If You Think You’re Too Small to Make a Difference

I have never known what I wanted to do when I grew up – and I still don’t!

Throughout my life this hasn’t been seen as a good thing – in general we’re told to have a goal, have a plan and work hard to achieve it. But this just isn’t me. I’m passionately curious, I get excited by new people and new ways of thinking – and I get bored really easily.

When I was about 15 the young people in our village were tasked with raising money for charity. So we got together and all the usual ideas came out – car washing, raffles, etc. But I didn’t want to be doing this week after week, so I thought about what we could do instead. What did people want to buy regularly that teenagers could deliver? So I set up a babysitting service. One number for everyone in the village to ring. 10% of the fee going to charity. And I persuaded all the teenage babysitters to join. It was super successful – and definitely my most profitable business ever as my parents paid the phone bill. And, of course, I got the jobs where they had the best chocolate biscuits! Without knowing it, I’d set up my first social enterprise.

When I left school I bowed to parental pressure and not knowing what I wanted to do I took the ‘traditional’ route of getting a ‘good job’. I worked hard and became a global management consultant. I learnt more than I could possibly have imagined, saw amazing places, worked with household name clients, and super intelligent people. But then overnight it all changed. At the height of the recession in 2008 I was made redundant through no fault of my own.

Freefall… it was horrible. I applied for 100s of jobs and would get to the last round and then the job would be withdrawn.

So my husband asked me to take a break from job hunting for a few weeks. But I don’t know how to do nothing.  I needed to get busy – so I started volunteering and networking. But I couldn’t resist interfering and before I knew it I had a business up and running.

Caption: Melanie doing what she loves – working with charities and smaller businesses to make a difference!

But I didn’t want to ‘beat the competition’ – I wanted to collaborate. I didn’t want to work with big corporations anymore – however socially responsible they were. I wanted to work with charities, social enterprises and smaller businesses who make a real difference in their communities. And I wanted to keep on volunteering. I loved the idea of creating a social enterprise but couldn’t see how that would work for me – I didn’t have a big idea to change the world – but I did want to make a big difference.

And that’s when I discovered that my passionate curiosity is a real strength. I’m a pattern recogniser – I see things in one context and understand how they can be twisted and work in another. I’m a people connector – I instinctively know how introducing people could lead to an exciting collaboration. I join the dots that nobody else sees. I think differently. When other people say ‘why’ – I say ‘why not?’

So I simply got on with it. I shared my skills – like volunteering as a judge on social investment panels. I said yes to most things and spoke out when it mattered – like becoming a female entrepreneurship ambassador representing us at the European Commission and a poverty commissioner for Greater Manchester. I refused to take no for an answer when it didn’t make sense – like creating the award winning North West Women’s Enterprise Day. I joined dots – like suggesting community centres in deprived areas set up children’s nurseries to create a sustainable income stream whilst solving a local challenge. I spoke out when it mattered – like raising awareness of the barriers female entrepreneurs face. I busted myths by helping charities, social enterprises and small businesses to win over £170m in grants and public sector contracts. And I carried on volunteering – including as a Deputy Lieutenant for Greater Manchester.

Caption: Melanie accepting her OBE

I finally realised that my superpowers are helping the people that have the great ideas that will change our world to make them happen faster and better. So whether you’re a social entrepreneur, a charity leader or a business owner I’m the catalyst who can accelerate your growth.

And what have I learnt along the way?

  • Be generous with your time and talents – great things can come from volunteering to help
  • You usually achieve more by collaborating than competing – if you reach out there will be somebody willing to help you
  • When people say you can’t – you probably can 
  • Never be afraid to strike up a conversation – you never know where it will lead
  • Say yes – just because it’s totally unknown it doesn’t mean you won’t love it

And most of all – if you think you’re too small to make a difference, then you’ve never been to bed with a mosquito!

Melanie Bryan OBE DL

Melanie Bryan OBE DL

Honoured with an OBE for her services to Social Enterprise and Women’s Enterprise, Melanie is a multi-award winning entrepreneur, whose accolades include UK Top 50 Business Advisor, National Enterprise Support Champion and being named as one of the Maserati 100 for mentoring and advice.

Different Website - Same Concept!

The Hope Revolution CIC has undergone a rebranding for their donation shops, and you have been automatically re-routed to the new location. 

The items you purchase here are still those needed by your favourite local organisations, and will still be sent directly to them!