Embracing the Next ‘Normal’

with 'Entrepreneur in Residence' Loral Quinn, Co-Founder and CEO of Sustainably

Co-Founder & CEO of ‘tech for good’ company, Sustainably, Loral Quinn is an award-winning entrepreneur and influencer, global digital marketing strategist and passionate alumni supporter of our Saltire Leaders Programme.

Founded in 2017 by Loral and her daughter Eishel, Sustainably is an app that encourages customers to make a positive social impact by rounding up their cashless transactions and donating spare change, distributing micro-donations to their good causes of choice.


Recognised as one of BIMA’s top 100 people in digital in the UK, we welcome Loral as our first ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ — giving personal insight, through her experience with Sustainably, on how entrepreneurs and leaders can embrace the next ‘normal’, and the mindset one needs to meet the challenges of today’s ever-changing world.

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#1 - SMALL CHANGES CAN HAVE MAJOR IMPACT

It’s been a hugely challenging time for the causes we’re supporting and the charity sector as a whole — many fundraising events have been cancelled and teams furloughed. As a result, we have seen increasing demand for our service, which works with cashless transactions.

As the work we do is direct with the charities themselves from a partner marketing perspective, our challenge is to help those charities who are under constraints be as visible as they can on Sustainably to help them get their supporters involved. We’ve removed our setup fee for charities to help more causes — many are experiencing tightened budgets, and we had a platform to help.

We’re now helping over 40 good causes, from some of the largest in the UK like British Heart Foundation, Macmillan and Shelter, to Social Bite and Edinburgh Dog & Cat Home, and we’ve recently finished building a new self-service charity portal which will enable causes to sign up themselves.

Our challenge is to help those charities who are under constraints be as visible as they can on Sustainably

#2 - EMPATHY IS POWERFUL

There are lots of challenges for many of us working from home. Those with young children, juggling homeschooling, where there are lots of Zooms going on in the same room — it’s safe to say it can be rather chaotic. It’s important to check in with the team, and do more than a ‘how are you getting on with work’ chat.

We are all experiencing those really ‘off’ days and it’s crucial to respect that employees or colleagues may have young kids at home, or may have family members to care for — or even may be on their own. I’m very mindful of mental health. People are now getting up, rolling out of bed and working - there’s no commuting or break. You have to get away from your desk during the day.

We’ve always had daily stand-up meetings — but now we see it as an opportunity to ‘check-in’, so we’ve focused on making these less formal. We’ve also implemented ‘Fika’ (a Swedish term), which is a coffee break for everyone, and we have a channel on Slack should a member of the team want to login and chat to someone.

Ultimately, I’m conscious that people need time. It is really hard when you’re working on a lot and you have to deliver — but sometimes it takes someone in a leadership position to say ‘Take a breath here’.

It’s important to check in with the team, and do more than a ‘how are you getting on with work’ chat.

#3 - WORK FLEXIBILITY WORKS

We purposely said there could be flexible working from day #1 of starting-up. It enabled people who had the amazing skill set we needed but who might be put off by long travel time to be able to work with us. We’ve always had flexible and part-time working as an option — it fits the workforce we have and allows our team to do other things important to them.

It has become more apparent that this is the way people should be able to work. If we want excellent people we have to be able to let them do the work in the way they want to do it.

We have 9 members in the team, and some contractors. One person is in Singapore, and another in London — some we’ve never met face to face — and we’ve even been able to hire new people remotely within the last year. Everyone is working from home and everyone has had to adapt how we run things, using great online collaboration tools like Notion, Miro and Slack. Because we use tools that encourage collaboration, everyone feels involved and can contribute. All important documents are shared and accessible — it’s enabling us to get a lot done and keep productivity high.

If we want excellent people we have to be able to let them do the work in the way they want to do it.

#4 - BUILD NETWORKS, SCREEN TO SCREEN

For me, in these new circumstances, building and engaging with a network has actually become much easier. Previously, I would be in London or the States and there would always be something I was attending or travelling to. This morning I’ve had meetings with people in places like South America and Switzerland, and have also managed customer and investor calls. You couldn’t have had meetings with Switzerland, London and South America in one day in the ‘old world’ — people wanted you to be there in person which set you at a logistical disadvantage.

Now I'm having great investor meetings with people who would have previously wanted you in the room — it has opened up other ways of working for me that are much better. I feel I have been able to build strong relationships on Zoom — for instance, there are some new advisors I’m working with who are just the most amazing people, that I’ve never met in person. The changes of the past year or so have proven we can still do so much great stuff, we’re just not spending hours and hours commuting/travelling.

It certainly feels like there are more opportunities without the bias of being in the same room anymore. I feel the benefit of having that wide, experienced network is you can ask them anything and know they’ve been through or faced similar issues.

#5 - TAKE POSITIVES, THINK DIFFERENTLY

I feel that whilst there has been the obvious bad, there have been good things to happen in this terrible year we’ve had as a society. There’s a growing sentiment — people are thinking about being more responsible, more ethical, more inclusive. It has been accelerated during the pandemic, as people are taking a step back from life and asking ‘How can I make things better?’. This has meant a lot of opportunities for the type of product we’re creating and there is acknowledgement that things need to change.

Your business can certainly identify the positives and offer customers a way to ‘make things better’ in your own way. It’s about being understanding of the wider challenges and identifying with these thoughts and feelings — not just within your teams but with your customers too.

People are taking a step back and asking ‘How can I make things better?’

To hear more insight from Loral Quinn on what it means to be an entrepreneur today and what advice she would share with anyone looking to start their own business, read her Virtually Connected blog.

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The Cohort for our next Catalyst programme Innovation and Growth: Post Crisis draws together ambitious leaders from a variety of sectors, with different backgrounds, strengths, experiences and outlooks. This programme — designed in partnership with Babson College — will offer crucial innovation principles, methods, and tools to leaders from all sectors — better equipping them to change the game in their market, in the short and long term. Limited spaces remain, applications close soon. For more information on the programme and its cohort click here or email andy.macnicol@entrepreneurialscotland.com.