Meridian had a significant impact on me as a thought leader - it was during my time on the course that I developed my thinking around the Sharing Economy. Back in the March of 2010 when I was still at Enterprise UK I had the honour of sharing a stage with Desmond Tutu and at the time I pledged to build a movement and business to tackle a global problem. In May 2010 I started Meridian.
A session on Personal Brand at a Mediation centre was significant because of the insights on the importance of developing your own unique personal brand. At the time I had been starting to figure out what I would like to do around sharing in terms of accessing shared resources- back then it was not called the Sharing Economy. That session crystallised what I wanted to do and it was a springboard to get me to where I am now.
When I started the Meridian course I was planning to leave my role to do something else, it was a time of change. One session that had a profound effect on me was at an institute for sexual offenders where we looked at leadership in complex situations and the journey people take to end up where they are. We had the opportunity to interview some ex-offenders and looked at leadership in the organisation and the successful creation of a therapeutic environment to find positive solutions for violent offenders.
I met people finding innovative ways to lead beyond authority and head upstream. There were conversations around creating change and forging ahead. This inspired me to swim upstream and set about building both a global movement, The People Who Share and Compare and Share, a social business. Leading beyond authority is what I do. I was the first person to use the #SharingEconomy hashtag on Twitter.
After Meridian, I began to forge ahead with the business idea.
It has all happened over the last five years. I finished Meridian in October 2010 and that time was a period of developing my thinking around the idea. At the end of the programme we wrote pledge cards which were sent to us six months later. I had talked about sharing in mine and working on something in that arena. Work began on developing both the movement and the business between May and October 2010. By the time I got my pledge card back I was well on my way to creating something!
My work in the Sharing Economy has been an organic success. I wrote the only comprehensive definition of it and am known as an award-winning social entrepreneur and global expert. The first step was setting up the The People Who Share as a not-for-profit and in 2013 I launched Compare and Share, the world's first comparison marketplace of the Sharing Economy. We help both people and companies to access shared goods and services. I pioneered National Sharing Day then Global Sharing Day which have been a huge success - reaching over 100 million worldwide and trending globally on Twitter.
Compare and Share has gone from success to success, becoming the first company to triple its target on an equity based crowdfunding platform, Crowdcube, winning a number of awards including the Mass Challenge, the Google for Entrepreneurs BlackBox Programme in Silicon Valley for born global start-ups, the 2015 Natwest Venus Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the Tech City News Elevator Pitch Award for social good in 2014, the Ogunte Women's Social Leadership Awards - Best Social Business Leader UK & World 2013 and the Cabinet Office / Nesta Innovation in Giving Award among others.
At the heart of everything I do is an ethos of 'doing business differently', I'm driven by my purpose which is to build a sustainable Sharing Economy and built around the sharing of human, intellectual and physical resources that puts people and planet centre stage. Compare and Share has even developed its own legal form which embeds our purpose. Anyone involved with the business understands our commitment to both profit and purpose. This is a business that is a good deal for everyone.
You can find out more about Benita and start sharing here.