Meaningful Business (MB:) Please tell us a bit about your background.
Henry May (HM:) I was educated in a very traditional British boarding school (boarding from age 8) and my experience wasn’t an entirely happy one. I spent lots of time travelling in South America after school and during University and fell in love with the region, especially Colombia. My life and career was transformed by doing Teach First and becoming a teacher in a tough school in South London. It set me on a path towards understanding the challenges of the education system and believing I could make a difference to that system.
MB: What led you to start CoSchool?
HM: In 2012-13 I spent time in Colombia training the teachers of Teach for Colombia and working as a teacher. As the country prepared for peace negotiations to end a 50-year civil year it felt like a pivotal and vital time for the country, and education reform had to be at the centre of the future of the country. In my opinion, the key to that reform has to be better emotional and wellbeing education in schools. Being here at that moment coincided with the development of my first entrepreneurial project (The Huracan Foundation, a global football NGO) and the combination of recognising a problem/opportunity and my entrepreneurial enthusiasm led me to starting CoSchool.
MB: What are the main problems you are trying to solve?
HM: Primarily, the problem is students do not have opportunities to develop social and emotional skills in school. A secondary problem is that teachers/educators are not prepared and supported to make this happen. So, we want to focus on enabling teachers to be brilliant at teaching ‘SEL’ (social and emotional learning) in their classrooms.
MB: What is your biggest challenge right now?
HM: Figuring out how to scale up CoSchool and reach more teachers and students at the base of the pyramid; using technology to do so, while at the same time guaranteeing quality and high impact experiences for them.
MB: What is your vision for the future of your business?
HM: We want to create resources, opportunities, and community for the 2 million teachers in the Spanish speaking world, enabling them to become excellent educators and drive positive change forward with their students.
MB: What is your advice to other leaders who want to combine profit and purpose?
HM: You can’t add purpose to profit as an afterthought. Purpose has to be at the authentic core of what you want to achieve.
MB – What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
HM – It’s ok to not know the answer, and it’s ok to change your mind.
MB – Who inspires you?
HM – I’m inspired by leaders who are genuinely interested in improving the lives of other people, from across the spectrum. Bill Gates from Business and Philanthropy. Brene Brown as a researcher/writer. Colleagues and friends who run social enterprises in the education sector.
MB – How do you define success?
HM – At the end of your life, you can look back and answer “Yes” to the question “Did you improve the lives of others?”.
MB – What is something you wish you were better at?
HM – Holding my team – particularly my senior leadership team – to account on key deliverables. I’m learning that accountability requires vulnerability and I sometimes avoid asking the hard questions.
MB – What is the one book everyone should read?
HM – Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” was a book I read just before starting CoSchool.
MB – What do you do to relax?
HM – Trail running in the hills of Colombia. The best way to connect with nature and stay fit.
Discover the other MB100 leaders recognised for their work combining profit and purpose to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in 2020, here.