Interview with Melody Hossaini, Founder of InspirEngage International
Melody Hossaini, who was born in Iran and grew up in Sweden and the UK, set up InspirEnage International with €0 and a Hotmail email account back in 2009. Two years later, she became famous during BBC’s show ‘The Apprentice’ where she was the first ever social entrepreneurs who made it onto the show. Since then, Hossaini won several awards, such as the ‘Woman of the Future Awards 2008’ and the ‘New European Woman Influencer’ of 2015 awarded by UNITEE – The New European Business Confederation, an award to recognise and celebrate the contributions of “New Europeans”, Europeans with a migrant background. Today, InspirEngage International is one of the leading organisations in skills training and people development, with a portfolio spanning over 100 countries, having reached 1 million people. Moreover, the programmes ‘Social Enterprise Revolution’ and ‘Primary Revolution! are the first hands on social enterprise programmes that are embedded into the curriculum of schools, colleges and universities in the UK.
In this interview, Melody Hossaini shares some insights into her motivations to start InspireEngage International, tells us more about the different programmes and gives some advise for aspiring social entrepreneurs.
1. Please tell us a bit about yourself and InspirEngage International!
InspirEngage International is a social enterprise focused on developing skills and mindset in people and organisations to help them to do well by doing good! Our InspirEngage Bootcamps cause an ‘energy wave disruption’ to provoke thought and help people to feel more confident, happier along with the practical skills needed to achieve their goals. We work with the education sector, business sector and individuals. We’ve been honoured to help people into work, launch successful businesses with a purpose and helped institutions to be more socially conscious.
2. What motivated you to start InspirEngage International?
I began volunteering in my community and co-founded a youth organisation at the age of 13. I completed a law degree but decided that if I had volunteered to make a difference for 11 years then it should be my career. InspirEngage International was built organically with a vision to offer the training and support people really need to make the change they want in themselves – that’s the long term benefit.
3. You run programmes with schools, colleges and universities. Can you tell us a bit more about it, please?
We work extensively with the education sector – all the way from primary school to University – ranging from Oxford University to some of the most struggling institutions where there was low motivation and little perspective about the breadth of opportunities available.
- InspirEngage Skills Bootcamp – to awaken ambition in students, to equip them with the essential social and life skills alongside academia and make them more aware of their communities and kindness.
- Social Enterprise Revolution – UK’s first complete hands-on social enterprise programme embedded into the curriculum. We help make learning real for students. Through an 8 week Bootcamp programme, we help students turn their area of study into a social enterprise which earns them money, makes a difference to their community and is assessed as part of the curriculum. We’ve seen young people who study construction go into their community and fix something for someone vulnerable, earn a few quid and for them to be graded on their work. This is the future of education! Info here.
- Primary Revolution – We train 4-11 year-olds to develop their social skills with social enterprise! The young students run real social projects whilst using Maths, Literacy, IT and core curriculum areas. See video of this in a few mins here!
4. You also run ‘Startup & Stilettos – the Future is Female’, a 2-month programme supporting women from complex background in the Middle East. What happens in these 2 months?
Not just for the Middle East – we’ve run 10 editions here in the UK. We wanted to design a programme especially for women. We train adult women in an intense 2 month programme (or shorter express version) to firstly sharpen their sense of confidence, their business plans to launch heir own social enterprise and become economically independent. We’ve seen so many incredible stories of women who were victims of domestic violence, homelessness or simply women who wanted a change in their career. We connect them to inspirational mentors and it’s an honour to be a part of their story.
5. Most social entrepreneurs I meet struggle with their business model. How do you generate income to sustain your business and yourself?
InspirEngage International tailor-designs services that fulfils an objective and achieves impact. Once happy with the programme, we deliver it and charge a fee. This fee generates an income, of which some of the profits go towards further helping the people who need us.
6. What do you find most rewarding about your job?
Seeing the journey people go on. Growth, Hope where there wasn’t any before and when they achieve the thing which they began believing is possible.
7. What difficulties or challenges did or do you experience as a social entrepreneur?
You become passionate and run on passion a lot of the time. It’s tempting to want to do everything but I had to tell myself to focus and do a few things very well. You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.
8. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What’s your vision or dream for the future?
Make our courses much more accessible to individuals.
9. Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?
Research your concept, put it in a 1 pager with your mission and exactly what you will offer. Run it by people in the field – but most importantly – get out there and get started! Talk to people and have a good energy! People don’t remember the details but they remember how you made them feel and that’s vital.