Sharon Craighead started their social enterprise Chattersense CIC when they noticed how few services there were available for children and families who disabilities or conditions that are not easily ‘treatable’.
Chattersense CIC seeks to enable ASN children to have the opportunity to access sensory play and group activities. In doing this Chattersense aims to help the families of children who have Additional Support Needs (ASN) to receive direct ‘hands on’ treatment and therapeutic play opportunities for children to develop their social, physical, and emotional skills while empowering families to support themselves and each other.
With no previous experience running a business or working independently, having worked in the NHS for over 25 years, Sharon sought advice from Just Enterprise. Business advisor Brian McMillan helped to consolidate their thought process and establish a clear initial concept from which to develop into a business. Brian helped Sharon to map out her first steps and gain clarity between the charitable and business aspects of the social enterprise.
At the beginning I was unable to discern the differences between who my clients were and who my beneficiaries would be – understanding this basic difference was the crux of me being able to transfer the idea into a working business venture.
We caught up with Sharon to hear more about her social enterprise start-up.
What was your inspiration for setting up your social enterprise?
There are very few services for children and families who have disabilities that have conditions that are not easily “treatable” ie where the intervention available would only be considered short term solutions or where the conditions are minimising functional ability across the board. We do not depend on a diagnosis for treatment and we offer hands on treatment that is currently unavailable elsewhere.
Do you have any tips for social entrepreneurs starting up?
I think going in with an “open mind” and being prepared for thoughts and ideas to be challenged and accept this as a constructive learning experience.
If possible have some insight into the “Social Enterprise” mindset ie try not to be idealistic but consider the sustainability of your projects and have a clear understanding of the difference between “charitable” and “charity”.
Accept that all feedback is there to help you succeed and that the support and advisers are there to help – no question is stupid and the more help you ask for the more help you get!
What are your plans for the future of Chattersense CIC?
I am hoping to continue to develop my CIC to include a mobile sensory bus (which was my initial thinking) – I want to have lots of contracts with social services and other charitable organisations and training programs that we can licence and sell onto others.
The support and funding from Firstport has enabled me to start to generate income that will then be fed back into the company to help us continue to develop and expand. We want families and professionals to recognise our “brand” and know that we can support children with Additional Support Needs and their families. They will recognise a quality service that is there to help children achieve their maximum potential and make “sense” of their world.