Making an Impact - IWD 2019

by Stephanie Anderson, Scottish Enterprise


A focus on impact is coming to the fore of general consciousness and rather than just being a buzz word, a nice to do or something purely associated with social enterprises, it’s becoming clear that purpose and impact is everybody’s business.

It’s not just profit for purpose – the positive impact you make can be on a personal level, on your customers, team, family, business or on a social or economic level and it all counts. The opportunities for making an impact are far and wide.

The last year has seen a fresh wave of ambitious business leaders come into the spotlight in Scotland for making an impact with what they do. Not just what they do, but how they do it. The Unlocking Ambition programme is studded with an array of these impressive individuals doing just that – from bringing clean, safe drinking water to rural communities across the world, disrupting the boutique drinks industry, providing tech solutions for the medical sector transforming patients lives, helping companies embed a purpose driven approach into their business through to championing the Creative Industries in Scotland. Across a plethora of sectors, these business leaders are walking the walk and delivering real impact from the individual to the societal in a values-based, inclusive, people-focused and sustainable way.

On the entrepreneurial journey, making an impact can be the mission and end point but it can also be a thread that is woven all the way through.

No matter what your mission or business, everybody’s entrepreneurial journey is different (and often a rollercoaster). It’s not easy. The dedication and resilience required to pursue your goals and keep your mission in mind through the tough times cannot be underestimated. You can only be successful in making an impact if you are truly inspired, dedicated and embrace a culture of constant learning. Wider impacts can be difficult to measure so it’s also important to take the time to reflect back on your achievements and be proud of your success along the way. This in turn can have the result of inspiring and positively impacting on others when your learnings and stories are shared.

I spoke with some of the stars of the Unlocking Ambition programme who are out there doing amazing things making an impact in Scotland and internationally, to find out about their learnings, achievements and inspiration this year …


Stephanie Terreni Brown, Clean Water Wave / @cleanwaterwave

Stephanie Terreni Brown, Clean Water Wave

The biggest thing I’ve learnt this year…

“Keep up that energy! Running a start-up means I’m busy all the time and if I’m not physically on the go, my head is always fit to bursting with things to do. 'Just keep swimming’ is my new motto.”

What’s inspired me most has been…

“Two things: knowing that if we succeed in rolling out our technology, safe drinking water will be available where it never has been. That is huge motivation. Also, the other businesses in the Unlocking Ambition cohort are incredibly inspiring - I love learning from them, hearing what they’ve been up to, and knowing that if I’m finding something difficult chances are someone else is too.”

What I’m proudest of…

“Setting up our trial at Scottish Water site in Bo’Ness. It’s taken a lot of planning and will hopefully be a critical springboard for our success for 2019/20.”


Hannah Fisher, The Start-Up Drinks Lab / @Drinks_Lab

Medeia Cohen, Cultural Enterprise Office and Hannah Fisher, The Start-Up Drinks Lab

The biggest thing I’ve learnt this year…

“My good and bad behaviour traits that come from being a strong yellow in my Insights profile. It has been so eye opening particularly with how I can amend my natural behaviours to have better working relationships with Reds, Blues and Greens.”

What’s inspired me most has been…

“The stories and experiences of other entrepreneurs. There is nothing more inspiring than the daily tales from others also trying to build a business. No matter the industry or size, the challenges and rollercoaster affect don't change and that gives me both confidence and inspiration as we are part of a small, quirky community that can support each other.”

What I’m proudest of…

“It sounds silly as was just one day but I am most proud of our launch night which took place 8 months after we began trading. It was an accumulation of 2 years of solid work with our heads buried and it allowed us to come up for air, showing our family, friends, clients, media and supporters what we had built. We had worried about asking people to come out on a winters night 30 miles from the city to an industrial estate but we were blown away when 131 people walked through the door. It was a real feel good night and gave everyone in our team a real sense of pride.”


Jo Halliday, Talking Medicines / @TMedicines

Joan Johnston, Bespoke Fabrics and Jo Halliday, Talking Medicines

The biggest thing I’ve learnt this year…

“The importance of culture as a factor in determining success. It will happen anyway and if you don’t spend the right time planning and nurturing it with your team to be true to your mission and values then you are less likely to be successful and fulfilled.”

What’s inspired me most has been…

“Listening to other founders. Through Unlocking Ambition and visiting MIT in Boston there has been an opportunity to hear more from others who have succeeded or not and been very willing to share their stories. People are very kind with their time and that is inspirational in itself.”

What I’m proudest of…

“The way that Talking Medicines is hitting our benchmarks. We set ourselves high quality benchmarks which have taken time to set up and it is difficult at times in the pre-revenue stage to see the light coming through but now we can see the benefits from all of the building blocks that we have put in place. 2019 has already been a good year.”


Lisa Thomson, Purpose HR / @Purpose_HR

Lisa Thomson, Purpose HR

The biggest thing I’ve learnt this year…

The importance of building a strong team and realising I don’t need to try to do everything myself, trusting in and benefiting from the strengths and inputs of others around me and how much more we can do together collectively. I’ve also learnt that although not everyone will share and live your same values, but that if you know and are clear on what those are, you can ensure to build a team around you that is aligned and to focus energies and time on those who lift you up and the positives, not on looking backwards.”

What’s inspired me most has been…

“Stories and journeys we have had the chance to learn from in the Unlocking Ambition masterclasses including role models who have demonstrated resilience, learned from mistakes and challenges and failures and gone on to even bigger and better things.”

What I’m proudest of…

“I’m most proud of the reputation and positive feedback our business gets from our customers and clients - who remain our biggest source of inbound referrals and introductions as we continue to grow our portfolio of clients. What’s great to see is that as we have grown and brought more people into the team who have a shared ethos and commitment to delivering for our clients, the reputation of our business has only strengthened which is testament to the strength of the team.”


Debbie Wake, MyWay Digital Health / @MyWayDigital

Rachel Bews, ALICAS and Debbie Wake, MyWay Digital Health

The biggest thing I’ve learnt this year…

“The importance of focus and team. When you are trying to scale a business, it is easy to get distracted from the core mission with other opportunities. I find it very hard to say ‘no’ to things ! but necessary to build a high impact business that fulfils its purpose. Also a business will fly or fail by it team. After some heartache, we’ve got a great team of people pulling together bound by the same motivation and values and delivering high quality product. Future recruitment will be really important to our success.”

What’s inspired me most has been…

The feedback and inspiration from the users of our product. Making a difference to people with diabetes at scale is what drives us in our business (and is what gets me out of bed in the morning!). Many people with diabetes and health care professionals have given their time and effort to feedback and help us develop our product because, like us, they are passionate about the mission. When the boring stuff and wider politics are getting us down, remembering this and the community that we are supporting really helps!”

What I’m proudest of...

“I am really proud of so much of what we have achieved this year- we’ve all been working so hard- scaling the team to around 15 people, turning over almost £1m in our second year of trading and getting external credibility and validation through awards (e.g. Women in Innovation), Innovate UK grants (including a £1m grant to lead on a multi partner AI in diabetes project) and starting to deliver on a number of contracts in England. A lot of people doubted that we could replicate our achievements in Scotland (previously through the University and the NHS) in any other setting, so go-live of our data integrated service in Somerset in 2018 was a big moment in proving that our business model could work. Being selected to be part of the NHS innovation accelerator cohort and Scotland’s Unlocking Ambition programme have been important enablers in equipping us with the knowledge and networks to help our business grow.”


Rachael Brown, Cultural Enterprise Office / @CEOScotland

Rachael Brown, Cultural Enterprise Office

The biggest thing I have learned this year……

I never knew I had as much resilience as I do, I have had to re-build an organisation and maintain a good service all under the back drop of uncertainty. I never realised how lonely and challenging that would be, but I was motivated and inspired to carry on by people’s belief in me, seeing the awesome businesses on the Unlocking Ambition programme and listening to the creative businesses we work with. I am a big believer that Scotland can be the most entrepreneurial society in the world, as for me that means being bold, creative, proactive in problem solving, caring about your fellow human beings and striving every day to do good and be better. I think Scotland has it’s own definition of entrepreneurship and its rooted in social impact as much as economic impact.”

What’s inspired me most has been

The one thing without a doubt that inspired me the most this year was having the privilege of hearing Michelle Obama speak in Edinburgh. She has left a lasting impact on me, she is thoughtful, caring and strategic. She knows who she is and has had the privilege of being one of the most important civil servants the world has had, she has delivered on that with grace, humility, humour and smarts. You could feel the entire room being lifted when she spoke, it was totally awesome.”

There is an increased awareness of doing business for good and using your business as an opportunity to do good. But also, just by sharing stories and living out the culture of giving back – you can often have more impact that you could imagine. So a huge thank you to the wonderful entrepreneurs above for sharing with me.

We are incredibly lucky to have such a range of inspirational role models in Scotland out there doing their thing with such passion, innovation, integrity and openness. Whilst making impact with their awesome businesses, the learning they can share with the rest of us – inspiring us all on our own individual journeys and rollercoasters is truly impactful in itself.