Coming from a wide variety of business backgrounds, we offer the experience you need to help get your social enterprise off the ground.
Maria Fernanda Ashley
Head of Communications and Digital
Maria joined the team in August 2010. She started her career as a Marketing Assistant for a social enterprise supporting young and social entrepreneurs in London. This role allowed her to develop an understanding of the opportunities and challenges faced by start up companies, especially those with social aims at the heart of their businesses.
After that she had a stint in the private sector, working for a specialist insurance broker.
She relocated to Edinburgh in 2009 and worked in events management for a local charity.
Ray joined Firstport in September 2017.
He previously worked on the external advisers programme for the Scottish Academy on behalf of Scottish Government, and gained experienced working with both start-ups and established social enterprises in his business development role with the Social Investment Business.
At the Social Investment Business, he administered funds such as Futurebuilders England, helping to provide loan financing to third sector organisations in England to help them bid for, win, and deliver public service contracts; the Social Enterprise Investment Fund, a mixture of loans and grants managed on behalf of the Department of Health; and Communitybuilders, offering grant and loan finance on behalf of the Department of Communities and Local Government to organisations looking to establish community hubs.
Business Support Adviser
Anna joined the team in October 2018 to support social entrepreneurs in the north of Scotland/Highlands & Islands, and is bringing experience in business and community engagement, as well as range of supportive skills from her educational/counselling background. Previously a Transition Coordinator for Inverness College UHI, Anna has worked with wide range of organisations to support students and school pupils with transitioning into college. She has also supported start-up businesses and community/peer support groups through managing collaborative community projects involving private, public and third sectors. Anna has also been involved in a commercial business which supported several start-ups and engaged the community with arts, culture and social change. Anna has Master’s in Pedagogy and Media Education and is also a trainee counsellor with an interest in empowering women and young people in entrepreneurship.
Chief Operating Officer
Gael joined the team as Head of Operations in October 2014.
She was previously Legacy Manager for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and was responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council’s Legacy 2014 teams, as well as other stakeholders, locally based organisations and groups to ensure opportunities to participate in and benefit from the Games were maximised within Glasgow and across Scotland. Prior to this, Gael managed the roll out of schools based Community Sport Hubs for the City of Edinburgh Council.
Gael is a keen athlete and currently captains both the Scottish and Caledonia ladies water polo teams. Gael also sits on the water polo committee for Scottish Swimming, helping to shape and drive the sport forward in Scotland.
General Office Administrator
Laura has had a varied career mainly in the Payroll sector. Coming to Edinburgh, her first post was with the hotel industry as a Reception Leader gradually moving into payroll and HR with various other companies as varied as legal, a restaurant chain and finally a mental health charity.
Meeting up with like minded friends, she spends weekends listening to music and when on her travels she enjoys sampling the local cuisine.
Hannah joined the team in January 2019, having relocated from London, where she recently completed a masters in Art and Politics. Alongside her studies, she gained experience working for a content marketing firm where she developed and managed a range of social media campaigns. Hannah also has knowledge in magazine writing, having two published articles in an international Rugby magazine.
Outside of work Hannah loves to travel and playing rugby for a local club in Edinburgh.
Julie joined the Firstport team in April 2019. Julie has a vast amount of experience, having worked in community development in Edinburgh for over 20 years. With the past seven years of Julie's career being focussed in north Edinburgh, she joins the Firstport team to head up our What If...North Edinburgh programme. She brings with her expertise from running the North Edinburgh Timebank and working for Community Action North. Julie is excited to bring this experience, and her broad range of connections, to Firstport's new What If programme which will be aiming to build local businesses, that are run by local people, to meet the local need.
When she's not in the office, or out working in the north Edinburgh community, Julie is away in her motor home exploring the beautiful Scottish countryside. You're most likely to find her at the best birdwatching sites around Scotland.
Josiah joined the Firstport team in November 2017. Prior to joining Firstport, the experienced social entrepreneur was Chief Executive of Edinburgh’s Gorgie City Farm, where he led a successful crowdfunding campaign which saved the much-loved social enterprise from closure. Josiah also managed the start-up phase of the Grassmarket Community Project and helped launch Slow Food Scotland as an independent charity. He is a Committee Member of the Scottish Land Fund, which supports communities to acquire and manage land and land assets, and an SCVO Digital Pioneer.
Programme Manager (LaunchMe)
Colin started working with Firstport in April 2016 and brings 13 years of academic, management and leisure industry experience.
Among his experience, Colin has worked as a manager with Edinburgh Leisure and latterly in the City of Edinburgh Council. In the local authority, he was responsible for supporting organisations to develop suitable business plans for community asset transfer in line with the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.
Colin worked closely with community organisations to source funds and supported them to include the right business information for a successful application. With a very good knowledge of local authority operations, he has extensive experience of challenges and opportunities faced by social enterprises.
Colin has a Masters in Sport & Recreation Business Management and is a member of the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport & Physical Activity. He plays cricket and running when his kids allow him the time!
Brian joined Firstport in September 2010 bringing both business and community experience gained from his career to date. Since selling his own business in 1992, Brian has worked with the Federation of Small Business, moved to Fife to work with Community Businesses and returned to the West as a member of the Inverclyde Regeneration Partnership Implementation Team. In 1998 Brian moved to Belfast to launch and establish Belfast First Stop Shop Ltd, an arms-length company of Belfast City Council. In 2002 Brian returned to Scotland, and for a short time worked as a Business Adviser with Business Gateway in Dumfries before being asked to assume responsibility for the Dunbartonshire Business Gateway contract.
Brian has also served as both Vice President and Chairman of a Community social club with a membership of 1000. Brian enjoys assisting social entrepreneurs, particularly in the West of Scotland, to build viable businesses with social benefits.
Elaine joined the team in March 2009 and came with experience gained across a variety of corporate including Standard Life, RBS and Marks & Spencer. Having gained a wealth of knowledge across a number of different roles, Elaine has experience in events management, project management and HR admin. Elaine also gained an understanding of customer service while spending a season as a holiday rep in Greece.
Elaine is responsible for the administration of the awards programme and provides event management and admin support across the whole organisation. She is also part of our enquiries team, so it is likely that she will be one of the first people you speak to at Firstport!
Away from work Elaine loves travelling, swimming, eating out and spending time with friends.
Head of Programmes
Kirstie has almost ten years’ experience of working with third sector organisations, and is passionate about helping individuals access the support they need to set up their own social enterprises, and start something good within their communities.
Before joining Firstport, Kirstie was involved in establishing a start-up social enterprise herself as one of the founding directors of “Locavore”, a Glasgow-based social enterprise dedicated to promoting a sustainable local food economy. During that time, Kirstie also worked in the Third Sector department of a major Scottish law firm, assisting a wide range of clients with issues relating to their legal structures; this included drafting governing documents, incorporating limited companies, assisting with applications for charitable status and CIC registration.
Kirstie was also involved in launching the first ever Scottish charitable incorporated organisation (SCIO) - Glasgow-based environmental charity “South Seeds” – and became a founding trustee.