Anyone who wants to be successful in business needs to stay ahead of the game, that's why I've built my career around innovation. From the early days of competing in equestrian competitions and progressing to training and selling horses, I then learned the ropes of internet marketing and set up my own company in my garden shed. It was here that Everyclick was born and since then we have developed Give as you Live, which taps into internet marketing spend and diverts it to charity while people shop online. Today we have raised over £4.5m for UK charities.
Standing in front of investors and telling them I was starting a company that would give at least 50 per cent of its revenue away to charity wasn't easy, but it worked. Together we have created a successful business and a new source of funding for charities. As well as coming up with new ways of making money for themselves, businesses need to innovate in how they give back to society, the occasional PR stunt won't do it. Businesses that really commit to charity will benefit from greater customer trust and support, making them and the causes they support more successful in the long run.
This is why I'm taking part in Byte Night, the UK's biggest business and technology sector sleep out in support of Action for Children's work to prevent youth homelessness. The money raised goes to the charity's services that help young people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Byte Night has grown phenomenally since starting in 1998 and this year we aim to raise £1.3 million for vulnerable children. It is money that is desperately needed. The latest figures show councils in England registered 15,000 young homeless people last year, and in the UK as a whole it is estimated that 80,000 young people experience homelessness each year.
Homelessness can take different forms, it may mean living on the streets but for others it means moving from house to house, sleeping on friends' sofas. Whatever it looks like, being homeless makes it hard for young people to find or stay in education and jobs, and puts them at risk of mental health problems, addiction and abuse.
There is no typical boy or girl who becomes homeless, it could happen to anyone's child. Sometimes families who have been getting along fine face challenges, like relationship breakdowns, that make it difficult for young people to stay at home. Action for Children works with families to help them before they get to such a critical point, and it also supports young people who have left home to find new, safe accommodation.
I'm excited to be involved in Byte Night because it brings together people from different industries who have a sense of responsibility and a passion for charity. Making the right connections with people who share our vision is vital in building businesses and the same goes for making a difference to society.
If you would like to become more innovative in your charitable efforts, I urge you to get involved with Byte Night. You will meet like minded peers, possible new clients and build your own team morale. Four hundred people are already signed up, from business giants to small start-ups, and every new person who brings their creativity and energy will help us make a bigger difference to young people who need it most.
Visit the Byte Night website to find out more and sign up.