Betknowmore UK is a new social enterprise offering outreach services and providing support and mentoring to people coping with issues around problematic gambling and addiction.
In 2013, Frankie Graham, Director of Betknowmore, attended VAC’s Business Startup For Social Enterprise, Micro Enterprise, Sole Trader course at the Mary Ward Learning Centre.
Q. What’s the background to Betknowmore UK?
The idea for Betknowmore UK came from a mixture of my own personal addiction issues and professional experience. I had a gambling addiction for nearly 20 years. It had an enormously negative impact on me, affecting every single aspect of my general well being and lifestyle. In 2006, after committing criminal offences to fund my addiction, I lost my job. That finally triggered me to make changes to my life and address my on-going addiction issues. From 2006 I went into a programme of recovery and started also to develop a career in social care in the voluntary sector. This included developing a new outreach and mentoring programme for the YMCA, providing support to young offenders and NEETS.
There was always an idea to do something concerning gambling support services. I knew the services available were quite limited in terms of the type of support on offer. For example, the main existing providers offered one-to-one counselling, which had worked for me, but would not be a good option for the young offenders I had been working with. They would not have engaged in a one-to-one counselling service as their lives were too chaotic. Through gambling some were getting into all kinds of debt and in some cases it was leading to them re-offending. I decided to develop the outreach programme I had started for the YMCA and remodel it for gambling addiction. The result was the Betknowmore UK mentoring programme called ACT.
Once the idea of developing Betknowmore UK started, it was a natural progression for me to set up a company to facilitate this, a social enterprise or a company limited by guarantee. I looked at different company structures and this is where the course at Mary Ward was very important because my business experience was very limited. It was a case of trying to find resources that would give me that knowledge. The Mary Ward course was the foundation and start of that process.
Q. What impact did that VAC/Mary Ward course have in your setting up?
It was a twelve week course, designed to give students a grasp of the different areas you need to tackle in setting up your own business. We looked at areas like company structure, accounting, marketing, it was a holistic approach on how to take your business ideas forward into the market place.
I think one of most important benefits of the course is that you become part of a group and there’s peer to peer learning. When you have business ideas and you’re looking at how to develop them, it can become quite daunting. You think there’s so much to do. There’s so much you don’t know. But once you do a course like the VAC/Mary Ward Social Enterprise course, you start to see that you actually know more than you think. It gives you confidence and motivation. You’re exchanging ideas. It starts to facilitate a process when you start to move things forward.
The main benefit for me was that it gave me a very good overview on business strategy and planning. There are a lot of areas where I had to go away and seek additional support, but it gave me a clear pathway on what I had to do in terms of setting up the company. It gave me the confidence to move forward.
Q. How’s it been going?
It’s been challenging, both stressful and very rewarding ! I think if I was doing it again I’d do some things differently but I guess that’s all part of the learning experience. The biggest change in strategy was that I re-designed the service as a free service and directed my efforts towards working with other voluntary sector organisations and local authorities.
From about March onwards I focused on developing partnerships with organisations where there was a synergy in services, such as drug and alcohol agencies. We’ve got ourselves in quite a good position at the moment. I started applying for funding from about late April onwards and all the funding has been based on an idea of setting up local gambling support hubs to facilitate our services. These include our mentoring programme, workshops and information services, such as leaflets and flyers.
Since the interview we have made further progress, including securing funding and opening our first Gambling Support hub in Islington.
You can find out more about the work of Betknowmore on their website, at: www.betknowmoreuk.org
If you would like to find out more about how our business courses could help you, please take a look at the training pages on our website, or contact VAC using the details below:
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