusing on running their businesses, they don’t have time to explore and grow as much as they’d like to. The SEWF network gives you access to global best practices and innovations. It also provides an opportunity to think about social impact in a different way, about the longer-term implications. I’ve also enjoyed the case studies around the innovation – for example how businesses have pivoted during the pandemic, doing some incredible agile things. SEWF is a powerful place for peer learning.

Are there any new projects right now from Hey Girls to share with the SEWF community?

We have some exciting plans for international growth in the pipeline. We’ve spent the last three years fine-tuning the ‘buy one, donate one’ business model for Hey Girls, making sure it is robust, transparent and measurable. Now is the time to see if we can roll out our offering to other countries, whilst partnering with local stakeholders. All we can say at the moment is… watch this space!

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Celia Hodson is a 2021 SEWF Speaker. Designed by and for social enterprises, #SEWF2021 is the event for the global social enterprise community. Join this event to connect with thousands of leading social entrepreneurs, access world-class content and be part of the world’s largest social enterprise conversation! Get your ticket.

Mirabelle Morah is the community and communications manager at SEWF