Tag Archives: wellbeing

Changing mindsets

Profiling a Prince’s Trust – supported entrepreneur

That her new app to help young people build essential mindset skills has been successfully launched is, says creator Elise Williams, a testimony to the power of the tools she shares through the app.  She explains how she faced lots of challenges, with all the self-doubt that comes from spending money on developing an unproven resource. But she’s come through it in one piece by tapping into many of the mental strength developing skills she advocates!

Elise describes her app – Make Your Mind Up – as “Everything you wish you knew but weren’t taught at school – resilience, motivation, focus, confidence, stress control – tools for building a positive mindset and mental strength.” The evidence-based videos and tools are informed by research from many disciplines including sports psychology, mindfulness and neuroscience.

Elise’s commitment to developing the app reflects her own personal experience after leaving school and university. “I came out and stepped into the big wide world and, very quickly, I realised how unprepared I was for coping with the stress of even small things. Speaking to friends I realised I wasn’t alone – which was reassuring – we’d all gone through 18 years of education but still felt unprepared without a foundation of essential skills.”

For Elise, an important element is that the app provides an urgent solution – to help users get through a challenge. She describes Make Your Mind Up as “a pocket mentoravailable when people most need it” The plan is to spread understanding of the tools and mindset thinking through workshops with schools, teachers and parent groups; schools are invited to get in touch about trialling the materials for free. A growing Facebook community also offers valuable peer-to-peer support to users and is a useful source of feedback on content and ideas for new resources.

Despite their value in emergency situations, Elise stresses the need for regular use of the mindset tools. “There’s a danger you don’t keep the tools in your kit sharpened – it can help prevent serious development of unhealthy responses if you practice and keep your skills updated. It’s all about building up healthy habits – reminding yourself, for example, why you might be having negative thoughts.”

 As someone who knew little about app development when she started out, Elise had some useful insights for other would-be app creators. For her, finding the right developer, which wasn’t easy, is top of the list. “It took maybe six months, and I think some providers took advantage of my inexperience. When I finally found the right people I could see they really understood the concept, and they were parents of children in my target market which helped! Meeting face-to-face at the start was really important to assess whether they were genuinely interested in helping to make my idea a reality.”

As with many other businesses buying-in professional services, assessing financial estimates from would-be providers is not easy. Again, Elise took the common-sense approach. “I went to as many people as possible and got lots of quotes which I assessed against each specification for the work involved. In the end it was a matter of balancing what was on offer with what I needed and, ultimately, what I could afford. Elise urges patience in finding the right person “It’s important you don’t feel pressured into going with the first quote you get.”

Wider business lessons Elise has learnt along the way include “Not putting a ridiculous amount of pressure on yourself to make things happen instantly; they’re not going to. Trust the process – Rome wasn’t built in a day!” That said, Elise does advise others to have confidence in their ability – to be assertive with suppliers from the start, and keeping them to deadlines. Advance research can help entrepreneurs speak with more authority and Elise looked at lots of other apps (on a range of topics) to decide what feel and functionality she wanted for her own.

Which all sounds like appropriately good advice from someone who has just launched a practical advice-giving app to help us cope with whatever life throws at us.

For more about the Make Your Mind Up app go to www.makeyourmindup.co.uk, join the Facebook community at https://www.facebook.com/groups/283258582152043/?ref=bookmarks, contact Elise direct elise@makeyourmindup.co.uk

Elise is supported through the Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme, details at https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/help-for-young-people/support-starting-business


Men’s Sheds and lifelong learning

light-bulb-new-businessSomeone once observed that talk about social enterprise is never very far from a Gandhi quote. Here’s one on learning…

“Live like you’re going to die tomorrow, learn like you’re going to live forever.”

It’s well known that feeding our sense of curiosity and acquiring new skills at any age is a great way to sustain mental wellbeing. For older learners, it may also stave off the onset of degenerate diseases associated with ageing.

The University of the Third Age (U3A) recognises this, providing opportunities for retired and semi-retired people to come together to learn, in their words ‘not for qualifications but for its own reward: the sheer joy of discovery’. Another important element in the U3A model is the idea of everyone being able to share the life lessons that come with age. Members share specific skills, alongside professional and personal experiences: the learners teach and the teachers learn, with no distinction between them.

In the ‘lifelong learning’ sector, men are recognised as a ‘hard to reach’ group; the thirst for learning in later life is recognised as being more prevalent amongst women than men. This is reflected in Dacorum, south west Herts, where the U3A group have an impressive 1300 members, but with women in the majority.

Publicity for The Repair Shed* in the U3A Dacorum bulletin generated a response from four people. Interestingly, two were women keen to learn the sort of home maintenance skills – fixing fuses and dripping taps etc – that their husbands had always sorted when they were alive. One of the women and one of the men are due to join The Repair Shed in early 2015.

The Repair Shed, and Men’s Sheds more generally, aim to involve older men in informal learning with skill-sharing being a common strand in most programmes of activity, alongside making, mending and general ‘tinkering’.

Food for the body and brain

Within The Repair Shed, extended skill-sharing is promoted through a time banking facility which records and rewards the input of members (one hour earns one time-credit). Members can then use their time-credits to ‘buy support’ from other members of the time bank.

Cooking is a good example of how this can work. Older men living on their own tend to need to support when it comes to healthy eating. A Repair Shed member wanting to learn how to cook a favourite dish or gain other basic culinary skills can ‘buy cooking lessons’ from other members with relevant skills. In Australia – the home of the Men’s Shed movement, ‘learning by doing’ is a feature of cooking where meals are the outcome of experimentation rather than slavishly following recipes.  The same, incidentally, goes for health education; peer-to-peer encouragement to get professional advice about things like prostate problems being far more effective than bringing in a health professional.

Back in The Repair Shed the plan is to share skills within the group (learning about metal work is a common interest…) before going public to embrace the wider community – with workshops for all ages and abilities in DIY, repair and re-use. Exciting times and lots to learn!

* For more on The Repair Shed in Hemel Hempstead, go to https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/the-repair-shed

Finding peace in Hertford

Experts by Experience: Profiles of entrepreneurs at different stages on their journeys, identifying and sharing some universal truths along the way.

Nic_in_TSS_reception (2)The Secret Space is well-named – tucked away off a bustling street in Hertfordshire’s county town. Outside is a courtyard (“it’s a real sun trap” I’m told) inside it’s serene, clean and calm … just the place for a first step into employment for people recovering from substance abuse.

The Secret Space is a centre for complementary therapies (including massage, acupuncture and reflexology) and yoga – designed to benefit both the providers and purchasers of those therapies. “It’s about bringing people back to their bodies, learning how to relax and deal with issues in a positive way without resorting to substances” explains Nicky Kearns, who manages The Secret Space (as the only paid employee).

What I love about social enterprises is that outsiders often can’t distinguish between paid staff and trainees (known as volunteers at The Secret Space). Nicky sums up her philosophy perfectly “We all aim to be professional, our personal stories aren’t important for business success”. And it occurs to me that there’s probably an even thinner dividing line between people with clinically diagnosed substance abuse issues and many who over-indulge in alcohol on an all too regular basis and deny they have a problem.

Complementary therapies are an astute offering for a social enterprise supporting people trying to leave behind an unhealthy past (diagnosed or otherwise). And, according to Nicky, it works on a number of levels for the volunteers “…Complementary therapies bring relaxation from stress, anxiety and pain, some of which may be brought on by other areas of their recovery – counselling, group work etc… When our volunteers learn how to give a treatment, the deeper understanding and the act of giving the treatment is very healing. If you give a treatment, it’s very relaxing and rewarding for you as well as your client.”

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The volunteers at The Secret Space gain skills and work experience in an area that is beneficial not just for their recovery now, but for coping with life in general. As well as learning about giving treatments, they may also learn about others aspects of setting up a business, customer service, sales and marketing, setting up a website. The expectation is that if people don’t move on to paid employment in complementary health, they will be able to use other skills, in reception, customer care, and administration for example, in other fields.

Just as the future for the first group of volunteers is unknown, so it is for The Secret Space itself. A child of the Crime Reduction Initiatives charity – a mere 5 month old toddler in fact – the enterprise has 2 – 3 years to become financially independent. Nicky knows it won’t be an easy adolescence, which is why it’s just as well she loves her work.

“ If you’re starting a social enterprise, it has to be something you’re passionate about because you’re going to spend a lot of time doing it. You need to enjoy it. Your business idea has to be financially viable, but you should also choose an area you have experience in and/or where you have good connections.”

For someone like me who’s not good at delegation, Nicky’s third and final bit of advice also resonates. “Don’t underestimate the people you’re working with – particularly when they’re volunteers. Learn to let go, people are very capable and if you give them the opportunity, they’ll learn.”

Discover the peace and tranquillity of The Secret Space at www.thesecretspace.org.uk