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How I Became: Russell Teale, CEO and Co-founder, Vivify Venues

Russell Teale

Founded in 2020, tech for good company Vivify has developed an advanced booking platform to help schools generate additional income by renting out their facilities to their local community.

Co-founded by Russell Teale, the company has rapidly expanded after securing two rounds of investment and acquired fellow school facility booking platform Community Hire in 2022, following a £1m funding injection from North West investor Arete.

Vivify now partners with over 150 schools across England and Scotland and is on track to deliver £40m of social value back into schools and communities.

Here, Teale shares his career journey, tips and what has inspired his career.

How did you first get into your industry?

I was exposed to community lettings four years ago after almost 20 years in the leisure industry and it blew my mind. Seeing people from every walk of life was inspirational. Growing up in Wythenshawe gave me a real insight into how important community spirit really is and therefore felt compelled to start up Vivify. 

What do you love about your job?

Seeing the impact – on schools, on communities and our team. It is a great feeling to know that you are generating millions of pounds for schools. They spend that money on special educational needs staff that their budgets don’t allow for, along with teaching assistants, school trips and new equipment. It all makes a huge difference. The same goes for community groups. Since the pandemic 400 gyms, pools and leisure centres have closed and a further 79% are at risk. So having almost 30,000 schools with fantastic facilities in the heart of communities, it is amazing to play our part. 

Who – or what – has inspired you in your career?

Everyone says it, but my Mum. I lost my Mum last year on New Year’s day. She dedicated her life to others. From a very young age my Mum had three jobs, bringing me up in Wythenshawe to make ends meet. No central heating, ice on the inside of the windows in winter, but she did it. Food on the table – the whole lot. Her jobs were always about caring for others. She worked for Victim Support helping people that had suffered serious crimes, she looked after the elderly, mental health patients as well as working within social housing focusing on anti-social behaviour. Some of my earliest memories are being stood in the reception of children’s homes on Christmas Day with my Mum delivering presents before we had opened ours. So to see that work ethic, determination and willingness to help others and make a difference, I was only ever going to follow in her footsteps. Now it is about carrying on her legacy of helping others. 

What are the biggest challenges about your job?

Growing and scaling a business, whilst delivering on our culture and values. Scaling a business is hard; tough decisions, long hours, travelling the country and making sacrifices. I am so lucky to have an amazing team in work and a very supportive family at home. Having a culture that is centred around a social purpose is huge. Our team are all here because we are aligned on what we want to achieve. We want to make a difference, but it is challenging. 

What skills have been the most crucial to you succeeding in your career so far?

From a very young age I have been described in two ways – relentless and passionate. These traits have absolutely helped me along the way throughout my career. From being fresh out of Uni working as a HR Administrator at Total Fitness, to leaving as the Operations Director and being part of an MBO – through to starting Vivify. We started the business during lockdown meaning it was terribly difficult. We did not qualify for furlough so I did the first 12 months salary free. But the relentless focus on creating the business and the passion for the social output kept me going. 

What was your first salary and what could someone getting into the industry expect to earn nowadays?

I worked lots of part time jobs – a lot! Tesco, Cineworld, Blockbuster, restaurants, bars! But my first salaried job was with Total Fitness as a HR Administrator on £12,000 per annum. Now HR Admins earn double that and it comes with training and development, a lot like accountancy these days. 

What education or training would be most useful for someone looking to follow your career path?

I went to university but wouldn’t necessarily say that it gave me the skills to be successful now. But constantly saying yes to training and experience is everything. Going and spending time in other departments within your organisation, spending time with different teams and absorbing everything. Get to know people’s names, spend time with them. Understand their job as well as your own. That internal education is more valuable than an external one, in my opinion. 

What advice would you have for someone looking to follow your path?

Be open to change, say yes to everything and show passion at every step. The world is changing; people want things faster and they want to do something that makes a difference. But truly wanting to get there and be in a position to do that is all about desire. No matter what obstacles get in the way, no matter what happens to you, whether you get made redundant or you don’t achieve your short term targets, find a way. Having that resilience, passion and energy can literally take you anywhere. 

I got an A, four C’s and four D’s in my GCSEs. Almost the same amount of people have been to prison that went to Uni from my year group at school. But back to what my Mum taught me; being relentless, always saying yes and helping others will get you a long way.

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