- Established in 2012
- Social enterprise spin-out from Institute of Population Health
- Founded by Dr Gill Green and Prof Linda Gask
- Skills-based training on Self-harm Mitigation and Postvention
- IP – Copyright
- Funding: UnLtd/HEFCE Level 2 award, income from sales
- Awards: Two HEFCE/UnLtd Social Enterprise awards
“A social enterprise to effectively assess and manage a suicide crisis”
Dr Gill Green, co-founder
STORM® was developed in the mid-1990s at The University of Manchester in response to frontline workers’ lack of skills to effectively ‘assess and manage a suicide crisis’.
In 2003, Professor Linda Gask and Dr Gill Green created the STORM® Project with two aims: to research, develop and evaluate STORM® training packages, and to run a not-for-profit venture that offered STORM® training packages commercially, nationally and internationally. It was necessary to develop a sustainable business model to allow STORM® to trade independently of the University and be in-keeping with the Project’s philosophy-that ‘no one should profit from another person’s distress’.
In 2012, STORM® Skills Training Community Interest Company, a social enterprise began trading, providing skills-based self-harm mitigation and suicide Postvention training packages to health care, social care,education, criminal justice services and defence forces. It also helps staff develop a Postvention strategy; supporting those bereaved by suicide.
We met up with co-founder and CEO, Dr Gill Green, to find out more about the company’s journey and her personal experiences of setting up a social enterprise…
The STORM® Project was developed over 10 years ago what was the impetus behind your decision to create a social enterprise?
After working in clinical services for 12 years and helping people who had depression who were thinking about suicide it became clear that staff lacked the skills to help people effectively.
Given the success of the STORM® Project, we realised that frontline staff were benefiting and so setting up a social enterprise would mean we could reach a wider audience. The profits that we would make could help those in the community that might not have access to awareness education or training because they couldn’t afford it.
What were your aspirations for getting involved in business and being involved in a company?
Having a company vehicle was the best way to achieve greater social impact and also it was an exciting challenge that I have never done before.
How did you find the process of setting up the company?
Winning both of the UnLtd awards meant that I had some money and a huge amount of support including pro bono legal and HR support. I received support from UMIP in the form of a Venture Manager, Dr Sonia Nikolovski, who helped develop the business case to put forward to the University for a sustainable business model to progress.
What would you say was the greatest hurdle to overcome during this process and how was this resolved. Did anything surprise you?
STORM® was one of the first social enterprises to be set up by UMIP and the University and it was very much a learning experience for all parties. Initially I found it difficult as setting up a new company is challenging and involves a lot of learning from an academics point of view! It was well worth it though – I’ve learnt a lot.
Did you receive any funding to help get the company off the ground?
The UnLtd awards that I received had some money attached to them which helped to get the company off the ground. We are limited by guarantee so we do not have any investors.
How did you find the transition from the academic world to the commercial world?
In a few words: scary, daunting, exciting, crazy, overwhelming, tough and rewarding.
Do you hold a different role within the company than you had previously imagined?
No, I always planned to be a director of some description and I am still growing into the role of CEO.
What factors do you feel are essential in starting and nurturing a social enterprise?
To quote a great saying ‘determination, determination, determination’. Follow your dream and you can make it happen.
What do you feel are the benefits to the University in engaging in the creation of social enterprises?
The University is able to add social value by linking with the local and international community, fulfilling one of the University’s KPIs of social involvement and social responsibility.
What does the future hold for STORM®?
Our ambition is to be a world leader in Self-harm Mitigation and Postvention skills training and education. STORM®’s mission is also to challenge the ‘fear’ of mental illness and distress. We will achieve this by challenging ‘fear’ directly through training and education. We call this approach the ‘Challenging F.E.A.R model.’
- Face the fear of asking about suicide and self-harm…
- Engage with the person in distress with compassion…
- Acknowledge and validate the pain the person is feeling…
Respond appropriately, enabling the person to access the support they need…
Do you have any advice for other Manchester academics, staff or students thinking of setting up a social enterprise spin-out?
It is a tough and challenging journey, but it is worth it when you see the good it can do.