Coffee Chat with Stephen Richards


Stephen Richard is Solving Kids’ Cancer Chief Executive, one of CAN Mezzanine's Old Street customers. Solving Kids’ Cancer fights for a future where no child dies of the childhood cancer neuroblastoma or suffers due to its treatment.
It possible to support their work taking part in the September campaign #GlowGoldDay: follow them on their social media to know more about it.


1) Your typical day

My day starts quite early.

I’m normally one of the first into the office; I am in around half past seven. First thing, I make a coffee (!), then I write a to-do list trying to make sure that I do the things that need to be done. During the day I often I work with individual families affected by neuroblastoma that are seeking our support, sometimes to access treatment abroad unavailable on the NHS, which requires our help to raise the funds they need.

I have meetings on Skype or WhatsApp with hospitals abroad, usually in New York City or Barcelona, where we have partnerships. Very often I am out and about meeting supporters and donors. I also try to ensure that our staff feel supported by the charity including those who work remotely from home. I try to leave at 6 pm, but there is always a lot to do. 

2) You’re responsible for…

The Trustees delegate their authority to me for the day to day delivery of the charity’s strategy. Currently, I have 5 people reporting to me: Head of Operations, Head of Fundraising, Head of Strategic Finance, Senior Family Support Team Coordinator and Research Coordinator.

The year 2018/2019 has been our most successful year ever for Solving Kids’ Cancer. We are currently completing our audited annual accounts, but it is safe to say that we raised more funds, supported more families, initiated more research and campaigned more effectively than we have ever done previously.  

3) Do you think that Brexit is going to affect your work as a Charity?

It is very unfortunate that the deadline of the 31st of October is so close, and still, we do not know if it will affect us and how. One of the things we are very concerned about is that much of our business is conducted in the US. Dollars and the impact of Brexit on the value of the pound compared to the US Dollar is significant.

Hopefully, the NHS will also make sure that all the relevant medication and treatment for our children will be available so that no child suffers as a result. We are positively hopeful. 

4) How do you feel working at Solving Kids’ Cancer?

I really love it.

Solving Kids’ Cancer is a “small” charity with big attitude and ambition, which I like. I think we have some of the best staff I have ever worked with. It is amazing to work so closely with the parents of children who are affected by this aggressive cancer, neuroblastoma.

5) Your greatest achievement

I think my greatest achievement was deciding back in 1984 that I wanted to leave banking and my job at NatWest.

Banking was not for me; I resigned and trained to become a nurse. Since then, I have worked in a hospice, became a Macmillan Nurse in the NHS and then worked for Macmillan Cancer Support where I held several Director positions prior to starting at Solving Kids’ Cancer.

Everything in my career that subsequently happened would not have happened if I had decided not to leave banking to nurse. Many people said to me that it was risky; that nursing was “a woman’s job” but standing by my decision against all that negativity is my greatest achievement. Sometimes, you need to take risks in life and listen to your “heart”.

We are privileged to be working in a charity helping and supporting people. 

6) Your greatest challenge

Starting work with Solving Kids’ Cancer was a challenge for me because I was used to working in big organisations, with big brand recognition.

Nobody had heard of Solving Kids’ Cancer as we work with - thankfully - only a small number of children. However, approximately 50% of those diagnosed with neuroblastoma have a very particular aggressive form of it, which is difficult to cure. 

7) What have you learnt so far?

I learnt that listening to your “gut” is important – hard evidence is good, but intuition also plays an important part in decision making. 

I learnt that one must try to deal with difficult situations or issues first each day; the difficult conversations, phone calls,  written reports and emails etc. that require a lot of effort and you want to put off! Dealing with them frees you up to get on with what you enjoy doing the most!

I have also learnt how much potential there is in all of us, how much resilience, even in the darkest of moments. 

8) Your plan B…

As I child I had always wanted to be an archaeologist, digging and finding hidden treasures! I do have an interest in antiques so I think my fantasy would be to become an art dealer, buying and selling art, making lots of money to give to charity!


9) Coffee or Tea?

Definitely coffee in the morning – tea in the afternoon!


10) Your favourite quote…

“Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Benjamin Franklin.

11) Your inspiration?

I am inspired by the parents we support and the staff and Trustees who work for Solving Kids’ Cancer. The parents are suddenly thrust into this world where they face a very uncertain future, where their child may not survive. They dedicate themselves to find a way for their child to be free of cancer.

They must balance this with work and family life. They really do inspire me. 



Category: Mezzanine