Jamie interviewed Irreverent Dance’s founder Amanda Jones on her career as a social entrepreneur and asked for her tips for young people starting out. Amanda founded her first social enterprise in her early 20s and went on to create two successful organisations. Irreverent Dance is a project that offers dance classes from ballet to hip hop to adults with little or no experience of dance. It makes use of spaces in East and South London.
Amanda Jones is a pro-profit social entrepreneur based in London. Last year Amanda set up Irreverent Dance, an organisation that offers a range of dance classes to adults of all body shapes and sizes. The project was inspired by Amanda’s experience of ballet as a teenager. The criticism she received in dance classes led her to lose confidence in her body. Amanda was able to use skills she developed as a young social entrepreneur to set up a dance space based on body positivity.
Amanda’s career as a social entrepreneur began seven years ago, shortly after she graduated from university. In 2007 Amanda co-founded Red Button Design, a social enterprise that “designs, manufactures and supplies products exclusively for the humanitarian market”. One is these products is the Midomo, a water purifier that can be used by people in developing countries to access safe water independently. Amanda originally pitched the Midomo (then called the DD5 Ross) on the BBC programme Dragon’s Den!
Irreverent Dance was set up to make dance fun and accessible for people of all body types and abilities. You might have noticed that most professional dancers are super fit - which generally involves being slim and toned. Unfortunately this means that dancers of all ages, including very young children, are expected to fall in line with ideals of beauty and fitness. The Irreverent Dance studio is “body positive” which means it aims to create a welcoming and supportive space no matter what your body is like. It is one of the few places in London where adults with no prior experience can turn up and learn to dance without feeling like their body is being scrutinised or criticised.
As a social enterprise, Irreverent Dance works as a profitable organisation, yet also helps people improve their attitude to themselves and their body through dance classes. Social enterprises are organisations that use commercial strategies to solve social or environmental problems. I asked Amanda what advice she would offer young people looking to get started in social enterprise. She encourages young people starting out not to be afraid of approaching established social entrepreneurs for support:
“Throw yourself into the start-up community. Social enterprise, by its very nature, is full of people willing to share their experiences and dispense advice. Don’t hide at home until you think your idea is ‘finished’ or ‘presentable’ get out there while it’s just a seed, it’ll be better for the early input of a crowd”.
Photo credit for ballet images: Jon Topper
somewhereto_ re:store (the #highstreetheist) is a high impact campaign seeing young people take over a series of shops across the UK (from #London to Manchester, Glasgow, Bangor, Cardiff, Newcastle and beyond) for a six-week period, having launched in London on 18 July.
We’re putting disused shops into the capable hands of local young people to deliver events and activities that will benefit their future ambitions as well as revamp the high street and engage local communities.
Want to know more and get involved? Take your talent to the streets at somewhereto.com/restore