In the second of our founders' interview series, I spoke to Sarah Wallbank the founder of Yes Futures.
Megan: Hi Sarah. Please could you tell us a bit about Yes Futures and what you do?
Sarah: Yes Futures is an education charity that delivers extra curricular personal development programmes to students who have been targeted by their school as needing development in confidence and resilience and life skills.
Megan: So what inspired you to start Yes Futures?
Sarah: Multiple things! I’d always had a real passion for extracurricular and I’d always been involved in lots of extra-curricular myself growing up, and also delivering it to other people. From a young age I was a girl guide leader and worked on summer camps, things like that. And I’d always seen real value in that side of education.
Then I went in to the other side of education as a teacher - the academic side - and worked in a secondary school as an English teacher in West London and that just really reaffirmed for me just how important the extra-curricular really was, particularly for disadvantaged kids where they weren’t able to access things like summer camps and music lessons and dance classes, because of the kind of environment they were growing up in and actually they were the ones that needed that more and needed those opportunities to develop their confidence and their motivation and those kind of skills, non-academic skills and obviously weren’t getting it so that’s where the idea came from.
Megan: So how long has Yes Futures been running for now?
Sarah: About four years now - I left teaching in 2011. But we’ve been a charity for about two and a half years.
Megan: And what would you say is the focus for you at the moment?
Sarah: Growth and sustainability. We’ve just launched our programmes across multiple schools at the same time - up until now we’ve only been delivering one at a time. We got lots of resource and funding over the last six months which has enabled us to expand, and the plan is to incrementally expand from that.
We want to be working with three times the number of students by next September and then six times the number of students from that the following September, so that means thinking ahead in terms of staffing we need, what finance we need in place and cash flows and things. We’re recruiting right now for a third team member and trying to get the final finance in place that we need to get ourselves launched.
Megan: It sounds like an exciting time for Yes Futures! What would you say has been your biggest challenge or obstacle so far?
Sarah: The biggest obstacle is lack of time and particularly the time that every founder goes through where you’re not able to pay yourself through your project yet and so you need to source your income from elsewhere. So you’re balancing work with your new project and obviously you can’t pay yourself, so you can’t pay anyone else, you’re relying on volunteers and it just means that there’s a huge amount of work to do with not that much time to do it.
So I think the biggest challenge was getting over that hurdle. That period of time growing the project to the point where you can then pay yourself and then dedicate more time, and take a step back, and start to think about bringing other people in.
Megan: So when you first started were you working another job and trying to establish Yes Futures at the same time?
Sarah: Yes so I was working full time for Teach First. I started to do a couple of pilots whilst I was teaching for Teach First and then I left the school at the end of that academic year and got a job in Teach First Head Office. That was part time and I was also doing part time supply teaching and trying to set up Yes Futures. Basically it was two years of doing part time jobs and mostly that was with Teach First and a few other things, which was good because they were really generous about being flexible with my hours and things.
Megan: And why did you choose to be based at Edspace? What do you think is the biggest benefit of being based here?
Sarah: The best thing about it is the environment we’re in. It’s the space itself and how nice it is to work in, in comparison to other office space for the same amount of money - there’s nowhere else that’s like it. Also the environment in terms of the people who are here, the fact that it’s education focussed. When we first came in, when we were in Camden, we were a little bit worried about the fact that it was education focussed but they weren’t really the same as us - there were lots of companies doing online, teaching resources and things like that which isn’t quite the same as what we’re doing - it’s sort of the other end of education.
We did question how useful the connections would be but I think that was quite naive of us. Actually the connections and things here have been huge and it has been really nice to come and see the bigger picture because before we were in Teach First’s office with a load of other similar charities. So it’s the environment both physically, in a community sense, and the level of support that we get. It’s more than just a desk.
Megan: Thank you very much Sarah and good luck with your projects and with recruiting your third member!
If you want to find out more check out their website http://www.yesfutures.org/