So, this one is about me…

Michaela Hodges, Director of Fancy Guppy

So, this one is about me…

There is a blog you can read that sets out the logic behind the creation of Fancy Guppy, but I thought you might also be interested in a little bit about me, Michaela Hodges, Director of Fancy Guppy.

Recently I was interviewed by brap for their Lifeline project (which helps young people set up online businesses), so I thought this would be a good opportunity to share a bit more about myself without having to write a blog about myself or interview myself!

You can read it in full below:

Tell me a bit about yourself.

I’m Michaela, I’m 26, I grew up in South Derbyshire, moved around a bit, and now I’ve been living in Birmingham for about five years. I love reading. I dislike exercise more than I can express, but I do like being outside in the sun and in nature, I just want to do it sitting down!

I’m deeply passionate about equality, human rights, and the third sector. Ok, so this is going to make me look a bit sad, but, ever since I can remember I’ve felt really angry about all the injustice in the world – poverty, inequality, bigotry, domestic abuse, homelessness – and I knew I wanted to do something about it. I loved learning about social justice, human rights, and campaigning generally, so much so that my mum bought me a subscription to New Internationalist one year and this magazine called BULB about politics and social justice stuff for young people (sadly the magazine closed. RIP Bulb you were great and very important in my political awakening!). So then I became a member of Amnesty International and Liberty at the age of 15/16, and I started putting up posters about issues like Darfur at school, and arranging small events like letter writing sessions, and tried to set up a campaigning group in my school. I lived in an area where knowledge of and interest in all this kind of stuff was low, and I was often surprised and frustrated at people’s apathy about issues that I was passionate about. But, I’m not easily put off, and it actually kind of spurred me on to tell others about charity work and raise awareness of issues I feel strongly about. So then when it came to deciding what I wanted to do at uni, and more broadly what I wanted to do with my life, I thought there could be no better career choice for me than to work in the charity sector. I’ve now been working in the charity sector for several years, and I love it. I am hopelessly devoted to the sector, I’m constantly inspired and moved by the people who work in the third sector, they’re doing amazing work.

Sorry, I’ve just realised you said tell me a bit about yourself and instead I’ve given you my life story! Let’s move on…

“Ever since I can remember I’ve felt really angry about all the injustice in the world – poverty, inequality, bigotry, domestic abuse, homelessness – and I knew I wanted to do something about it.”
What would your friends say are your best qualities?

It’s kind of linked to what I was just saying, I think friends and family would tell you that I’m passionate and determined, yes sometimes it slightly slides into downright stubbornness, but I still think overall they’d say it’s a positive! I’m not really sure what they would say is my best quality (I want to say that I don’t know which one they would pick because there are so many to choose from, but that may not be accurate!), but I think it would be this because I know that they love that I care about stuff, and wake up the passion in them and remind them they care about stuff too. I try not to be earnest with it though, I love seeing the passion in people when they talk about things they care about, and I think that’s a positive thing, it should be a positive conversation about ‘how are we going to fix these issues’, not just ‘oh no everything’s broken’. Actually, Shami Chakrabarti said something at an event I saw her speak at recently that expresses (much more eloquently) the point I’m trying to make – “Martin Luther King said ‘I have a dream’, not ‘I have a nightmare’”.


What’s your business idea?

My business is called Fancy Guppy, I do digital in the third sector. So I help not-for-profit organisations to make the most of digital to support their work. By digital I mean social media, computer software, online tools, even email.

When used well digital can help you be more attractive to funders, engage your supporters, and improve efficiency. And if you get the rights tools it doesn’t need to be expensive – in fact there’s a lot you can do free if you know where to go. I can help organisations make sure they’ve got the tools they need, and that they’re not paying for anything they don’t need.

For example, I’ve worked with organisations to

  • support them to write bids that use digital to make projects more engaging and have a longer legacy
  • offer one-to-one coaching on social media for senior management and CEOs
  • help them write digital communications strategies and make sure they’re on the right social media sites for their organisation, and
  • create sharable digital marketing content for projects such as audio, video, and other visual media.

It’s a tailored service – what you need is what you get. All you have to do is give me a call or send me an email and we’ll discuss what your needs are and what support I can offer.


Why set up your own business rather than work for someone else?

I started thinking about it a while ago because I worked in digital comms, and I was thinking there is some really confused messaging out there about digital. In some ways people are almost panicked because they are so aware of the necessity to embrace digital, but then you look at something like the Lloyds UK Digital Index and find that 58% of charities in the UK lack basic digital skills, compared to only 23% of SMEs. And that’s an increase from the year before when it was 55% of charities that lack basic digital skills. So the charity sector is really lagging behind on making the most of digital. I think it’s so powerful and potentially transformative, it’s such a wasted opportunity to not make the most of it, but most charities simply don’t have the time to do all the research required. I kept thinking that there needed to be something for the third sector that helped them use digital to achieve the things they care about and that speaks their language. For me it’s really important that it’ not just digital first, it’s about using digital to do the things you want to do, it’s a solution to a problem.

So I was thinking about all of this and then funding cuts led to me being made redundant from the charity I’d worked for for 3 years, and it gave me the little push I needed to say ‘right, I’m going to do this’.

``I think digital is so powerful and potentially transformative, it’s such a wasted opportunity to not make the most of it``
What interests you most about starting your own business?

A few reasons I suppose. I wanted to have something that’s mine and that I can set the agenda for – what I want to do and how I want to do it. But also, it’s partly just that I thought there was a gap and after a while of thinking about it I started to think that maybe it could be me who could go some way to filling it. It sounds naff, but as I said before I really am passionate about the third sector and I really think digital could help organisations so I think this is how I can kind of do my bit, and at the point that I’m no longer useful I’ll stop.


What inspires you?

It sounds cliché but my mum is a massive inspiration for me.

When I was born she was working a part-time job at Kwik Save, but she went and did an access course, and then a degree, and then a PhD, all while raising two kids by herself and working two jobs at a time to make enough money to support us. I grew up in a working class town, formerly a mining town, where people did not do things like get degrees. We didn’t know anyone who had a degree, and people told her that she should just get a ‘proper job’ instead of studying. But she did it anyway.

From that description you’d think that she’s full of self-confidence, completely assured in her ability, but she’s not really. And that’s what impresses me the most about her. She is so intelligent, but she doesn’t know how much, so strong and yet at times completely lacking in confidence in herself. So doing all of this didn’t come easy to her, she really had to work at it – pretend to be confident even when you don’t feel it, ignore what other people say even if it does hurt you, just try and make the best choices you can.

I know everyone thinks their mum is superwoman, but I really don’t know how my mum did it! Now she’s a successful clinical psychologist (with just one job!) and I’m so proud of her and happy that all her hard work has paid off. She’s strong, loving, resilient, and fun, she’s always been a role model for me and if I turn out to be half the woman she is I’ll be very happy!


Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

With a successful third sector digital consultancy business, of course! To be honest, I don’t have a grand plan for my life, as long as I can keep doing work that I care about and make a living, then I’m set.


What do your friends and family think of your plans?

I’m lucky to have a group of incredibly supportive people around me, so I know they’re proud of me for taking this step.


If you were going to give someone in school advice about the future what would it be?

Oh gosh, this is a hard one, I suppose by now I’m supposed to have some greater perspective on life, but I’m not sure about that!

I think for young people in school now there is so much pressure. When I was at school we were told ‘work hard and you’ll get a job’, but then the crash happened in 2008 and actually by the time I got out of uni it wasn’t that simple. Now young people are told how dreadful the economy is and how hard it will be, and everyone’s terrified they’ll be unemployed forever, whilst at the same time the government cuts back on all sorts of support and services for young people. It is hard times at the moment, but I do think that sometimes we lay it on a bit thick. So many young people now are completely despondent about the future, so I suppose what I’d want to say to young people is it’s ok, you’re ok! It’s ok to not know yet what you want to do, it’s also ok if you do know, it’s ok to try something and change your mind, and most of all, it’s ok to be worried about the future, but try not to let it ruin your life now. I don’t know if that’s advice really, but I kind of wish someone had said that to me a few years ago.

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