In this blog edition, we speak to Francesa Abery of registered Charity – Something to Look Forward To. A charity that was set up to help people with cancer and their families access a variety of gifts, generously donated by people and companies.
“Cancer poverty is an under-recognised issue that affects over 90% of people diagnosed with the disease. Suddenly, people are unable to work or experience extra costs associated with their illness, some people even lose their homes”. Read on to hear Francesca’s story –
“We started the charity because of my mother’s incurable cancer diagnosis and our experience of cancer poverty.
We learnt how important it was to create memories with the people you love when time is short, so we set up our family founded and run charity website to give other families like ours ‘Something To Look Forward To’. Providing free gifts, experiences, and essentials too, including things such as cottage holidays, restaurant meals and special family days. All our gifts and experiences are donated by individuals and businesses, and we match them to those in need.
“Something to Look Forward to was launched as a charity in December 2015 and became operational in February 2016.
We began by exploring our own personal networks to see who we knew, that could donate a meal in a restaurant or time in their holiday home. In the last 6 years, we have provided over £800,000 worth of gifts to over 14,000 people affected by cancer. We now work with national and international businesses and brands and provide anything from house plants to flights in light aircrafts! It has been a lot of hard work but something we are extremely passionate about.
“Sadly my mother Fiona the Founder of our charity died in February 2021, so I now spearhead the charity in her memory and she is the driving force behind everything we do. My main career goal at present is to lead the charity to further success, do her proud and support as many people affected by cancer as I can.
Working from home
“For the last 6 years, our charity was delivered from a repurposed bedroom in my parents’ house! It did the job and we never wanted to spend charitable funds on premises until it was needed but as the charity grew and developed, we found ourselves needing bigger and more professional space.
“February 2020 saw us move into our first purpose-built office! It’s small but does the trick, housing our staff team of 4 and with space for more. We have a laid-back office vibe with pops of colour from our desks and cabinets. There are whiteboards all over the walls to help us with our targets and plans. The nature of the work means we are talking a lot about our beneficiaries and donors and it’s generally a fun, but hardworking place to be.”
What makes running your own business worthwhile?
“The pride you feel when you know you have achieved the things you wanted to achieve which gives you the drive to grow and develop so you can achieve more. If you are careful with your boundaries you can work with an element of flexibility and a positive work-life balance. However of course, this can easily go the other way when running your own business and it has taken me several years to start setting important boundaries to help this.
“When you are a very small team it means you must do all aspects of the business yourself which means you spread yourself thinly and this can be stressful. As a perfectionist, I found this hard when you don’t feel you have enough time or resources to do things in the way you would like. We have now got to a point where we have grown our team, so we have more defined roles and responsibilities.”
What would your advice be to any aspiring entrepreneurs?
“If you are passionate enough about your idea, then take the leap of faith to start your journey. I left a career in social work to help grow ‘Something To Look Forward To’ and it is the best decision I ever made. You must do in life what makes you happy, especially when it comes to work. Enjoy what you do and know why you are doing it. In my eyes, being successful in your career is not about how much money you make but it’s about making a positive impact whether that be on people, the environment or society.
“I like lists so you’ll find me working through those and my current thing is trying to “swallow the frog” – the thing on your list you are not motivated to do should be the thing you get done first. It makes sense and brings a big sense of relief when done but sometimes it’s still hard to swallow!”
Francesca has a degree in sociology, a master’s in social work and previously worked in social care, both the voluntary and statutory sectors. Now the managing director of Something to Look Forward To, she lives in Cambridge with her husband, their 3-year-old son and their dog Jeremy. Would you like to donate a gift to Something to Look forward to? Please get in touch here. Thank you.
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