Our team

Colin Crooks

Colin Crooks MBE, Chief Executive

Colin Crooks is the Chief Executive and founder of Tree Shepherd, a social enterprise focused on promoting and supporting employment and business growth in the UK’s most marginalised communities. He is also the author of How to Make a Million Jobs – A Charter for Social Enterprise, published September 2012.

Colin has a successful track record in establishing and running social enterprises spanning over 27 years, working with large corporate and governmental clients to deliver environmental and social objectives.

In 2000 he founded GreenWorks, which was the first business to recycle office furniture on an industrial scale. In 12 years GreenWorks recycled and reused more than 48,000 tonnes of office furniture and equipment, whilst employing many people from marginalised groups, including homeless people and ex-offenders.

Colin was also a local councillor with responsibility for the environment and sat on the Western Riverside Waste Authority. He has at various times been executive Chair and trustee of the London Community Resource Network, a trustee of Think Global, a council member at SEUK and has regularly delivered witness sessions for both the School for Social Entrepreneurs and for Common Purpose.

Colin was awarded an MBE for “Services to disadvantaged people and the environment” in the 2019 New Years Honours List

Lydia Gardner

Lydia Gardner, Senior Regional Projects Manager

Lydia joined Tree Shepherd in 2013, after 10 years in developing community-based social enterprises at the world-renowned Bromley by Bow Centre.

Since joining Lydia has managed the complete start-up training programme, the BIS-backed mentoring scheme, monthly network events, Lambeth Country Shows and Small Business Saturdays. In 2015-2017 she managed a two-year NHB funded business incubation programme with focus on setting up trade co-operatives. She has forged and cultivated an array of key partnerships and has been instrumental in establishing and bringing to independence the borough-wide Lambeth Forest Network.

Lydia has also managed Twist, a new street market in Tulse Hill (GLA crowdfunding award-winner) and 'Back2Business' supporting lone parents and older-aged entrepreneurs. In 2017 she  joined the CEO as Senior Projects Manager which includes strategic direction, marketing, fundraising, partnerships


Claudette Douglas, Workspace Manager Glows

Claudette joined us in April 2018 to oversee and manage our creative space in Glows, Tulse Hill. Claudette wears many hats and has a wealth of experience both on and off the stage and silver screen, she is also artistic director of Athea Hall Theatre Company and is presently working on her one woman show and publishing a first book of poems which will be published in July 2019. She is a ordained inter-denominational minister and college chaplain.

As an experienced social entrepreneur and a self confessed social philanthropist, combined with a passion for wellbeing, creativity and personal empowerment, she is well equipped to manage our maker space, as well as build upon growing the dynamic hot-desking space .

Lorna Ashley, Administration Manager

Joined Tree Shepherd Sept 2018, providing administration support to the Senior Management team, as well as managing the admin hub and the daily tasks which involve a wide portfolio of the Tree Shepherd enterprise support projects. Lorna also provides support to both the business advisers and students, in assisting a smooth transition for all in the enterprise journey.

Prior to this, Lorna's background has included PA, Business Development, Data Analysis and Marketing for over 20 years in the corporate risk industry and Media, as well as selling the odd aeroplane.

Lorna is a qualified counsellor and volunteers with a Bereavement and Suicide charity, as well as being in private practice

Emma Carr, Community Enterprise Connector SE16

Emma joined Tree Shepherd in April 2018, having attended the Start Your Own Enterprise Course at Canada Water the year before.
Emma works solely in Canada Water SE16 as a Community Enterprise Connector. She has lived in the area pretty much all her life, so has seen a lot of changes over this time. Emma uses her local knowledge and contacts to support and nurture local entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Previously Emma worked in the Financial sector for nearly 20 years before leaving to start a family. She was looking for her next venture when the opportunity to work for Tree Shepherd in her community arose. She jumped at the chance as she loves meeting new people and helping them reach their potential. In her spare time Emma loves spending time with her family and eating out with friends.

Sandra Ferguson, Regional Projects Manager

Sandra joined Tree Shepherd in April 2018 and has over 25 years’ experience of delivering a wide range of socio-economic programmes within major community regeneration and development programmes.  With extensive experience in housing, she has led on the development of social enterprise programmes working with tenants and residents to improve involvement and access to employment,  health, education and financial inclusion services.

Since 2014 she has been a highly productive consultant and tutor delivering services to support charities and government funded agencies.  Sandra has knowledge and experience of the Southwark social enterprise sector and is currently leading on our work in SE16 area developing Thrive, a low-cost workspace for local residents who are interested in developing new start up focusing on creatives, fabric workers, artists, therapeutic services and hot-desking.

Rhona Fairbairn, Business Development Executive (Church St & Elephant & Castle)

Rhona joined us November 2018, as Business Development Executive and is responsible for providing business support to local start-ups, micro and small businesses affected by redevelopment for the Church st and Elephant & Castle projects. Rhona actively engages with multiple stakeholders including specific business communities to advocate their needs and design services that will provide the most appropriate support for them.

Rhona comes with a broad background in Entrepreneurial and Business Development skills. She has set up several businesses and has previously working for major corporates such as British Airways, Virgin Media and 3 Mobile.

Her community work includes setting up a Residence Association for 800 homes in the borough of Croydon. Working in Partnership with shops on the high street, Councils and Police to improve the environment for residents

Rhian Letang, Business Development Executive

Rhian joined Tree Shepherd in November 2018, as Business Development Executive and is responsible for providing business support to local start-ups, micro and small businesses affected by redevelopment for the Elephant & Castle and Peckham projects. Rhian is highly skilled in relationship building. She regularly engages with key stakeholders and prides herself on being able to support, problem solve and provide solutions within developing business communities.

Rhian's previous experience comes from a background in Advertising, Sales, Account Management and Business Development. Most recently before joining Tree Shepherd Rhian had worked with 500+ small business owners via the Federation of Small Business where her role included identifying and understanding small business challenges and providing benefits and support services to accommodate their needs. As such she has a passion for working with small business owners because she believes they are the major drivers of the UK economy. Rhian has had roles in large organisations such as ITV and has also work with all major charities helping them to develop their telephones fundraising campaigns. Rhian also is passionate about health and well being and she is also currently the commercial director of a natural skincare and well being company.

Maria Baco, Data and Compliance Coordinator

Maria Baco joined us in June 2018 as Data and Compliance Coordinator. She holds a MSc in Business Intelligence and Analytics from Westminster University and she is really thrilled about data management and reporting.

Previously, Maria worked as Routing Manager in a SMS telecom company. During that time, she explored technical, commercial and marketing skills. She maintained products stability, successfully drove revenue and created new viable products for Europe, Middle East and Africa markets. Before that, she worked as a Security operations analyst for the banking sector preparing internal audits documentation to comply with Sarbanes Oxley regulations.

When she isn’t glued to a computer screen analysing data, she spends her time doing outdoor activities, traveling and having fun time with her family and friends.

Susan Cain, Operations Manager

Susan joined the team in November 2018 as Operations Manager supporting the CEO on financial management and programmes oversight to ensure Tree Shepherd delivers on its promises and contracts.

Prior to joining Tree Shepherd, Susan was Head of Corporate Responsibility at property company Telereal Trillium and is a founder member and Fellow of the Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability.  Susan is also a qualified accountant (ACCA), she has also worked for BT and Telereal Trillium, with responsibilities ranging from financial and management accounting to Board reporting and investment appraisal.

Married with four children, Susan has volunteered as Honorary Treasurer for their school Parent Teachers Association.  She now supports two other local charities - the Turner’s House Trust, as a volunteer steward and has applied to become a trustee of Mind.

Shaun Wilson, Thrive Workspace Co-ordinator and Administration Coordinator

Shaun joined in Jan 2019, as work space co-ordinator for our most recent venture, Thrive, which is our affordable co-work space, based in Surrey Quays. Shaun is currently working on ensuring our admin infrastructure is in place at Thrive. As of August 2019, Shaun will be also be providing administration support to the Tree Shepherd team 2 days a week.

Shaun has over 20 years’ involvement with local community groups and charities and has held several positions including trustee of both, High Trees Community Development Trust and Friends of Windmill Gardens, the charity that runs Brixton Windmill. Shaun is experienced at managing projects from original conception to successful completion. which includes setting up and running a youth club and children’s club, helping to  bring his local community centre back into use. Shaun also volunteers at Brixton windmill, managing the volunteer millers.

Shaun says ”I can’t wait to help play my part in empowering the local community to ensure their happy and prospers future”.


Magdalen Rubalcava - Glows Workspace co-ordinator

Magdalen joined Glows in April 2018 as workshop co-ordinator. Magdalen has a degree in Fashion & Textiles, as well as another in Theatre design. Magdalen has worked all over the world and in the Theatre world, however, more recently works all over Lambeth as an installation artist, which includes the Sunflower butterfly garden and Alice in Wonderland in the Town Hall flowerbeds, in the final month before the Town Hall closed down for refurbishment. She has also been commissioned to make a 25 ft  Christmas Tree out of 500 smelly old work boots for Southwark recycling centre.

Magdalen liaises with the Glows members and introduces and promotes Glows and the  hot desk maker space.

She is also a founder member of friends of Windmill Gardens