A few weeks back, as a student of School for Social Entrepreneurs, Ireland, I had the opportunity to pitch my project of building an ethical, community minded chocolate factory in Clonakilty to a very esteemed audience at Dublin University College.  Although I consider myself a ‘people person’ and can ‘pitch’ my idea casually quite comfortably, I still find the whole public speaking thing rather daunting – but all the more reason to give it a go!

The evening kicked off with incredible, inspirational insight and stories from Lynda Stopford, Director of the SSE Ireland – speaking about the importance of supporting social entrepreneurs (like us!) in the initial stages of development through education & networking – followed by SEI (Social Enterprise Ireland) founder Sean Coughlan and social entrepreneur Lisa Maree Domican (GraceApp).   They had me on the edge of my seat,  eyes welling up – I had found my peers – these guys had the same passion and vision for the possible!  My ‘pitch’ was swimming around in my head, but I found an excitement building in my gut, this feeling of absolute joy brimming up that could not be suppressed – the fear was gone, but replaced with some kind of glimmer into the ‘oneness’ of us all – ‘What a room full of beautiful people!’ ‘Oh what amazing things we can achieve together!’ and similar thoughts buzzed around my crowded brain.

So it was my turn, and with 3 min to deliver my well rehearsed speech (that I knew I could sum up in 2) I stood up, thanked everyone, praised the room, shared my joy, my appreciation for my instructors and peers, looked at the clock and with 1 min to go ploughed through most of my pitch content in what felt like 5 seconds – Wa! where does the time go!!  I held up my chocolate sample, touched on my ‘Live’ crowdfunding effort in the last 5 seconds and it was over, Phew!

All this to say a massive THANK YOU to Lynda and Colman (who setup SSE Ireland), to my 28 classmates who have become like a little family in the last few months, and to all those who support the SSE, both with their time and resources – we are on an amazing bucking bronco of a journey and the results are sure to be greater than any of us could have imagined!!!  (If you want to see our pitches – and video footage from the night here:


I haven’t watched it yet, still mustering the courage – so putting it out there with blind faith!)

Ok- back to the chocolate room – organising The World Smallest Chocolate Festival for this Saturday and oh so much to do! x

Left to Right – Me (Allison Roberts), Lynda Stopford (SSE Ireland Director), Maura McCabe (SHaRE Reading), Lisa Ruttledge (The Think Academy)

Ps.  I must also say that from the night I have now made an absolutely serendipitous connection with a fellow social entrepreneur, who has connections in Ghana (where I get my cocoa) and together we are plotting some amazing ways to maximise the benefit and connection with not just farmers but other small industries there – watch this space! Whoop!

The School for Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SSE Ireland), officially launched at the DCU event, will run practical learning programmes for entrepreneurial individuals with an early stage social business or social ventures. Twenty-eight social entrepreneurs are already enrolled on the 2014 SSE Ireland Incubator, funded by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation which runs from April to November 2014. The Programme combines expert business know-how for start-ups generating social or environmental impact with mentoring from seasoned entrepreneurs. social entrepreneurs and business people, including J.P. Morgan Ireland employees.



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