NAME: Susan Aktemel
BACKGROUND: University Degree
ACTION/SECTOR: Culture and Sport
POSITION: Founding Director
ORGANISATION: Impact Arts
My Background and Career
I am the founding director of Impact Arts, an arts organisation which works across Scotland to improve people’s lives. I graduated from Strathclyde University after 5 years of studying German, Spanish & Politics, & lived in Spain & Germany during this time. Susan then used her retail experience, adult literacy & community development background to create a business with a social purpose. For 17 years Impact Arts has used the arts to help individuals & communities create solutions to the issues that concern them, & untap their own creativity at the same time. Impact Arts works with housing associations, local & national organisations & the private sector to incorporate the arts into their regeneration plans. Core business includes working to alleviate homelessness, improving employability & helping vulnerable young people transform their aspirations.
Since 1994 Impact Arts has grown from a sole trader structure to fully fledged social enterprise within the charitable sector. With bases across Scotland in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Ayrshire & the Borders, Impact Arts has become a national company with local focus. Multi-million, long term philanthropic investment from Inspiring Scotland & the Scottish Investment Fund has enabled Impact Arts to expand its delivery of core programmes within these areas, as well as invest in innovation & infrastructure. All of Impact Arts’ work has individual & social change through the arts as its starting point.
Economic:None really. I grew impact arts organically and when I decided we needed investment to scale in 2008, there were a number of options available.
Family: None. My family were passively supportive of me starting a business. I do feel I have made sacrifices with my own children between 1999 and now, and often they took second place time wise to Impact Arts. This is a regret and I wouldn’t do things the same way again.
Social (discriminations…) None really. In the early days, I did feel that I wasn’t taken seriously in an older, male dominated environment.
Opportunities and threats which had a strong influence on your career.
• Started business young – with minimal financial commitments. It was a business with minimal start up costs – desk, phone and my own time.
• 1994 – post City of Culture in Glasgow – emerging community arts sector, well supported by public finance.
• I was always a portfolio worker – so had multiple, albeit modest income streams which enabled me to get Impact Arts started without a need to draw personal income from day 1.
• Anti- private sector mindset of local authorities.
• Established network of existing community arts organisations
• Lack of understanding of the potential role of the arts and creative approaches in social change, never properly resourced.
Hints & Tips
Suggestions and advice to women: Have your • Have confidence in your own abilities and beliefs, but when you know you need more help or support in a particular area, go and get it.
• Don’t go against your feelings to spend time nurturing your family in order to grow your business. Grow your business at a pace where you can balance family and work without putting yourself under excessive pressure.