Carla Keegans

Social Enterprise CEO, Saltburn

Sector: Social Enterprise / Housing

Carla grew up in Redcar, to parents from Glasgow and Manchester. After a professional career in the UK housing sector, Carla returned home to Redcar to establish social enterprise The Ethical Lettings Agency in 2015, followed by The Ethical Housing Company in 2018.  

Where do you call home? 

Today, I live in Saltburn – a fantastic place to live, with a short commute to work. 

Tell us about your role?  

As CEO of The Ethical Lettings Agency and The Ethical Housing Company, I am responsible for all aspects, including the finances, operations, governance, business planning, performance, legal, HR, risk and liaison with our investors. Together, both companies work to house people in housing need across Teesside, including those facing homelessness. We have a small team, and trusted contractors, who do incredible things. 

How did you get to where you are today? 

Hard work, study, perseverance and results. Plus, and possibly most importantly, a belief in a greater good, something bigger than yourself, to work towards. This continually inspires me, and also helped keep me going in the first hard years of my business. I have also combined academic study throughout my career, graduating three times from university (Teesside and Northumbria) which held me in good stead working and progressing in the public sector, where I spent many years. I have always tried to stay true to my beliefs and values, and from this have benefited from opportunities that might not otherwise have presented themselves.  

What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way? 

In the past, I often struggled with “internal politics” and the bureaucracy in large organisations. I always had this laser focus to provide the best service and was probably regarded as unrelenting by some colleagues. Running my own business means this is not an issue; we are relatively small and agile and can make decisions quickly for the benefit of our customers and for the strength and performance of our organisations. An ongoing priority is making sure not to let stress creep in – self-care is important, for you and your business. 

Describe the moment you first got a feel for success? 

Success to me is working in a fulfilling job and I always class myself as very fortunate that my whole career has been to help people. It’s the very reason why I set the companies up and it motivates me every day.  

There have, of course, been achievements throughout my professional life – they’re like milestones and are important. As for the businesses, I think getting the first customers, employing my first members of staff, through to raising millions of pounds in social investment were also important milestones and, when I gave myself a moment to reflect, I felt excited, grateful and relieved, probably in equal measure. 

Oh, and in my mid-20s, when I finally had a wage that allowed me to pay for a round-the-world plane ticket…the best year of my life that sparked a lifelong passion for travel. 

Do you have any advice to aspiring young females? 

Be true to yourself and you will make the right decisions and live your own unique life. even if at times it’s hard or you’re in the minority. Learn to understand yourself (meditation is powerful) and listen to what you want to do with your life. Then, when you find it, work hard for it. There really are no limits to what you can achieve – and the world certainly needs more women in positions of authority. Two of my mantras in life are from the incredible Nelson Mandela: “A good head and a good heart a formidable combination”, along with “it always seems impossible until it is done” – boom! 

What advice would you give for your younger self?  

Be kind to yourself in hard times (as they will come), ask for help when you need it, and when Kelly Jones of the Stereophonics asks you for a drink, go! 

What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?  

Imagine, solidarity, equality.

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