Rory Watts is a web designer by day, an events promoter by night and runs a charity on the side. Good Story was created in the memory of his sister Mimi, whose ambitions of starting her own company were cut short after she tragically died last December. True to her dream, it aims to help young people start their own businesses through funding and advice.
How do you balance your time between your three jobs?
I work on the charity at lunch times, and for a couple of hours on average each week night. I then normally dedicate a day each weekend to it. Luckily I really enjoy working on the charity, so I don’t find it hard to do this. I wouldn’t be able to spend this much time on something I wasn’t passionate about. Staying focused on the task at hand is the single biggest challenge I have had to face. I am constantly distracted by ideas that relate to the other jobs. While the temptation is to quickly switch tasks, I tend to get a lot more done if I stay completely focused on one task for at least half an hour.
Do your colleagues in your regular job know about your side project?
Yes, they have been very supportive. Some have offered their help in their fields of expertise and management would like to direct some of their corporate social responsibility budget towards the charity. It’s heart-warming to have the support of so many people both inside and outside of work.
You set up Good Story. How did it first come about?
I came up with the idea whilst out in France by the hospital bedside of my sister Mimi Watts. She died five days after a snowboarding accident in December last year, at the beginning of the ski season. She was a really talented clothing designer and dreamed of starting her own snowboarding label out in Chamonix. I wanted to make something positive of the awful situation facing me and my family, so I decided that the best way to do this would be to start a charity that helped other young people in her situation to start their own business.
What skills did you already have, and what did you need to learn?
I’m a web designer by day and an events promoter by night, so I’m able to apply these skills towards marketing and promoting the charity. What I didn’t know was how to officially set up a charity. There is so much paperwork to do and without help it’s really hard to work out where to start – for example, there are several different types of charity your organisation can become. I had to read through all the documentation to learn the difference between each of these options before being able to make a decision.
What has the response been like so far?
Incredible. On the first day of our website going live we received 890 visitors. We have over 600 likes on Facebook and have received numerous applications for help. The publicity is almost entirely down to the tragic backstory of the loss of my sister, but the news has spread far and wide because of the fact that we have turned such a sad situation in to something positive for other people.
Describe your role on a day-to-day basis…
My role involves almost everything to do with running a business (or charity). I manage the website and social media pages, coordinate meetings between all the trustees, delegate projects to regional committees around the country, respond to applications for help, respond to applications to become a mentor, and constantly seek out new opportunities for the charity through networking and advertising.
What was the hardest part, business-wise, in the early stages?
The hardest part was getting registered. For us, it was a chicken and egg situation: we needed an income of £5,000 to register as a charity, but a lot of people would only donate if we were registered. PayPal, for example, wouldn’t give us our money until we could give them a registration number. We therefore had to make a number of alternative donation options available to people to ensure that we could receive £5,000 to our bank account through other channels in order to release our PayPal balance.
Do you have other people helping out?
Yes, we have six trustees made up of family and friends, all with different skill sets. We also have volunteer teams in different towns and cities across the country who dedicate some of their time to promoting the charity.
Where will Good Story ideally be in ten years?
I hope that we’ll be employing a team of people full time and that the majority of our candidates are self-sufficient and happy doing what they love.
What top three tips would you have for readers who perhaps want to run a charity on the side?
1. You don’t need to be registered to start operating. We started fundraising and marketing ourselves from day one and we’re still waiting for our documentation to come through the post.
2. As I mentioned earlier, manage your time effectively.
3. Don’t rely on people’s generosity for too long. Our initial donations have slowed down now and we need to give people more of a reason to get involved.