Being a global citizen and participating in a host of community spirited programmes is a commendable activity for the growing number of millionaires in the world, and most will be involved with more than one charitable cause. That’s all very well, if you head up a multi-national organisation with a full contingent of professionals keeping the fires burning under your business operation.
But what about the equally hard working, if not more so, small business owner who has much invested (and therefore at risk) in his or her enterprise and yet wants to experience philanthropy and the big wide world?
This very question was put to the test recently by Stafford Sumner, founder and owner of ‘Jarrang’ a digital marketing agency based in the UK South West. Sumner established Jarrang almost a decade ago, at the young age of 24, to answer the growing need for online marketing (now known as digital marketing) – seeing a developing market for sophisticated, trackable, not for print (yes, save a tree) communication and how business would change to embrace the new technologies.
Roll forward ten years and Sumner has experienced many of the lessons taught at business school to the young, in-experienced entrepreneur, and then some, including employee law, re-financing and IT challenges, all on top of maintaining the quality levels of his organisation in a fast moving industry.
Now approaching the 10 year milestone, with a glowing client track record, in a wide range of sectors, the company is poised to go to the next level with a dedicated team of digital marketing professionals on board, handling the day-to-day operations for clients in areas as diverse as travel and tourism, retail, financial services, and skin care.
So, now was the time for Sumner to look out of the window of his office at Jarrang HQ, across Falmouth bay, and reflect on where some of the big ships may be heading and what his next port of call may be.
“I’ve always been involved in my regional business community, for example being a member of the Strategic Management Boards for both the BT Next Generation Broadband project and with a regional Innovation Centre. I have also played a key role in developing international business, but this time I felt the pull to do something for myself, to push my personal boundaries as well as do some good in the world”
“It really wasn’t simply an altruistic need, but also, having input a lot of the last ten years into my business, I needed to do something for my own development and experience, a personal growth plan, if you like”.
For Sumner, ShelterBox provided the answer, an international disaster relief charity, based in Helston, Cornwall. ShelterBox works globally delivering emergency shelter, warmth and dignity to people made homeless by disaster.
“As part of our community support programme, we allocate a proportionate amount of work time and profit per employee to support two nominated charities of choice; one regional and one international”
“For the international charity, ShelterBox drew our attention and personally it fits with my desire to make a difference in the wider world but also enabled me to be participative by becoming part of the team deployed to disaster areas as needed, something I had never done before”.
Sumner took part in some pretty rigorous training with people from all walks in life, covering topics such as negotiation, leadership, security and humanitarian aid, to prepare him for this voluntary role with ShelterBox and was delighted to be assigned to go out to Peru in April 2012.
“After the initial excitement of knowing I was going to be involved in an important aid relief effort in Peru, where heavy rainfall had caused flooding and landslides, my next immediate thought was my business.”
Sumner had total confidence in his management team but wanted to be available for consultation, when needed.
“We handle a wide range of client needs, sending, tracking and analysing millions of pieces daily – what we broadcast for our clients is critical to their bottom line and I am constantly in touch with our cloud based reporting system to see how things are going. Given that this was the first trip of this kind, it was going to be a complete test of my faith in the team, telecoms/IT and my own personal endurance ability.”
As it turned out, with the telecoms infrastructure in Peru being newer than some in Europe, mobile and email coverage was operating well and Sumner was able to regularly remain in touch with his team throughout the deployment.
“Whilst my contact could be sporadic, due to the remote areas in which we were travelling and, of course getting the job done, I remained in contact with the Jarrang HQ team on a daily basis. We managed to deliver the much needed boxes containing everything needed by displaced families to set up a home and I will never forget watching local children turning the ties used to secure the boxes, into play items – it reminded me of what you can make, with so little, when you have to,”
Now back in the UK and in dry socks, Sumner is able to reflect on his journey, in terms of his growth as a business owner, a manager, an aid worker and now, a global citizen.
“I have no regrets, it’s the most rewarding thing I have done for myself in a long time, whilst doing a great deal of good for the confidence of my team and for a small group of villagers on a mountainside in Peru – it doesn’t get much better than that!”
Sumner also supports the belief that the small business is the future for economic stability, alongside the corporate giants, and digital communication is enabling this trend, allowing businesses to set up faster than ever before.
“The digital age is delivering business at great speed and it’s more important than ever before for entrepreneurs to plan for personal inspiration as well as enabling their business and their teams to chart a course for development, otherwise business owners will burn bright, but short”.