Tag Archives: Passion

Running before you can walk

Profiling a Prince’s Trust supported entrepreneur

Ruth Simmonds has a high energy ‘go for it’ style which would seem to be at odds with her chosen business pursuits – as a Pilates instructor and, more recently, coaching other Pilates instructors.

From the little I know about Pilates, it seems to be about controlled physical exercise accompanied by mindful relaxation. This contrasts sharply with the animated exchange that is a conversation with Ruth Simmonds, founder of Therapy Through Pilates.

The apparent contradiction is explained by a serious back injury that put Ruth – a former dance teacher – in bed for sixth months and led to her discovering Pilates as part of her rehabilitation. “A full workout that aligns the body to overcome pain” is how Ruth describes the discipline.

Being bed-bound meant she had time to hatch her business idea, plan it – “a business plan is good for getting you thinking about things you wouldn’t have done otherwise” says Ruth –  researching the market, and networking. “You’ll never build a business on your own” she adds.

In a canny move that involved charging others for instruction while she herself was learning how to be a Pilates instructor, Ruth built up a small but growing core of paying customers by running two classes in a local venue. As well as generating income, she says this test trading “built my confidence and got me used to charging for my services. I find people can be funny about charging – that’s no way to run a business!”

She credits the Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme with “giving me a push to turn the idea into a business.” With that gentle push – in recognition of the bad back – the business was up and running within a couple of months of Ruth’s recovery from the injury. Ruth describes herself as a “bit of a driver” and success means she now has others to do admin and instructors working for her.

This success has freed up time for her to pursue a new, but related, business venture – supporting Pilates instructors to develop themselves and their businesses through 1-2-1 coaching and group retreats at home and abroad.

Despite her personal effort, energy and determination, Ruth acknowledges the contribution of her Prince’s Trust business mentor. ”The mentoring is probably one of the best things about the programme. You’re sometimes too close to the business yourself to see the opportunities – you need someone outside to say ‘have you thought of doing it like this?’”

For marketing support and advice, Ruth went elsewhere through a family connection and has focussed on Facebook as her communication channel of choice for reaching new clients online. “I started with boosted posts, then went into Facebook groups and other social networks to explain the benefits of Pilates in everyday life. I offered free taster sessions – it worked well to go one further and get people to experience the benefits for themselves.”

But Ruth advises against trying all social media channels at once “You’ll be spreading yourself too thinly and it makes it difficult to track what’s working.”

The move from being a Pilates instructor to helping other instructors develop their businesses reflects Ruth’s interest in how mindset can help (or hinder) business development and, ultimately, success. Her own mindset has everything to do with being positive. “I’m someone who jumps in the deep end and, while I wouldn’t necessarily encourage others to do this, I give it my all and learn when things go wrong. There were times when my mentor advised me not to do something and I went ahead and did it anyway… and it worked!”

That said, Ruth admits she’s not too proud to ask for help. “If I hit a brick wall, I’ll reach out to others – for advice, information or inspiration. When you put yourself out there, there’s always an underlying fear of rejection – it can be scary.”   

Further information:      

Therapy through Pilates https://www.facebook.com/therapythroughpilates

Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme  https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/help-for-young-people/support-starting-business  

Swimming against the tide

Our local leisure centre is running a special offer – 5 days free use of their facilities. I won’t be making use of the gym – I’m more a running-outdoors-from-my-front-door sort of a person – but I’m using the swimming pool.

I’ve been in the pool before (and I once won 10 free swims in a local recycling competition – don’t ask) but otherwise I don’t swim there very often because it’s peak rate charges when I want to go and, to be honest, I find swimming up and down the pool a bit boring. Another reason I don’t swim there much is that I don’t fit into either of the groups of pool users that predominate first thing on weekday mornings.

There are the lane swimmers who plough up and down in their budgie smugglers (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up) and the female equivalent, with their power drinks lined up on the end of the pool. I’ve never worked out why they need to rehydrate – swimming can exhaust me, but I’d never describe it as ‘thirsty work’. The other main group are the social swimmers – people who have reached a certain age and stage in their lives when standing in the shallow end of a swimming pool to chat with other early risers seems like a good idea.

I’m not knocking it – swimming pools are great places for socialising as well as exercise – but it does make me feel as though my swimming up and down is intruding on some not-very-private conversations. If looks could kill – they feel like daggers (or maybe in this context it should be ‘torpedoes’?) – I’d have sunk without trace without making it beyond 10 lengths.

Then there’s weekends and another group where I don’t fit in – young swimmers – with most of the pool taken up by young learners on one side and family fun on the other. Adult swimmers are squeezed into one lane in the middle so I accidentally ended up breast-stroking another swimmer while she stroked my back, also presumably by accident. I’ve just identified a fourth reason not to swim in a pool on a regular basis – there simply isn’t enough space.

And ploughing a lonely furrow is, er… lonely. It’s obviously more comfortable to go with the flow, but my upbringing tends to point me in the other direction – standing up for what I believe – even when this risks resistance and courts criticism.

My grandfather was a liberal MP so I know all about being in a minority. And while my Quaker upbringing has never resulted in discrimination of any kind, in my youth I was perhaps regarded as a bit unusual (as might anyone from a religious minority).

For the past 20 years I’ve also been inspired to plough my own furrow by a great friend whom I met at a very low and uncertain time in my life. He took me under his wing and, as the brilliant networker and connector he is, he found me a job and helped take my career in a new and exciting direction for which I’ll always be grateful.

In the context of this blog post, for the past two decades I’ve seen this friend swimming against the tide – agitating and campaigning – to further his sincerely held beliefs about ways to change the world and make it a better place. It’s been frustrating to see the brick walls and brush offs, but I’ve always admired him as the grain of the sand in the oyster; the grit that creates a pearl. He’s like a terrier that won’t let go – it that’s not using too many metaphors in a couple of sentences.

I hope I’ll still be as tenacious as my friend in 20 years’ time – he’s 80. For now, I’ll keep swimming up and down the pool – at least metaphorically – risking upsetting people in the pursuit of greater causes.

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2018/05/you-cant-please-everyone.html

 

Eight tips for business start-ups    

Share your start-up ideas

You may be tempted to think your business idea is so clever that others will steal your idea as soon as they hear about it. Chances are your idea isn’t so unique, and you have more to gain from telling everyone who is prepared to listen than keeping your cards close to your chest. Unless you have a potentially patentable product, don’t waste time and money on protection – even with a patent you probably can’t afford to defend it. https://youngfoundation.org/social-innovation-investment/social-enterprise-mistakes-worrying-that-someone-will-steal-your-idea/

Consider a lean start-up

We talk about finishing a business plan before launching a business to lay solid foundations to give the business the best chance of success. In reality, a business plan is never finished – it’s a promise not proof and sometimes waiting to ‘get it right’ is an excuse for doing nothing. Sometimes it’s good to jump in before all the details are worked out. At that ‘test trading/ piloting’ stage you’re doing real life market research and you’ll probably be more willing to make changes because the plan is less fixed and you’ve committed less time to it. https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/running-on-fumes-a-case-for-lean-business-start-up

Things always take longer than you want/ expect

When you’re fired up about your business idea, you don’t want to be told that it won’t develop as quickly as you’d like; that things won’t follow the time-line in your well-worked business plan. You’ll want to keep the momentum going but remember – your timetable is no one else’s. If you’re collaborating with others and depending on the support of partners who have less interest in your success than you do, you may have to be patient – they have their own timetables.

Passion is rarely enough

People are too eager to say that passion is all you need for starting a business (it certainly helps) and if you want it badly enough you’ll succeed. The latter is not true and sets up people to fail. Some business ideas and the people behind them have no chance of success and ‘managing expectations’, if not actually damping down their enthusiasm, is often kinder in the long run. That said, being proved wrong is always a delight! https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/lesson-1-roots-wings-and-balance

Be prepared to stop making products you want to sell and start making products that people want to buy.

The paying customers is (almost) always right – if they want it, make it. Business is business – don’t let your personal views stop a sale (unless it’s a commission that simply won’t work).

If you’re making products, you’ll probably take pride in your creation having spent a lot of time and effort in the process. But you have to let go – in business you must be prepared to sell your favourite pieces, even to people who don’t appreciated your talent. You may also have to compromise your standards and at times; accept ‘good enough’ to operate competitively. https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/the-paying-customer-is-always-right

Keep it simple and limit choice

Whether it’s pricing and discounts / membership processes and application forms / product and service ranges, keep it simple. You shouldn’t need a degree to work out the price of an item after taking off the discount, adding delivery and VAT etc. It’s also proven that limiting choice will result in higher overall sales. So, don’t display 15 different ‘bespoke’ mirrors – put 5 in the spotlight and keep 10 under the counter.

The ‘right way’ is rarely clear cut

‘Getting it right’ is usually a question of balancing different options. Whether it’s balancing social and financial objectives, pricing for affordability vs pricing for viability, and balancing quality against cost-effective production, there’s usually a judgement to be made. Making 150 bird boxes is good for business but not for the wellbeing of workers who want to be creative.

You can’t run a business on fresh air and goodwill

You can go a long way by appealing to your friends and family and tapping into the time and expertise of volunteers – there’s a lot of free support and advice around, particularly for start-ups. But sustaining a functioning business in the longer term, is likely to need at least some paid staff input. A contract of employment is important for underpinning commitment and reliability.

For more start-up lessons go to https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/category/learning-about-earning

 

Lights, camera, action

Profiling a Prince’s Trust supported entrepreneur

The logic behind young mum’s setting up their own businesses is clear – the flexibility around childcare and working from home, the excitement of turning a hobby into an income source, and the stimulation of growing a business alongside a family. Sadly, for many women in this situation the demands of juggling self-employment and parenting can be too much, even with support through The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme .

This is not the case for Emily Mashiter who runs her photography business from her home in Milton Keynes while combining caring for a three-year-old son with shift work at a local hotel. And all this despite her admitting “I’m one of the most disorganised people – it’s really bad.”

Photographer Emily specialises in taking pictures of babies aged between five and ten days old. The tranquil and angelic image of a young person at peace with their world (the newborn, not the photographer) belies the effort that goes into creating it. “Newborn shoots usually take about four hours; most of that time is spent putting them into a deep sleep so you can then do pretty much anything with them, while keeping them safe at all times. I love cuddling them and they always fall asleep – I haven’t yet had one that didn’t like me.”

It sounds as though Emily could have a second career as a baby-whisperer if her current photographic venture doesn’t develop (pun intended).

Emily’s love of shooting babies (which would sound terrible in any other context) started with her own son’s newborn photos, after which, in Emily’s own words, “I fell in love with little ones and it was babies, babies, babies!”  

The route to a career in photography started in childhood “copying my Dad with a point-and-shoot camera on holiday in Wales.” That initial interest was followed by A levels and a college course to learn photographic technique. A lifelong love of art, combined with her innate eye for a good shot and important editing skills, captures moments that, as evidenced by repeat commissions, delight her clients as much as the photographer herself.

Having a baby soon after leaving college thwarted plans for further study – in Wales and New York – in fashion photography. For someone who became a mum at 19 years, Emily is happy with career decisions that have brought her to her current situation where she hopes the new business is, with support from the Prince’s Trust, about to take off. “I think I made the right choice with the camera I bought originally, but I should have invested in other equipment such as lighting, and buying props to make my early work look more professional.”

In what she thinks is a wise move, Emily works with parent and babies she doesn’t already know – avoiding a potential difficult mix of professional and personal relationships. “People you know tend to want more for less. I’ve never had a problem asking strangers for money and they’ve always been happy to pay.”

The cool, calm, capable baby-whisperer that is Emily Mashiter is at odds with the disorganisation she confessed to. How does she manage to juggle clients, hotel work and motherhood? “I have a set rota for my job so I remember that. Every other weekend is free for photoshoots and I make do without ever having enough sleep. I have a very good childminder and can do business admin in the evenings when my little boy is sleeping.”

Emily’s business is called Faegrian Photography – Faegrian is the old English work for ‘beautiful’. No one who has seen her work could deny its beauty; Emily’s love of her art shines through every image.

www.facebook.com/faegrianphotography

About The Prince’s Trust https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/help-for-young-people/support-starting-business

For further profiles on Prince’s Trust supported entrepreneurs, click here  https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/category/experts-by-experience

 

Enterprise essentials #1 – 21 tips from StartUp 2018

It’s January 13th 2018 and hundreds of entrepreneurs both young and old (but mainly young) are gathered in East London to consider anything and everything to do with starting a business. A great day with loads on on offer – so ‘pick and mix’ was the way to go.

The event was also refreshingly free from business bullshit and the hero-worshipping of edgy, sweary entrepreneurs spouting ‘awesome’, ‘cool’ and ‘disruptive’ all day. In no particular order (as they say on Strictly) I picked up the following tips by keeping my ears pinned back during the day.

  1. The recommended maximum number of questions and completion time for market research surveys is 22 questions and seven minutes (after that there’s a severe drop in response rates)
  2. Success in starting  business is largely down to a combination of ideas, skills and persistence, and lot of them – 90% of business start-ups fail within a year, 47% of retail businesses survive for 10 years
  3. Making products is not business, selling products is the business
  4. Focus on your passions, understand the core mission of your new business, be clear why you are different from other similar businesses (the competition)
  5. The difference between masculine and feminine marketing is the difference between ‘hard sell’ and ‘heart sell’
  6. Talk to as many people as possible- share your ideas freely. Unless your product is technical, forget patents (they’re expensive) and concentrate on protecting your trade mark
  7. Get your products out there as soon as possible – stop talking, start selling – just do it!
  8. Write down 50 people you think should know about your new business, decide how you’re going to reach them, and tell them
  9. “Success is selling something that doesn’t come back to people who do” A cliche, but true.
  10. Work hard, be nice to people, do your research, know your customers, be prepared to sacrifice sleep
  11. Start small, never stop learning and the business will grow with you
  12. When you start out in business think about your definition of success – is it making money, making a difference, or what?
  13. Ideas are worthless, execution is everything
  14. In your business pitch start with the pain for your customers
  15. When you start business planning, list all your assumptions and test each one [before someone else asks you awkward questions]
  16. Mentors are great for keeping you on track and keeping you going, particularly at start-up stage
  17. The highs and lows are more extreme when starting your own business [rather than working in someone else’s]
  18. Know your strengths and [particularly] your weaknesses when starting a business
  19. Tough times at start-up stage can be a springboard for great business development
  20. Understand your brand, focus on the core of your mission, follow your passion, talk to lots of people
  21. Starting a business takes three times as long as you think it will

Further support from www.enterprisenation.com and http://www.princes-trust.org.uk/help-for-young-people/support-starting-business

 

What young people have taught me about starting a business #1 – what it takes 

I’m a year into my new job with The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme, supporting young people aged 18 – 30 as they explore enterprise and self-employment. It seems like a good time to reflect and take stock.

As someone old enough to be their parent (and, dare I say it, I could be their grandparent) there’s a temptation to think that the wisdom of age and experience trumps all other knowledge. Of course it doesn’t – I never stop learning. So what have I learnt over the past 12 months from the young entrepreneurs?

Many of the young people I meet expect to be told what to do and castigated when they don’t (or can’t) do it. The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme is not about pushing young people to start their own businesses – it’s about enabling them to make informed decisions about where they want to get to in the world of work, and how they might get there. Self-employment is just one possible destination.

A lot of the young people are surprised by this laid-back approach. It’s a fine line between encouragement and more assertive guidance but, in reality, if they can’t motivate themselves to develop their business ideas they’re unlikely to succeed. And if they want a regular boot up the backside, I suggest to them they find someone else to do the kicking.

It’s easy to make achievement one dimensional – as if only what can be counted counts. Yes, it’s important to celebrate success and statistics about new business starts, number of loans made, and mentors matched; these are tangible and easy to compare year on year. But the real progress may be far less visible. Given the complicated lives of some of the young entrepreneurs, arriving at a meeting at the right time and place can be a major achievement in itself. Many are trying to set up a business against all odds – and there are some remarkable successes, even within some ‘failed’ businesses.

Passion is not enough. TV talent shows have created this myth for young people that if they want something badly enough they’ll succeed. This is unfair, it sets up unrealistic expectation in the young entrepreneurs – their business idea may be a bad one and/or they may simply not have what it takes. Managing expectations calls for sensitivity and sometimes, as with parenting, you have to bite your lip and allow young people to make mistakes and, hopefully, learn from them.

A final lesson I’ve learned from these young, sometimes inspirational, entrepreneurs is that setting up a business is often their ‘plan B’. Plan A is to get someone else to pay you to work 9 – 5 with limited responsibility and certainly with someone else working out Tax and National Insurance.

And that’s where The Prince’s Trust can also point to success.

A large number of young people may not be successful business owners but, after attending a four-day ‘Explore Enterprise’ course, mentoring, and developing a business plan, they’re more confident and employable. And a good number then get work – job done!

If you’re 18-30 and want to explore the possibility of starting your own business (or you know someone who does), The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme is for you. It’s free and available both face-to-face and online, visit www.princes-trust.org.uk/enterprise to find out more.

Green and Grey – A Christmas Gift Guide

green-grey-logoThis is a shameless plug for the work of some of the wonderful people I met at the Festival of Thrift in Redcar back in September. We share a passion for taking reclaimed materials – other people’s waste – and turning them into festival-of-thrift-logostylish, quality products. Some are functional, some are artful, all are crafted with care for the environment and recognise the charm of the old (green and grey … geddit?) Thoughtful gifts created by makers who know the true meaning of value.


Purepallets founder and son http://www.remadeinbritain.com/purepallets/ with a small selection of there lovely stuff

Purepallets founder and son http://www.remadeinbritain.com/purepallets/ with a small selection of their lovely stuff

101 uses for an old washing machine drum from www.upcycled-cumbria.co.uk/

101 uses for an old washing machine drum from www.upcycled-cumbria.co.uk/

 

 

Upcycled cycle parts -discover your inner tube with www.veloculture.co.uk

Upcycling -discover your inner tube with www.veloculture.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a budding Seasick Steve? Diddley Bros can help www.diddleybros.co.uk

Are you a budding Seasick Steve? Diddley Bros can help www.diddleybros.co.uk

 

 

 

 

A sunny serenade from Mr Spatchcock (or was it Mr Wurzill?) www.spatchcockand wurzill.com

A sunny serenade from Mr Spatchcock (or is that Mr Wurzill?) www.spatchcockandwurzill.com

 

 

Ten green bottles (with candles) from www.upcycleupnorth.co.uk

Ten green bottles (with candles) from www.upcycleupnorth.co.uk

 

Small really is beautiful when you're a Beady Magpie www.beadymagpie.wordpress.com/

Small really is beautiful when you’re a Beady Magpie www.beadymagpie.wordpress.com/

Brilliant birdfeeders from BerryBootique https://www.facebook.com/BerryBootique/

Brilliant birdfeeders from Berry Bootique https://www.facebook.com/BerryBootique/

Drinks cans to artworks by Sarah Turner http://sarahturner.co.uk/

Drinks cans to artworks by Sarah Turner I like the can-do attitude! http://sarahturner.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

 

A balanced approach to wine drinking with www.gwkwoodshed.org.uk

A balanced approach to wine drinking with www.gwkwoodshed.org.uk

 

 

See you at the Festival of Thrift in 2017? www.festivalofthrift.co.uk

See you at the Festival of Thrift in 2017? www.festivalofthrift.co.uk