2018 Recap!

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Hi everyone, Lily here and I’m finally sitting down to recap 2018… I know February is pretty much over but better late than never, right?!

I think I’ve been a bit daunted by this task as SO MUCH happened last year. As I map it all out, I’m genuinely marvelling. Its been a hell of a journey and I’m struck by the fact that we don’t always give ourselves as much credit as we should for all the things we accomplish. Nor do we share enough about the things that challenged us. So here it goes. I’m going to break things down by quarter in attempts to sound vaguely business savvy (those Q1 earnings, eh?) but its more to give frame to all that’s happened, bearing in mind this is only a small selection of what transpired [yet still makes for an alarmingly long blog post…]


Quarter One

Website launch!

Can you believe the website is only a year old? What you didn’t see was the year and half in the lead of up of hemming and hawing, planning and perfecting before this baby went live. What’s really cool is that we had 3,241 site visits in 2018! And a huge shout out to Mary Phillip, the amazing site designer who made it happen.


We had an amazing team of FreshSight consultants work with us as a part of the Changemakers partnership. The group spent 8 weeks working on a brief we framed around the feasibility of corporate training and thinking about diversifying revenue streams. And the report we received from them was kickass, we still use it today!

Young Entrepreneur Award

I was given the Young Entrepreneur Award by Investing Women during their Women’s Day conference in March. It was such an honour and not to mention an all-around good time.


Quarter Two

The wonderful Mastercard Foundation team presenting!

The wonderful Mastercard Foundation team presenting!


We recruited volunteers!! For the first time in our history I have been able to open up the business, invite people in and have some help. It’s been a learning process for sure but I’ve been humbled by the dedication and time given to Real Talk. It’s been such a huge asset. Everyone is going to being doing their own blog to introduce themselves, so keep your eyes peeled to learn more about the inimitable Real Talk team.

Mastercard Foundation

We were a community partner for the Mastercard Foundation Summer School. The team we were paired with explored our brief of wanting to develop a community outreach programme and ambassador programme. They produced a great presentation and set of recommendations, thanks ladies!


Quarter Three

Fixed Programming

2018 was the first year we had fixed programming with the Scottish Storytelling Centre! We ran quarterly events throughout the year, including an event during the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival and on World Mental Health Day. Continuing to host our mental health storytelling evenings and empower individuals to share their stories is at the core of what we do and its always a joy to spark community, conversation and compassion around mental ill health.

Real Talk in the News

We had two incredible bits of PR in 2018. On August 6th (which is actually my birthday) there was a lovely article published in the Edinburgh News. Then in November, there was a great feature about me and Real Talk in the Daily Mail about the power of storytelling for wellbeing.

Quarter Four


So this was a sneaky one but such an exciting one. Real Talk CIC is officially a community interest company! We incorporated on October 2nd, 2018 and I am very proud.

Shortlisted for Social Enterprise Champion

More awards! I was shortlisted for the Social Enterprise Champion- Under 26 award at the Social Enterprise Scotland Awards. While I didn’t win, I was a part of a list of exceptional social entrepreneurs and I’m so grateful for the recognition.

Lily speaking at the Las/Ignite Festival on Stornaway

Lily speaking at the Las/Ignite Festival on Stornaway


2018 was a huge challenge for us with cashflow. As my vision of what Real Talk could be adapts and grows, so does my understanding how to make it sustainable. As a social enterprise there is this constant tension of needing deliver impact but also to be enterprising. We don’t have a simple revenue model to say the least [what do you mean mental health storytelling isn’t lucrative…?]. But I managed to clarify our consultancy offer towards the end of the year and since then it’s been growing! We offer talks and bespoke workshops to organisations. We are also contracted to run the Real Talk process with other groups. And for this we earn money! In fact, in Q4 we earned more money than we have in the past two years combined working with the likes of Health in Mind, RedBull, The Chaplaincy, Tenants Participation Advisory Service, Mojo Scotland and An Laintair. I’m so excited about the prospects of our consulting services in 2019, so if you need any talks or trainings about storytelling and/or mental health, get in touch.

The failures!

Sometimes I look at the trajectory of other social enterprises and businesses and I feel like I’m not achieving enough, quickly enough. With our curated and glossy social media world, it’s easy to compare and contrast while just as equally masking the nitty gritty of your own life. So, I wanted to share some of the failures I experienced in 2018, cause believe me they were there.

In June I pitched for funding for my salary from UnLtd. Having been funded by them at a smaller level and being told my grant manager I had a very good chance, it was a shock to be rejected. I then applied to FirstPort for salary funding and I was rejected again. At this hugely transitional stage of the organisation, having the buffer of a year to develop our business model and have space to experiment is so integral. Yet it seems no one is willing to support that.

After the double rejection things were quite tough as I’d been working at Real Talk full time yet there wasn’t enough cash flow to support me. Stressful to say the least… Questioning whether what I’m doing is right, finding it difficult to not take those challenges as personal failures, feeling frustrated that something I’ve seen deliver so much benefit not be validated. And this was all happening amongst incredible uncertainty around my immigration status. Mix it all together and it put a huge strain on my mental health and made for some deeply challenging times personally and professionally. I ended up need to ask my Dad to help me out for a little bit as I searched for part time work, which didn’t feel the best (though I am so blessed to have a supportive family).

Then at the end of 2018, in efforts to be entrepreneurial, I tried to prototype some creative storytelling workshops, which wasn’t particularly successful. They weren’t well attended and some we had to cancel or postpone. Of course, it’s a learning curve and I can easily say I’m learning and growing every day.

Wrapping it up

Quite frankly, 1000 words isn’t enough to encapsulate a year. I haven’t even mentioned all the things in my life beyond running Real Talk. I finished studying for my COSCA Counselling Skills Certificate. I auditioned into a storytelling development programme, which lasted 6 months. I’m now working 2 other jobs while keeping Real Talk going.  But as I write this blog, I recognise how dang much happened with Real Talk this year and so much of it was so positive.

I was doing some storytelling at launch event for Wellbeing Rebels this week. It was started by Lou, who participated in Real Talk almost 2 years ago. As Lou introduced me, she spoke about how being a speaker with us, where she shared her mental health story with an audience and laid her cards out, was a game changer. It inspired her to set up her own organisation to support wellbeing. It allowed her to move forward. And it’s hearing things like that that make this whole thing so worth it.

Thanks for being on this journey with us and goodbye to 2018. Welcome to 2019 and all the challenges and cherished moments it will bring.


Lily Asch