Going into business backwards: From charity to business start up

Amodigo Founder Mike Crofts explores the challenges of starting a charity, and then a business.

“Most People go from success in Business to Charity, I’ve realised why…”

Building a startup is tough. Whether a commercial enterprise or a charitable one, everyone experiences the journey differently. There’s a balance between the actual work that it will entail and the slightly less obvious emotional investment required to create an organisation; people’s livelihoods will depend upon it, it converges with your reputation and the startup will ultimately deliver you success or failure.

In 2015 I was volunteering in Feltham Young Offenders Institution. I was so moved by the conditions and by the potential of the young people I met there, that I founded 3Pillars Project. So was launched my foray into founding an organisation. 3Pillars is a sports based mentoring charity for young people in prison, building meaningful trust based relationships to support them to reintegrate into society after leaving custody. 

Since establishing the charity we have worked with hundreds of young people and created some amazing success stories. It has not been easy, but the experience has led me to found a second organisation, this time a company called Amodigo. Our motto is Making Excellence a Habit.

Amodigo shares many of the core philosophies that 3Pillars Project was founded on, namely that we can all strive to do better, to improve the quality of leadership within organisations and that social purpose should be at the core of what the best leaders aspire to achieve.

We were invited to talk about this approach to leadership on the steps of the Royal Academy Sandhurst, interviewed by Nihal for BBC 5 Live, where we discussed our being in the leadership book produced by the Commandant at Sandhurst; General Paul Nanson, Stand up Straight. An enduring feature of leadership was the dedication required to take something forward.

As the charity has grown and evolved we’ve been fortunate to feature in a number of articles. These features have highlighted the success of the project, but the’ve also been crucial in demonstrating what really works in rehabilitation, something I was always keen to explore. The Guardian highlighted the value of exercise in this article exploring 3Pillars’ approach to using sport to engage people in the criminal justice system, as well as exploring how men engaged in a running project in San Quentin prison, one of the most notorious prisons in the United States. And in 2020 we featured in The Times Christmas appeal. It was, despite the ongoing pandemic, a sign that what we had created as a team was worth it, for all the hard work and dedication that a number of people had contributed.

Whilst growing the charity, I was increasingly asked for support by individuals and companies wanting to develop quality leadership, mentoring and coaching programmes to support their teams. These requests propelled me to found Amodigo, despite focusing on leadership, the value of exercise has equally crossed over into our work. Through my journey founding 3Pillars Project, I have learned that maintaining physical health really does contribute to mental health, when people in prison cannot exercise, things quickly become strained. I believe the same is true in the business world too. Our strapline at Amodigo is Making Excellence a Habit, and I have come to believe that to operate at our peak either as team members or as leaders, we must invest not only in our own intellectual and mental journey, but also in personal ethos and leadership development, as well as physical wellness and wellbeing in order to nurture personal performance. By investing in all of these strands simultaneously people can achieve higher states of holistic human performance.

Setting up a charity has not been an easy journey, many of the hurdles were completely unpredictable at the outset, and the hopelessness at times felt in the sector can be overwhelming. Through leading the charity, I was invited to comment on a broad range of issues related to improving the criminal justice system, including speaking with the BBC. 3Pillars Project were fortunate enough to gain the support of the RFU (Rugby Football Union) and its President at the time Prince Harry, featuring in The Mail. What these combined experiences have taught me is that despite publicity and media scrutiny, there can still be immense challenges in the system that are often unseen and require real determination by a whole team to overcome.

Amodigo takes expertise from the background of some of our team who are ex military. But we also pride ourselves on being a diverse network of professionals who are well placed to create intricate solutions to modern problems, both in the commercial sector and public sector.

We’ve developed a fantastic relationship with leading financial Clearscore partnering alongside 3Pillars Project and Amodigo, to support CEO and Co Founder Justin Basini who has spoken openly of the benefit of merging physical and mental development within the workplace at  Clearscore. We look forward to deepening relationships like this as we grow and develop Amodigo as an organisation.

From charity to business, it has been a great adventure to found two organisations. We believe that the huge number of lessons learned from founding 3Pillars Project, underpinned by the social purpose of leading a charity gives Amodigo a fantastic offer to partner businesses in the future. We are excited for the adventure that lays before us with Amodigo.

Mike Crofts

Founder and CEO Amodigo

(and 3Pillars Project)