Meet the MD - Katie Buckingham of Altruist (As seen in BQ Live)

Katie has been an advocate of mental health advice and awareness since the tender age of 17. An alumni of Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, Katie founded Altruist in 2013 to raise awareness of mental health issues in the workplace. She talks to BQ about her working life.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words.

I am the founder and director of a Startup company called Altruist Enterprises. I am responsible for the day to day runnings of the business along with the overall strategy. I work with and co-ordinate a number of trainers and consultants who deliver our courses on behalf of Altruist.

What is it the company does?

Altruist Enterprises provides training to help businesses prevent and identify the early signs of stress in the workplace and support staff more effectively.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

  • Someone who is passionate and committed to what they do.
  • Ability to delegate and work with peoples strengths
  • Ability to take other people’s ideas on board, gather all of the information and then make an informed decision.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Starting a business from scratch is always difficult. The biggest challenge I faced was at the beginning in identifying my customer and learning how to sell our services to them.

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I practice what I preach! Your thoughts impact on your feelings, which impact on your behaviours. I question my negative or unrealistic thoughts in order to achieve better outcomes. Questions I ask myself include:

  • How might someone else view my situation?
  • What would I say to someone else in this situation?
  • Am I concentrating on weaknesses, forgetting my strengths?
  • Am I taking responsibility for something which is not my fault?
  • Am I expecting myself to be perfect?
  • Am I more critical of myself than I am of others?
  • Am I exaggerating the importance of events?

I also play football and practice Mindfulness meditation.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I suppose I was always destined to have my own business. At the age of 8, I used to paint pictures and then sell them to family members. Prices would range from 2 pence to 5 pence depending on the quality of the picture. 

When I reached secondary school, I began selling sweets to peers. My dad’s friend bought us a huge tub of pear drops one Christmas. As no one in the house were particularly keen on them, I began selling bags of five for 20p each. On the way home from school, I would use the money that I made to buy sweets I actually did like.

Any pet hates in the workplace?

A kettle is never big enough to make a full round of teas and coffees, it always has to be boiled twice!

Where do you see the company in five years time?

We aim to be the go-to company for anything staff stress and mental well-being related.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Get a mentor - someone who has been there and done it.

Keep learning - talk to industry experts, read relevant books and articles and attend seminars.

Don’t be afraid to fail - you can learn a lot from getting things wrong.

Where did you start your career?

I created and delivered my first mental health project at the age of 17. It was called WATS (We are the same) Mental Health? and its aim was to raise awareness and reduce the stigma attached to mental health amongst young people aged 11-19 years.

I was successful in gaining funding from my local authority (Solihull Council) which allowed me to work with schools, colleges, youth groups and mental health services within the local area.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far.

I have worked in the WATS Mental Health? Project since 2011. I attended the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy for a year in 2012 before setting up Altruist Enterprises.

Katie attended the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy where she set up Altruist in 2013. Since then, Katie has won various awards including Birmingham Mail's Young Achiever of the Year 2017, New Entrepreneurs Foundation 'Future Face of Business' and Entrepreneurial Spark's 'Most Accelerated Business'. She has also been a finalist in nine other award categories and in 2014, Katie was invited to attend the prestigious 'Women of the Year Lunch' in honour of her work raising awareness and reducing the stigma attached to mental health.

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