Kaleidoscope Counselling CIC
Cat Johnston started Kaleidoscope Counselling with a mission to provide informed, affirmative, and accessible counselling to gender and sexual diverse individuals in Scotland.
Kaleidoscope Counselling offers individual counselling to members of the LGBTQ+ community, aged 12 and up. Across mental health issues, those who identify as LGBTQ+ are consistently overrepresented and often feel unable to access the support they need.
We set up to be as accessible as possible, working inclusively and providing specialist support to those who otherwise would be unable to access individual therapy. We want to create lasting improvements to emotional well-being for the LGBTQ+ community.
How we got started
Setting up as a social enterprise as opposed to a for-profit business was a no-brainer for us. Not only did it better align with our values and overall mission, but it allowed us to engage with and nourish the strengths and potential of our community.
We received invaluable start-up support through Just Enterprise from Brian McMillan at Firstport.
Brian’s knowledge of legal structures, boards, and marketing was extremely beneficial to us. Many of our initial conversations were around finding the confidence to keep going and push through some of the fears and anxieties around expanding our social enterprise.
Having someone with Brian’s experience and knowledge helped to keep us on the right path and ensured that our model was sustainable. Knowing that he was there to answer questions or point us in the right direction was a real safety net and something for which we continue to be grateful!
We advertised for board members as we wanted to ensure we were reaching people outside our existing networks who had the skills and the interest we wanted.
We tried to share the opportunity for youth work organisations and university LGBTQ+ societies to join our board. Though we work with adults of all ages, most of our service users are young people and it’s vital to us that this is reflected in our decision-making.
We were able to recruit three new directors, each with different experience and skills, but all with a shared energy and passion for the work Kaleidoscope does.
We incorporated as a Community Interest Company (CIC) in 2019 and opened our doors to clients in 2020.
Our funding journey
Talking to Brian and our Relationship Manager, Karen Fitzsimmons, gave us the confidence to succeed with our funding applications. Like Brian, Karen was supportive and encouraging but also realistic.
Receiving Start It funding allowed us to cover rent for most of our first year, creating stability and security. We were also able to create an inviting and safe counselling space for our service users.
Start It helped us to begin offering our counselling services. In our first year, we offered over 400 counselling sessions to LGBTQ+ individuals, 81% of those were individuals who would not otherwise have been able to afford therapeutic support.
With the support of Brian and Karen, we created a clear business plan to apply for Build It funding. This was the first time we had written a business plan in such extensive detail and having the guidance of someone who knew what was needed and how to effectively communicate what we do was a key factor in our successful application.
Build It funding has allowed us to fund a salary for a year and expand the services we offer, including offering support without the need for a waiting list, and delivering training supervision and consultancy to other professionals. Expanding our services allows us to be financially sustainable and means we can continue to offer our much-needed services.
We have maintained a relationship with Karen. She has been supportive through some of the challenges we have recently met and has been reassuring through the inevitable ups and downs of running an organisation.
Firstport support has been game-changing for us. We wouldn’t be where we are and wouldn’t have been able to offer our services for the past three years now without the financial and business support from Firstport.
Do you have any advice for other budding social entrepreneurs thinking of applying to Firstport?
It’s hard to be your own cheerleader but you as the founder and leader of the organisation are absolutely your social enterprise’s biggest resource. Share what you can bring to the table and really emphasise why you are the right person for Firstport to invest in. Your idea wouldn’t exist without you.
What’s next on the horizon for Kaleidoscope Counselling CIC?
We have recently signed a new lease to stay in our existing space and commit to continue to support the LGBTQ+ community. We also plan to offer therapeutic group work in the new year. Group work feels particularly powerful within the LGBTQ+ community and for trans youth at this time as it can be a space to foster healing and wellbeing through connection and shared experience.