Geoff Baxter OBE runs Quill Consulting Services, in Carlisle, alongside wife and fellow director Susan. Geoff set up the company two years ago following a successful career working in executive roles for a number of public bodies and charities. The business advises public and third sector organisations on strategic planning, operational modelling, marketing and engagement. Geoff, 47, also offers training and coaching. Susan and Geoff live with their two children Alisha, 16, Braeden, 11, and Sprocker dog Parker.  

“My grandparents were from Carlisle. So, even though I lived in Glasgow growing up, I was still brought up as a Carlisle United supporter.  

“I went to Teesside University and then to Newcastle and lived in Manchester and then Milton Keynes. But when my brother and mum moved back to Cumbria and I got the opportunity to come here I took it. It is good to be back living close to family and we had a few connections that we knew up here already. The possibility of being on the doorstep of the Lake District and working from home was really appealing. 

“Throughout my career I've had experience as a CEO of charities and in the public sector. 

"I was given an OBE for services for justice for the work I did setting up Reflex, which started in 1995 in the North East.  

“I'm a guitarist and I was working as a volunteer in one of the prisons, going in to help them with some music workshops. I've always loved doing that sort of thing.  

“We ended up setting up a prison radio station and a recording studio. We set up a youth club and one of the prison governors invited me to come and work in the prison as a youth worker. As part of this we started delivering non-formal education; anything that has educational value but is outside of the academic scoring system. We would use things like drama, music and dance to help with literacy and numeracy. We also linked people with mentors that were coming in to do one-to-one sessions and worked closely with the chaplaincy as well to support any vulnerable prisoners.  

“In 2000 we recorded an album in one of the prisons called ‘Lockdown’. It got some media profile and I got asked to go down to London to present to HM Prison and Probation Service. Off the back of that they funded the roll out of the work, which was then happening in three prisons in the North East, to 16 other prisons nationally.  

“My role changed from delivering work on the ground to developing a national team who could deliver in multiple prisons. We had a 95 per cent completion rate on all of our courses, which was comparable to a 20 per cent average at the time. We ended up supporting 4,000 young offenders each year.  

"We set up Quill Consulting to give support to public sector and third sector organisations in a variety of fields. The main thing is around community engagement and how to effectively hone what they have so that their messaging is clear and engaging and they're more relational rather than transactional. 

"For charities, that can increase their number of volunteers and increase donations and help them be a bit more focused in making sure they're structured in a way that delivers what they set out to achieve. With the public sector we tend to focus more on the commercial aspects, so looking at how you can take a more commercial approach to some of the services that you provide, which would end up in either cost savings or income generation. 

"We'll work with public sector organisations to just look at different approaches that could be valuable to them. We'll look at their operating capacity and their staffing, pay systems that they have in place and whether they can be updated.   

"I'm looking to help other organisations engage with their clients. I've always been very keen to partner with those organisations and use the skills that I have to help them achieve their goals. I enjoy being part of their teams. I also enjoy the client facing part. My skills live very much in bridging the gap between a strategic plan and actual delivery on the ground. I really try to help people simplify things and be very straightforward. It's that movement from strategic to operational which is really at the core of what I offer. 

"We live quite near to Rickerby Park and we enjoy walks down to the park and along the river. A lot of the time is spent driving our children around to different activities. Alisha is very involved in dance and Braedan does drumming and basketball and Scouts as well. We like going to see Carlisle United and in the summer we'll hit the golf course.  

“We’re members of the Carlisle Vineyard Church as well. It’s an independent church and it’s very informal and there’s a lot of focus on the social side and so we’re never short of an invitation for dinner or drinks. 

"We've secured some funding with one of my charity clients, Nayba, to set up seven city wide innovation hubs, which includes development of entrepreneurs and new enterprises. It's like your traditional incubators but very much focused on developing micro economies within cities.  

“I'd love for one of those to be in Carlisle, so I'm working on developing a plan for that. I always love to see things happening where I am. Hopefully we can get some momentum behind it and engage the right partners to see that take off.”