Spotlight on: Natalie Campbell
Natalie Campbell is an award-winning social entrepreneur and co-founder of A Very Good Company (AVGC), a global social innovation agency. On 1st March she took over the role of CEO at Belu Water, who give 100% of their profits to the charity WaterAid to help transform lives worldwide with clean water.
2020 has been called The Lost Year, but what have you gained or discovered that you would otherwise have missed? I had not heard of the ‘Lost Year’, it does not apply to us at Belu as it has been busy with all hands on deck. Team Belu has evolved so much over the past few months and as a new CEO I was given the ‘gift of time’ to work with my team when people were not bogged down in day to day activities with no headspace to innovate and collaborate in a different way.
After the initial crisis management phase – when we realised our distribution would stop and our income would rapidly decline – we decided to stay pragmatic but positive and shift our thinking to a ten-year planning cycle with a new strategy called ‘Belu Project 2030’. My team had clearer diaries so we worked together to think about what sort of business we want to be in the future. We knew we were over reliant on one industry for our income and for us to grow and future proof we needed to think about diversifying our income streams. Our team has also had the space to develop their own relationships with supply chain leads giving us the opportunity to talk to more people about our brand and what we stand for. Of course, it’s been challenging at times having little income, but we now have a platform for growth, and we have been able to develop this at pace with a fully engaged and consulted workforce. We have also had time to think about the expansion of our filtration system offer, how it takes the sustainability agenda forward and how we will grow this offer over the next ten years.
Regarding our partnership with WaterAid we have had to think about how we can deliver impact not only through financial giving. The best corporate-charity partnerships are about thought leadership, collaborative disruption and making people lives better at a systems level, a lot of which is about more than the financial transaction.
Our challenge moving forward, when things are returning to normal as the HORECA sector has re-opened, is ensuring that my team have the space and time to innovate. It has been a blessing as a new CEO to do be able to do a full review of our operating model and analysis of our financial sustainability. We are emerging from lockdown in a strong position and I am grateful I have had time to make the best strategic decisions for the future of Belu.
What is the question people ask you most often? I am often asked ‘How did you get here’ often in reference my age and being a Black woman, people are surprised at what I have done in my career. A lot of people ask me to mentor them, but I have more impact as a sponsor I like to help people to achieve what they want rather than mentor them.
What qualities do you most respect in others? Curiosity, Honesty, Straight talking – getting to the point quickly. Be a nice person, it is underrated these days.
What do you wish you had known five years ago? Do not put too much pressure on yourself, live your life, relax, and have fun. I always felt like I would have to do a billion things to be a success in a few, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I am at a phase in my life now where I do fewer things and am so comfortable doing less. I am a CEO of a brilliant company and I am here to deliver a new 10-year strategy, this is my focus. I still have two NED positions, but I have scaled this activity back. I am focused on being the best role model for the team, I feel so positive about the future of Belu and the journey we are going to go on.
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