Saeed Atcha is the founder of Xplode Magazine - and he’s doing big things. In just seven years, Xplode went from an initial grant of £300 to social value of £1.3 Million. This was worked out as part of One Young World’s Impact Report, developed with PwC.
So how did it happen? Xplode Magazine is an award winning charity supporting young people across Greater Manchester. A while back, an initial grant of £300 from Go Think Big allowed Saeed and his team to get the idea off the ground. With the money they were able to test ideas, get the team together and put plans into action. For Saeed, his involvement with Go Think Big really grew his network. He said; “once we got that funding, it was great to be a part of that wider Think Big network”. After moving on to Level 2 funding Saeed had a mentor, Amy who worked in O2′s Leeds office. When speaking about Amy, he says she was “a lifeline when I didn’t really know what to do.” Saeed also highly valued O2’s involvement, expressing that, “when people saw O2 backing us, Xplode immediately gained traction and it was something they were ready to be a part of.”
The funding changed everything. “What that funding allowed us to do was to actually move forward, it helped us to print the first edition of the magazine and we were able to get it into schools” Saeed commented. At the moment, Saeed is working with his board of directors and strategically reviewing what Xplode does and how they do it. At the moment they are based in Bolton and Bury but hopefully want to expand into all regions of Manchester. The new strategy will consist of six short term, high impact projects that young people will design and lead. Our teams will be completely free to do what they want and how they want to do it. Alongside Xplode, Saeed is a trustee at Step Up To Serve, and a trustee of The Young Manchester. Continuing with Xplode and turning it into a career is, as Saeed says, his way of “putting back in what was given to me seven years ago.” Have a social action idea? Read all about where it could take you with Saeed’s advice.
1. It allows to you take your passion from idea to impact.
Saeed was annoyed by the negative press coverage about young people and wanted to do something about it. Rather than taking a back seat, he wanted to take back control and have a part in owning that narrative. All of this came from wanting to improve the perceptions of young people and give them something to do in the media sector.
2. It teaches you to take back that power.
Saeed began Xplode when he was in year 11 and recalls getting turned away with red tape everywhere because he wasn’t 18. “I’ve always been quite a rebellious person and a disruptor, if people were to challenge me then I absolutely wanted to challenge them back and do it anyway” he said. If Saeed learnt to take no for an answer, Xplode wouldn’t be where it is today.
3. You learn to be brave.
Saeed says that risk-taking is a huge part of what he does, and a part of that means asking the right people, he said; “Whenever I see an opportunity I will usually go to the top.” Shortly after being granted the funding for Xplode, Saeed decided he wanted a base where people could work from. Rather than calling the first number he saw, he reached out to the Director of Regeneration in the council, dropped them an introductory email and within 24 hours they got back to him and offered a viewing on a property which they were initially able to use for free. Don’t be scared of people saying no. Approaching decision makers is daunting, of course, but how amazing will it feel when they do say yes?
4. You get used to challenges.
That being said, it wasn’t always plain sailing for Xplode. Saeed and the team learnt the hard way when a website development company failed to stick to their brief and then refused to give the money back when they first started out. Saeed was only 16 at the time, and though now they have a legal person to deal with these issues, back then this took a huge percentage of their grant. This forced them to explore what to do in difficult situations early on and enabled them to work on their risk management. They also realised – it’s OK to ask for help. Amy Dorham, their O2 mentor, was able to advise them how to move forward and they were able to get the money back.
5. You trust your instinct.
The team started off by getting branded t-shirts and volunteering at the local supermarket – this helped them to be seen by the very community they were looking to make a difference in. By starting off at a grassroots level, with all hands on deck, they made contacts and started building their network. In order to get into schools, they wrote to the Director of Children’s Services. “Social media wasn’t huge for us back then, what really helped was getting into the right places and speaking to the right people” Saeed said.
6. You get supporters to rally.
Local places of faith helped Xplode out with meeting rooms before they could afford to book them, even though Xplode never had any contact with them before! The beautiful thing about bringing the community together is that you find that people love to help out where they can.
7. You learn to balance your time, without realising.
Saeed started this project whilst still in school. He says “I’m not quite sure how I managed my time – more clear on task management rather time management.” He found it useful to take days out here and there to just focus on getting on top of things, which means saying no sometimes. He also says that he was “very careful not to harm any social time.” You CAN start up your own business without working constantly – be sure to take that time out.
8. You lead.
The biggest thing Saeed took away from this experience was leadership and problem-solving. He says, “If I had a pound for every problem I’ve solved I’d be able to fund Xplode for the next fifty years!” On a day-to-day basis, he is still working on his people skills as he has managed all liaison with every stakeholder; government, directors, charities, faith organisations, corporates. He’s also had to hone his writing skills because of the reporting requirements and he now sees himself as a much more measured person. As part of an independent review with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, he had a look at other countries where people are required to volunteer and found that it doesn’t work because they don’t understand the benefits. (it also isn’t technically volunteering if you’re required, but anyway). With regards to real volunteer work, however, Saeed says: “When you’ve done work experience, though it’s great, everyone else out there has done that too, but when you’ve volunteered, it really makes you stand out.”
9. You are able to look forward.
What motivates Saeed is the future. “Seeing the potential of what we can do, and what we’ve already done amazingly” he said. “And we’re really just scratching the surface with 1.4 million.”
Like this? how about…