Imagine a small place near Windsor, where, in a cold room without electricity, Archbishop of Canterbury drafted a document to protect and guarantee the rights of individuals, the right to justice and the right to a fair trial and establish that everyone is subject to the law, including the king.
On reflection, that document which wasn’t to be a quick fix but marked the beginning of social liberties, it is known today as Magna Carta. The inspiration of the American Constitution, nobody could imagine society as we know it, if King John of England did not sign “the Great Charter of the Liberties”, exactly 803 years ago.
It is fair to say that today you ought to celebrate social progress and if you are to list all your liberties, including your right to electricity, that list could be a very long list.
If you made your list of gratitude, like I did, perhaps, each day you ask yourself same question as I do: Why so many people have no choice but to bury their dreams alive, so many businesses fail, making anti-depressants the only solution available for those brave men and women who feel trapped in their own homes?
It is strange how some liberties you have at present as a business owner could work against your right to be included, to be a benefactor to social progress. Are you moving your focus from the bigger picture to your own needs, fighting your own battles with social conditioning, limiting beliefs, mental health and stress instead of getting together with great minds to make the difference you always wanted to make?
Centuries ago, business people used to gather together in candlelight, cold rooms to brainstorm and create solutions to challenges. Are we too comfortable in our warm, well-lit homes? Are we too self-sufficient and deepen our isolation, feeding the disconnect from our peers, from the outside world?
Imagine a place near London, exactly 20 years ago, where, in a place fully lit, another thinker, this time a woman, Penny Power, made history and created a solution to exclusion and isolation. Penny launched Ecademy, the world’s first business social network to reduce the isolation small business owners and leaders were facing and protect their rights to human connections and give them a place where their voice can be heard.
If history repeats itself, Ecademy is the Magna Carta of the modern age and in a fast-moving digital environment inspired Linkedin and Facebook. But are any of the ‘surviving’ social models able to deliver the unique solution Ecademy provided in 200 countries?
Sovereign Magazine invites Penny Power to tell us her story since she had no choice but leave Ecademy behind.
Penny Power joined the tech sector when she was 19 years old, in 1983, since then she has seen the shift from mainframe to desktops in business, the growth of the home PC, the emergence of the Internet and for the past 20 years Penny has evangelized, trained, consulted and built businesses ensuring that business’ embrace the ability to socially connect online and offline in their leadership, words and culture.
Penny has three adult children, Hannah, Ross and TJ and has been happily married to Thomas Power since 1990. Together they live in Farnham in Surrey.
You are an early pioneer in the social networking world, and you created the world’s first business social network in 1998. Her Majesty awarded you an OBE in 2014 for your contribution . Tell us more about Ecademy.
Ecademy grew into a global network that reduced the isolation and provided skills for small business owners and leaders but our business model, which was a paid membership could not compete with the free online platforms which took over and as a result, forced us to close down our business.
Following our distressful exit from Ecademy, I then spent 4 years in the digital skills sector, notably building a new Apprenticeship in Digital Marketing and helping 1000 young people into jobs. Digital Youth Academy was an amazing company, built with two enormous passions, the first being the future of our young, the second being digital enablement for small business. This solution meant small businesses could hire the skills they needed in the emerging digital world.
Now you are pioneering a shift in on and offline networking, building The Business Cafe as a destination across UK High Streets. What are the benefits for business owners and entrepreneurs?
The Business Cafe is bridging the business and digital skills gap for sole traders and startups by providing networking and digital skills in real-time so people can achieve these needs in ‘their gaps’ during their working day.
You are driven to reduce loneliness in self-employment which in a survey suggested that 83% of sole traders are lonely. How is The Business Cafe helping the local community?
The Business Cafe operation increases the productivity of small business through the provision of free digital software onboarding and awareness. The fact is that most people lead with their primary skill and passion in their business. The secondary skills we need can enable or cripple us as business owners. If we can use digital effectively we can win back hours of our life, using that time to develop our business further or have a healthier balance life. Through the culture of The Business Café we will breakdown the mental barriers to using digital and also show through face to face “Digital Friends’ how to onboard and get started with Business Applications.
Productivity can also increase if you feel you belong and have meaning to others. The culture of The Business Café is the critical part. Leading with love and friendship and encouraging social interaction. This is why we call it ‘Friendship First”. We also have a StrongMind-StrongBusiness strategy that underpins the culture and training of our staff. Our aim is to reduce anxiety and depression through our inclusive and on demand availability.
We want to have a network of Business Café’s, all branded and culturally run to connect people far and wide and locally. We are seeking people who want to get to together and own one in their town. The social and financial impact will be amazing. There are many people who run Business Networks, we want to support them through each of our locations, our aim is inclusion, not competition. Let’s all grow our local economies together and shift the High Street into a destination that celebrates local people and businesses.