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We meet Dr Saussan Khalil, Director of Kalamna, one of our nominees for the Social Entrepreneur Index 2020 who says: "Social enterprise is simply the future of business."

What does your social enterprise do?

Kalamna, meaning ‘our words’ in Arabic, provides Arabic language classes for children and adults. Our focus is on everyday spoken Arabic and providing a positive learning experience by making learning Arabic fun, relevant and engaging. We also provide training for teachers and parents to enable them to use our teaching and learning tools. We currently operate in Cambridge and Newcastle, as well as online.

What made you start your business up?

Arabic is taught as a classical language, usually with a focus on religion. We identified a lack of non-religious classes that teach Arabic as a spoken language, particularly for children. Our founder, Saussan Khalil is a teaching Arabic as a foreign language teacher at Cambridge University and so decided to start her own classes to do just that!

How do you measure your impact?

Alongside the standard metrics of number of beneficiaries reached and classes taught, we also measure children’s enjoyment of our classes and their engagement with them. Our main aim is for learners to achieve self-efficacy and have the confidence to keep going in their language learning journey.

What help did you have to start your social enterprise?

Initially, none! We started very small and grew organically, mainly through word of mouth. Eventually, we joined the Cambridge Social Ventured incubator programme at the Judge Business School, Cambridge University, which provides a lot of essential help for social enterprises.

How did you decide on what legal form would work best for your business?

The Cambridge Social Ventures programme was instrumental in advising us on the best legal form for our business.

What’s the best thing about being a social entrepreneur?

Feeling like we are making a real difference to families and providing something that is clearly needed but until we came along, wasn’t available. We also have a lot of freedom to create our own rules based on what we think is best for our learners – they are our bottom line.

What have been the three biggest challenges that you have overcome (or that you’re still working on)?

  1. Finding great teachers and franchisees, which we have managed to do but are always looking for more.
  2. Finding great teaching resources, which we have resorted to making ourselves and this has turned into another line of business for us.
  3. Balancing time and financial reward.

What advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?

Talk a lot about your ideas to anyone who will listen and, in turn, listen to any thoughts, advice or feedback offered to you. Find a good support network such as an incubator programme to meet other social entrepreneurs and share the journey with them.

Why do you think social enterprise is important?

Social enterprise is simply the future of business – as they say doing no harm is simply not enough anymore, we must all strive to make a positive difference in the world.

What’s been your most rewarding experience as a social entrepreneur?

The feedback from parents when they see their children enjoying learning Arabic, which for many seemed impossible, and seeing children thrive through accepting their cultural heritage.

What information sources would you recommend (books, websites, organisations?) to help someone just starting their social enterprise journey?

I highly recommend joining the Cambridge Social Ventures programme, which is open to all.

What’s been the most surprising thing about creating a social enterprise?

That it can become a long-term, sustainable business like any other!

What are your plans for the next 2-5 years?

To open more franchises in the UK and abroad, publish resources for teaching Arabic and expand our training and licensing offer.

What is the biggest change you would like to see in the world?

I would like to see all businesses become social enterprises in some form or another and working towards a social aim.

What have been your three proudest moments as a social entrepreneur?

  1. Opening our first franchise in Newcastle.
  2. Being featured in the New York Times and Middle East Eye.
  3. Winning the iStudy Best Arabic Language Provider UK 2019-20.

What would you say to encourage more entrepreneurs to consider the social impact of their businesses?

The global challenges we are facing has brought to us the realisation that we must function as a global society, and that in order for us all to succeed, we must invest in our societies and be the change we want to see in the world.

The UK Social Entrepreneur Index is a celebration of social entrepreneurship across the UK.

Open to social entrepreneurs tackling a social or environmental issue at any scale, entrants will act as beacons of inspiration for others to encompass positive social impact.

For more information visit www.socialentsindex.co.uk

Amanda Armstrong
Article by Amanda Armstrong
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