Jill Storey is a force of nature. Her strong sense of purpose and determination to make a difference propelled her through Partner roles at Deloitte, KPMG and Andersen all over the world. But in 2012, inspired by the Olympics, her professional life took an unexpected turn driven by an unshakable social conscious.
Now based in Australia, helping to get sustainable businesses off the ground through her online crowdfunding website, Jill is thousands of miles from Sheffield – but embodies our sociallyresponsible spirit every day as CEO of ReadyFundGo.
What drew you into the crowdfunding sector?
I love the fact that crowdfunding gets so many projects and ventures off the ground. Funding should no longer be a barrier – it makes all sorts of dreams that were previously impossible, now possible. In 2012, I was moved by the manner in which the Olympics can inspire passion in a host nation. The effects of the global financial crisis were still being felt and it was tough for some families to fund their children’s sporting activities so I decided to create Inspire a Star. This is a donation based crowdfunding platform with the aim of helping continue the Olympic legacy to inspire a generation and help realise children’s sporting dreams.
And now you’re CEO of ReadyFundGo…
Yes, ReadyFundGo is a reward-based crowdfunding platform which aims to help socially conscious start-ups and innovators. It is designed to support people who are focused on sustainability and wish to use their businesses and projects to create change for the better – my ambition is to be able to help as many businesses and innovators achieve their goals and at the same time create a better, more sustainable world.
One of our current projects is to help preserve the legacy of Green Grove, the oldest organic farm in Australia. It’s owned by 87-year-old Alan Druce who first started farming organically in 1962. Now he wants to build an open source education centre to preserve the decades of organic farming knowledge and support the continued research on the link between soil, health, and the nutrient values of food. It may be a rather long way from Sheffield to the farm, a four-hour drive from Sydney, to learn about soil management, but it is possible to support the campaign by purchasing a 70-page e-book covering fascinating facts about sustainable farming.
For me the best thing about my ‘typical’ day is there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ day. When I’m in Sydney I will start the day by going for an early morning swim or walk by the beach and breakfast at my favourite Balmoral café while catching up with emails and making a phone call or two to family and friends in the UK.
I work with a team of two great employees in Sydney, one American and one Australian, a Belgian web developer who lives in Vietnam, an intern from India who is in Canberra and various advisers and consultants. We work together at cafés, work hubs and have lots of calls – we can be anywhere in the world to do our jobs as long as we have an internet connection.
We talk to a lot of our campaign creators, helping those that are new to crowdfunding through the campaign creation and build process, discussing their reward ideas and their promotion strategy. Our success is linked to their success and as a result, I get to meet people with some amazing ideas.
My team is often asked to present at various groups to talk about how they can use reward based crowdfunding to grow their business. It’s important not to get carried away with the excitement of meeting so many new people with interesting ideas and to remember to schedule time to focus on the finances and strategy. With this type of venture you do tend to pivot quite frequently!
Crowdfunding seems like quite a departure from your 25 years with professional service companies – what skills and lessons have you taken from this world into ReadyFundGo?
It’s very hard to know where to start as you do learn so much working at the Big Four professional service firms. Firstly, I’d say that it is all about people, relationships and customer service. In the professional services world, clients tend to work with people they have good relationships with who they know will go the extra mile. With ReadyFundGo we are very customer centric, helping people build great campaigns that make a difference.
The second thing is the value of time. At professional service firms, completing daily time sheets and accounting for every six minutes of the day were typically not people’s favourite task. Whilst it’s nice not to have to do this anymore, I can see the value of still being very mindful of where you are spending time and questioning each task as to whether you could be more productive.
What do you remember about your time studying at Sheffield?
It was a wonderful opportunity to meet people many of whom became friends for life. There was a great community feel and it was easy to do so many things in a day from playing sport, studying and going to lots of parties. I liked the fact there was so much choice and the chance to explore areas that interested you most.
I love trees and have been a member of the Woodland Trust since I was 10 years old. Sheffield has one of the highest ratios of trees to people of any city in Europe - so for me the city shapes up rather well too!
How do you spend your time outside of work?
I’m a big tennis fan – it used to be playing, but now it seems to be more watching. I did manage to do the Grand Slam in a season as a spectator! I am delighted that Andy Murray has become the world Number 1. It is quite an incredible feat and a testimony to his relentless hard work, dedication and constant strive for improvement.
When I am in Australia I live by the beach so try to go for a swim first thing in the morning and have taken up surf skiing. When I am in the UK I love going to Alnmouth beach for a family picnic (whatever the weather) or for a walk by the Thames in Richmond and a coffee at Tide Tables.
You’ve joined the Management School’s Advisory Board – welcome! What do you think you’ll bring to the table? The Management School’s Advisory Board possesses a significant depth and breadth of experience and I feel very honoured to have been selected to join the group. I hope that by bringing a combination of my experience from working as a partner in a number of professional service firms with global corporate clients, alongside my experience in the crowdfunding space working with innovative start-ups, I can help the School to continue to build collaborative partnerships with business and effectively bridge the two-way transfer of skills and knowledge. I hope that I can also test the trends I am seeing in the crowdfunding space around the world.
Sheffield University Management School is a great place to start creating your mind-set for a lifetime of continual learning. Most people today will have several quite different careers throughout their working lives such that the skill of adapting and being on the forefront of what is next becomes invaluable. Explore by taking action and getting involved, learn by doing rather than sitting on the sidelines dreaming and planning.