Emily Cockle

It was during the Christmas holidays in 2019, when Emily felt a strong desire to regain control of her own destiny. This feeling prompted her to take an initial review of her current situation and to consider more radical options to secure a greater sense of freedom and flexibility. With three children and a busy career, Emily raised how she was feeling with her husband, and they discussed ideas where they could, as a family, improve their quality of life, for now and for their future. 

“In my head, I could visualise my own branding, in a contemporary building with large glass doors, with my name “Emily” in bold pink, running my own consultancy.” When Emily was furloughed from her full-time job due to COVID, in the summer of 2020, she realised that working for an established firm was no longer a guarantee of job security. Being the main income earner, Emily successfully secured a temporary contract in the public sector. She knew the position, as part of the organisation’s senior leadership team, would be challenging. 

“The role I was in was, on paper, my dream job. Leading a large department, I poured all my energy into the role. However, juggling the intensity of overly demanding work commitments during the height of the pandemic was negatively impacting on my family and my quality of life and was becoming increasingly untenable.”

Emily cockle

“My attributes and experience of bringing forward major regeneration and development projects were superfluous to the challenging dynamics within the organisation. Making the decision to resign was the first point in a long time that I gave myself the opportunity to really think hard about what I wanted from life and to be truly honest with myself about what was most valuable to me.”

Having resigned, Emily knew this was now the opportunity she had to set up on her own, establishing Emily Consultancy Limited, offering “development and regeneration services, transforming redundant and neglected areas into stunning and meaningful places, for the benefit of her clients and their communities, both now and into the future.”

Emily registered her web domain during the onset of the pandemic, when she was in full-time employment. “I think that at the back of my mind, I knew that I would ultimately work for myself, but I wasn’t sure how to progress my ambition at that point in time.”

“I think that my upbringing has played a significant impact on my career choices, having witnessed the risks of freelancing when your health suffers, within my own family, but I always knew that there was an entrepreneurial side to me, having previously run my own small business, called The Little Ballet Company, a dance school for young children in the Winchester area.”

Throughout her career, Emily has built up a strong network of contacts and her ability in making projects happen gave her the confidence when it came to setting up on her own, but she still had some internal conflict.

“I did feel a certain amount of pressure, as my husband has recently retrained and set up his own counselling practice. His business has been affected during COVID, due to the difficulty in seeing clients face to face. I have for some time been the main breadwinner, so making the decision to give up a regular wage and move into self-employment wasn’t the easy option for us as a family. However, I think there has been a healthy shift, which has allowed both me and my husband to get out of our own comfort zones and to both enjoy a more equitable balance, where both work commitments and family responsibilities are more evenly shared.”

Throughout her career, Emily has valued the importance of networking with other women, who are significantly under-represented across the property sector and particularly at senior levels of organisations. 

“I presented the benefits to a male managing partner on the value of joining the Association of Women in Property, which is a national organisation which offers great opportunities to meet people in the property industry at different stages of their careers, who can offer support to one other. There are real challenges that women today still face in bringing our true selves to work.”

Emily discovered the Accelerating Women’s Enterprise programme (AWE) online when she was searching for information about start-up support, which she describes as coming “At the right moment, as I was starting out in my new venture.”

One of the first AWE events that Emily participated in was part of the International Women’s Day celebrations where she joined a virtual yoga taster session. “I didn’t know anyone, but it was fantastic to meet other women on the same business journey as me.” 

She followed this with other workshops, including marketing and social media, which helped to fill gaps in her knowledge. “The workshops were really well conducted and strengthened not just my technical understanding, but my own clarity and conviction.”

“The free mentoring and training support was key to me as a new start-up. I thought it beneficial to begin building contacts with other women who, although not within the same industry as me, are facing similar challenges and dilemmas.” 

Emily had a 1:1 session with the AWE team, which was very helpful, where she explored the pressures of starting out on her own. A mentor helped her to consider how she would feel when she secured her first client, compared to maybe how she would feel securing work for an employer. 

“This really helped to crystallise my focusI secured private client work and am currently advising a local authority with their major regeneration sites, as their consultant, which gives me the flexibility to work on an interim basis.”

“Launching a business during the global pandemic has been extremely testing. You have to keep faith and believe in yourself, as well as focusing on the reasons why you started the business in the first place.”

“As a woman, I want to express a different dimension within the property industry, which reflects not only my technical assets, but also that of my personality. I believe that the qualities that I possess are absolutely unique within the marketplace and add real value to the client and to the legacy of the project.”

It is important to me that I fully understand and respond to the needs and aspirations of my clients, as well as having the mindset to shape a successful result, no matter how challenging!”

Her advice to other women starting a business is to keep reminding yourself of what you have achieved and are capable of, your own unique qualities and of the positive benefits working for yourself may bring to you both professionally and personally.

Emily does think things happen for a reason, even if they don’t seem to be the best result at that point in time. There will always be situations that really test us, but how we respond to things beyond our own influence is within our scope. 

“Keep focused, build your support network and always be really true to yourself. Having integrity and belief in yourself and your abilities will always shine through.” 

For more information about Emily Consultancy visit the website here or visit her LinkedIn page here  

Vanessa Miles

Vanessa Miles has worked as a photographer for decades with her photographs gracing the pages and websites of celebrated publications such as The Guardian, The Times, Country Living, The Ecologist and Resurgence to name but a few. In the 1980’s her picture library was the go-to place for environmental images to the point that Greenpeace eventually purchased her agency in London. 

Moving to Devon in her late twenties, Vanessa started a family but continued working in photography mainly doing wedding photos. “It was a highly competitive market, but I gained a reputation for capturing more natural shots of people, which became popular,” said Vanessa. 

In 2000, she became a freelance photography teacher at some of the local leading colleges and things were going well for her. However, when COVID hit in 2020 and the lockdowns came into place, her work was impacted dramatically. “It was a difficult time as whilst there was a range of support for businesses from the Government, it was very different for freelancers like me,” stated Vanessa. “I had to think of a way to make what I love work for me in these changed times. I knew that I was good at helping others to take better photographs so started to look for ways that I could make this work for me.”

Vanessa tested the market by starting an online group which brought people together to share the pictures they had taken around a theme that she sets each week. “It wasn’t all about learning the technical stuff around photography, but more about people exploring their creativity,” said Vanessa.

Vanessa miles

The group became popular with Vanessa using the themes as inspiration for “homework” between the meetings which encouraged people to go out into nature to take shots which they then talked about at the next meeting. Vanessa gives helpful tips and advice, but she feels that the opportunity to express their feelings through their photos was extremely important for the participants, especially during lockdown where some were feeling isolated from friends and family. “It’s a bit like a book club for photographers,” said Vanessa. 

In October 2020, she set up Well Image Community Interest Company (CIC) which is a social enterprise which she runs alongside her own commercial photography business, Vanessa Miles Photography. It was at this point that Vanessa met with the Accelerating Women’s Enterprise (AWE) team to get some help with pricing – “Rachel helped me to realise that I was not putting a high enough value on my service and that offering too low a rate was in fact putting customers off.” 

“This was a really important business lesson for me, and it also made me appreciate that whilst the pandemic has impacted some people in a negative way, that for some, their personal circumstances had remained the same or in fact improved, giving them more disposable income and more time if furloughed or working at home,” said Vanessa. 

An upsurge in the demand for photographs to mark the unusual times that we are in during lockdown, and family events when these were allowed in the summer of 2020, has enabled Vanessa to work commercially and she is optimistic about the future once lockdown lifts again. “I feel that these are very significant times which we should record as part of history.” 

She addressed the issue of pricing for her work based on factors such as her vast experience and high-profile career to date, as well as the current market rate for her quality of work. “The advice I received from Rachel at the AWE team was brilliant as it made me stop and consider the true worth of the service I provide to people. She also helped me to be more confident at saying how much I was charging.” Vanessa raised her pricing structure as a result but keeps some flexibility to be able to negotiate if required. “It’s difficult to put a monetary price on something that you have a great emotional attachment to, but AWE helped me to work through these doubts and be braver!”

Vanessa recently completed a Masters degree in Photography, where she focused on her environmental interests, creating a portfolio themed around Reconnecting with Nature, featuring wild swimmers. She is using the skills and knowledge of social media that she learnt on the AWE workshops to raise the profile of both the social enterprise and her photography business. In addition, she is taking part in a Dragons Den style competition run by the Cube in Plymouth which could potentially award funding to help accelerate the growth and sustainability of her social enterprise. 

She is also going to be a speaker at an online coffee morning event, to talk about photography to over 800 people, as well as carrying out a Taster session as part of the 2021 International Women’s Day programme organised by AWE. “I prefer a more informal approach to business and networking and find that these connections are better at building my profile than simple posts on social media.” 

Vanessa’s photography group continues to meet with more participants being recommended to join through word of mouth and she is seeking grant funding for the social enterprise with plans to work with local organisations and wellbeing specialists. “I see photography as a way for people to express their emotions and people are more likely to open up in an environment where they feel comfortable talking about the images they have taken and what they mean to them. It’s like magic happening when they see what others have done and are able to share positive support for each other.” 

To others thinking about self-employment or just starting out, Vanessa encourages people to focus on doing what makes them happy. She highlights the need to be resilient as it will be hard work and the need to be disciplined with your time. “Use digital tools to help you run your business,” she advises, “such as an online calendar which enables you to allocate time to different tasks to help structure your time and workload.” 

She also states that sometimes it is a case of timing for your business idea to work – “ask yourself, is this worth doing?” she advises, “if it is, then you will make it work!”

For more information about Vanessa Miles Photography click here

Siobainn Chaplin

Timely Intervention for Families or TIFs for short is the name of a new service designed by Siobainn Chaplin to help children and their parents or carers start to communicate again and understand each other’s perspective during difficult times. Intended as a complementary service to current support services available, through TIFs, impartial coaches work with families to identify the triggers for problems, open up communication channels and develop coping strategies. 

Siobainn started her long career working with young people as a Youth Worker, setting up projects in schools and helping youngsters who were not academic to gain qualifications through the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. She also set up a pilot scheme for very vulnerable young people, who were not in education, to support them with their required formal education and to manage their often-difficult home situations. “I was very proud of the fact that all of these young people went onto apprenticeships, college or employment. By investing time in them, we provided them with the trust that they had lost in adults,” stated Siobainn. 

Siobainn Chaplin

Moving to Wiltshire, she became a Youth Work Team Leader where she set up a LGBTQ+ project which was so successful that it was adopted by Ofsted for their assessors. “A key highlight for the project was a visit by Sir Ian McKellen who came to chat to the young people,” stated Siobainn. She also modestly mentions that she also picked up a number of community awards, as well as being recognised by the Department for Education for her work with young people. 

Moving to grow the listening and counselling services in Bath and North East Somerset as Operations Manager, she oversaw the introduction of a LGBTQ+ project there and redeveloped the leadership team. She set up focus groups for young people to listen to their feedback on the service from which the key message was that they wanted parents to better understand what it was like to be a young person. This led to Siobainn developing “The Teenage Jigsaw Puzzle – Connecting the Pieces”. 

On the flip side, Siobainn heard from parents that they wanted to help their children but were often excluded from hearing what their issues were due to confidentiality clauses. This started her thinking about the potential for helping both parties to explore and resolve their issues with the assistance of impartial coaches who could also help them to put support plans into place.  

After some research on the internet, she plucked up the courage to resign from her job and start to set up her own business. “I never had the confidence to do it previously but the desire to help parents and young people in this way was my driver,” commented Siobainn. “I always aspired to work for myself, and I decided that this was the time for me to challenge myself. Lockdown has had a profound impact on family lives as they spend more time together with the pressures of home-schooling, restrictions on movements and the pressures of potential reductions on income.” 

Siobainn was signposted to the Accelerating Women’s Enterprise (AWE) programme by her local council, and she describes the service as “fantastic!” She participated in workshops, including one on imposter syndrome which resonated with her. “I could recognise that I had achieved many great things in my career, but I still had doubts about my ability to take my idea forward, and this workshop helped me to work through this,” she stated. 

Siobainn admits to not being a big user of social media, but found the AWE social media workshops really useful, to give her an understanding of how it could potentially help promote her business. “One of the best parts of the AWE programme was connecting with other women on the same journey,” said Siobainn. She joined the regular networking sessions with other female business owners and describes it as “brilliant” to be with a supportive group of women. She also found the Business Start-Up Bootcamp of benefit as it took her through all the steps to self-employment. 

The 1:1 sessions with the AWE team helped her to reflect on what she had achieved so far and left her feeling “invigorated.” She continued, “The sessions kept me on track, helping me to identify areas to work on and find ways to strengthen my knowledge – I would not have got so far without them! It was like having a business friend, which I really valued as it can be lonely working on your own and I am a very social person,” explained Siobainn. “Having access to like-minded women through the AWE programme gives you a whole new network of contacts, who can help each other.”

Siobainn also applied for a Start Up Loan from Outset Finance and she is waiting to hear the outcome. “I plan to use this to pay for some of my marketing and my new website which will enable me to bring together a network of coaches who will be able to help families.” 

Siobainn plans to do a soft launch in August with a full launch in September after the school holidays. “It’s very exciting and I can’t wait to get to the stage where it all goes live to see my planning in place. I want to fill a very important gap in the provision of support to families and help avoid issues becoming a matter of conflict.” 

Sarah Nuttall-Worsley – Invigorate Nutrition Club

When the COVID-19 pandemic meant that she was put on furlough from her part-time job fundraising for a local charity, Sarah Nuttall-Worsley looked to her personal interest in health, fitness and nutrition as the inspiration for a new business.

With time on her hands, (home-schooling her two boys aside), Sarah felt that she needed something to focus on and that her long held dream of running her own business could come to fruition. 

It was her sister-in-law who told her about the Accelerating Women’s Enterprise programme and Sarah soon signed up to the Introduction to Self-employment workshop series. “The AWE programme helped me to set up my new business step by step – it was really helpful” said Sarah. “In addition, the 1:1 sessions helped me to work through my ideas for example the name of my business – Invigorate Nutrition Club, my charging structure and how to get a logo designed” she continued. 

Invigorate Nutrition Logo

“I’m not very creative and the thought of sorting out my logo and coming up with the company name was a real challenge. The AWE programme was a real godsend and came at exactly the right time for me,” stated Sarah. She continued, “The advisors were really down to earth – I wouldn’t have had a clue about starting a business without them.”  

“I love working with people and want to help them to lose weight, improve their wellbeing and become healthier in their eating habits,” Sarah explained. “I can also help people to improve their fitness performance.” Sarah is also training to become qualified as a fitness instructor and in a twist of fate, has discovered that both her father and her granfather were PT instructors in the past too. 

“It is really motivating to see the positive impact that my company can have on people, as many are struggling with their weight and health due to the lockdown, as well as life events such as the menopause or childbirth,” said Sarah. “We have a Facebook community where we support each other and run 10-day challenges to motivate people, which has great results.” 

Sarah is now back at work with the charity but is continuing her business around this. “Running my own business gives me the flexibility to work around my job and my family, dealing with clients at times convenient to both myself and them,” Sarah explained. “My client base is growing steadily and whilst at the moment, much of my work is done online, hopefully I can get back to face-to-face meetings at some point.”

She states, ”It can be tricky juggling everything in my life but I’m loving the independence that comes with running your own business. It was the lockdown which gave me the opportunity to set it up and I’m very excited.” She encourages other women to “Just do it! With the support of the AWE programme, you can gain the skills and knowledge you need to get things started.” For more information on Invigorate Nutrition Club, visit her Facebook page

Elisa Riutta – South Coast Mindfulness

Elisa Riutta

Elisa used to work for a global company as a business consultant in learning and skills development, managing projects which equipped her with a wide range of business skills, as well as many challenges and opportunities in her career. Whilst this life was great while she was young and carefree, the available time to think when she took maternity leave for her two sons made her realise that she wanted to do something more meaningful on a personal level. 

Elisa had practised mindfulness herself for a number of years and wanted to bring the benefits that it brought to others to help their wellbeing and provide them with more balance and peace in their daily lives. 

Mindfulness is well known all over the Western world and well recognised for its health benefits. In order to prepare herself for setting up a business to enable people to embrace mindfulness in their lives, Elisa trained and qualified as a teacher in a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme which is one of the most established and researched mindfulness programmes in the world to deal with stress, anxiety and a range of challenges. 

Once qualified, Elisa decided to set up her business in August 2018 and she states, “Things have come together slowly, bit by bit. I offered one course to a few friends, which gave me an opportunity to practice my skills and confirm to myself this was a right thing for me. I began building contacts, and actively thinking about how to reach a wider audience. It required thinking creatively, looking for and being open to opportunities through networks, and part of it, pure luck and being in the right place at the right time.”

“I knew I wanted to offer a format of mindfulness that is strongly grounded in science, and therefore has the most potential to make a difference.” She continues, “I also wanted to expand the offering so that people would have something to continue with after the course.”

She set up regular meditation groups in a hired space around Portsmouth to offer classes, teaming up with a couple of local wellbeing services which was key to becoming more established. She then researched places in the local area where there might be demand for her services and trialled sessions. “It is extremely important to me that my classes are supportive, and that people can feel at ease when they join, especially if they have never meditated before. Mindfulness is a personal experience which can make a big difference in one’s life. Positive experiences shared between people mean a lot as they encourage others to join too.”  

South Coast Mindfulness

Then COVID-19 hit and put the country into lockdown. “ In the very beginning, last March, when the world turned upside down and many people were suddenly in a great need of support, I started offering free guided meditation online twice a week. Now I still offer a meditation group, now based on donations, to make it accessible for as many people as possible. She was able to carry out face to face meetings when allowed but essentially had to pivot her business and think about it in a whole new way. “I was initially concerned about how teaching online would work out but also saw it as an opportunity.” says Elisa,

Elisa heard about AWE through social media and booked onto the Introduction to Self-employment workshop series with Rachel & Jayde. “It helped to give me focus for what direction the business was going in,”Elisa comments. “I liked the fact that the workshops were not pressurised, were supportive and provided me with really useful tools to use in my business planning.”

She continues, “The workshops helped me to think about who I want to be – my mission and values as a business, which was really motivating. ”Realising that I was a bona fide business owner made me feel very proud, as sometimes you are too focused on just getting the work done to appreciate your achievements. AWE helped me to feel in control and it was uplifting to share my experience with other female entrepreneurs and know that they faced many of the same challenges.”

Elisa feels that particularly at the moment, mindfulness can help people to manage their stress and provide them with an awareness and acceptance of what is realistic to achieve in their daily lives. She has realised the potential of an online provision, as it allowed her to reach a wider audience and she plans to continue using Zoom in the future alongside actual meetings with people, when they are possible. 

Elisa is tackling areas of the business where she feels less confident and having already completed the time management and marketing workshops being delivered by AWE, she is now deepening her knowledge of finance and more marketing. These have helped her not only manage being a mum to two, running a home and a business with all the pressures that this can bring, especially when home-schooling is required. “The workshops helped me to think about things from the client’s perspective when considering what marketing channels to use,” says Elisa. They also helped her to consider her pricing structure and being more confident “not to sell herself short,” she adds. 

“One of the biggest challenges of being self-employed is that you are responsible for every part of the business, but on the positive side, it does give you the freedom and flexibility to decide what to do,” says Elisa. 

“I would recommend the AWE to any woman, even if your business has been established for a little while or even before you set up your business,” says Elisa. Her advice to any woman thinking about setting up a business is to acknowledge that you may not know everything at the start, but if you feel a strong pull to do something, just do it. “Make sure you have things in place financially but don’t feel that you have to have everything sorted,” she advises. 

She advises people to learn to prioritise and how to balance responsibilities, “Concentrate on what is most important for your business and don’t aim for perfection.” She uses lists to help her collect her thoughts and break tasks down into chunks to prevent feeling overwhelmed. 

At the moment, her business is steady, and Elisa is busy thinking about ways to extend her offer for example by providing mindfulness to companies and charities, which she has trialled successfully. She feels that as people return to workplaces, it will be long-awaited for many but there will be a period of adjustment which some may feel stressful. She is also looking forward to offering meditation days again face-to-face, to complement the online classes, once we are allowed to all meet again. 

For more information about South Coast Mindfulness visit https://www.southcoastmindfulness.com or visit Instagram or Facebook

Haidee Dampney – Yoga with Haidee & The Tree Project CIC

Haidee Dampney

With a background of twenty years in working with vulnerable young people and families to help them recover from drug and alcohol addiction, it seemed inevitable that if Haidee Dampney was to run her own business, that it would be focused around helping people to improve their wellbeing. 

In 2015, Haidee set up Yoga with Haidee, after training and gaining qualifications with the British Wheel of Yoga. The practice tied in neatly with her own personal drive to work for social equality and helping every person to experience the benefits of yoga. 

Yoga with Haidee

“The leap to setting up the yoga business was scary. I was used to a regular salary coming in and I felt extremely insecure,” Haidee states. “This insecurity continues to be a challenge today, but you get better at dealing with it as the number of clients builds.”

The Tree Project CIC

Haidee then set up The Tree Project Community Interest Company (CIC) in 2017 with the vision of helping to create a world where everyone thrives and to provide opportunities for both individuals and the community. Based around The Five Ways to Wellbeing (Connect, Learn, be Active, Notice & Give), it highlights the simple actions that people can take to improve wellbeing. As a CIC, it can access funding to help those without access to wellbeing opportunities, of which yoga forms a part.

“If young people have a space which is calm and safe, it can help to build their confidence and help them to frame their lives in a different way. Hopefully, this can lead them to make more positive life choices,” Haidee explains. 

Haidee connected with the Accelerating Women’s Enterprise programme, primarily to help with The Tree Project CIC. “I had gone through a difficult experience where a professional that I employed didn’t carry out some work in the correct manner which had an impact on the project,” she explained. “I realised that I needed help to sort things out as by then, COVID-19 had arrived.” 

“The AWE team helped me with my confidence in making decision, before which I was questioning whether to continue with the businesses,” she stated. She signed up for a range of workshops and had regular 1:1 sessions with the AWE team. “The help that AWE gave me was fantastic!” exclaimed Haidee, “I especially enjoyed the workshop on Imposter Syndrome and working through it, it helped me to realise that I had a lot to be proud of – I ran two businesses, and I can now say out loud that I am a female business owner.”

By providing her yoga classes online, Haidee has managed to maintain a good level of clients and the work of The Tree Project CIC is steadily building too, despite the lockdown. 

“I really value the support that the AWE programme has given me as it gives me the space as an entrepreneur to develop ideas and approach the challenges in a more structured way,” said Haidee. She has also made a strong connection with another woman on the programme which provides a support network for ideas too, which she describes as  “one of the most important benefits of the AWE programme, as it reduces the feeling of isolation that all sole business owners experience.” She adds that the workshops and support from AWE gave her the practical skills and the time to work through key aspects of the business such as working out your buyer personas and pricing as well as planning promotional strategies and where the business is heading. 

“One of the biggest challenges as a new business owner is around finance and setting up the right systems to make this side of the business work. However, the best bit about running your own business is that you can manage your own time.” 

“One thing that the programme has taught me is to break down the work into manageable chunks and to carry forward the experience I had in my previous career,” says Haidee. 

She explains that she “loves being my own boss and has tremendous enthusiasm for the work that she does.” She does emphasise that it also allows her to shape her working week around her family and time for self-care – “I’m living how I want to work.”

“My advice to anyone at the beginning of their start-up journey is to bear in mind that you will be responsible for all aspects of the business – some you might enjoy while other bits you might not. Be prepared to work hard as it is definitely worth it,” says Haidee. 

Looking to the future, Haidee is looking forward to returning to face-to-face contact with people, particularly young people who will have been affected greatly by the recent lockdowns. She is also working on a funding application for a scheme which has the potential to help more vulnerable young people which excites her. She highlights the Dalai Lama quote below which is her inspiration for moving forward.

For more information about Yoga with Haidee visit her Facebook page and for The Tree Project email thetreeprojectcic@gmail.com 

Kimberley Chandler – Cinnamon Yoga

Kimberley Chandler

An ambition to spread her love of yoga and sharing its benefits with others was the inspiration for Cinnamon Yoga, set up by Kimberley Chandler in 2019. After resigning from her office job for a media production company in Brighton, she worked at Soul & Surf in India. 

It was here that she was inspired to take up yoga and she soon began training as a yoga teacher in Goa. She then travelled to Sri Lanka where she found her first yoga teaching job at another retreat.

“I was sick of working in an office and when the opportunity to work abroad arose, I grabbed it and this then developed into a love of yoga which has become a career for me.”

When she returned to the UK, Kimberley continued with her yoga classes in Cornwall at studios in the Truro and Falmouth area and this together with her background working in hospitality is behind her idea to combine a healthy café with a yoga studio. 

Whilst exploring ideas for her new business online, Kimberley came across the Accelerating Women’s Enterprise (AWE) programme and got in touch.

“It sounded like exactly what I needed, a non-judgemental environment that was as much creative as academic, where it was okay to not know what I was doing,” said Kimberley. She attended a four-week programme of workshops together with one to one sessions with Pam. 

“AWE has really helped with my confidence in knowing that my ideas aren’t completely crazy or impossible! Meeting other entrepreneurs also made me realise that there are many others out there like me making it work, so I can too!”

Kimberley explained that prior to starting the workshops, that she was apprehensive but once she started and the fact that she met with other like-minded new business owners, she enjoyed them. “I liked the fact that there was no jargon and it provided me with really useful tools such as the business plan which I developed through Outset Online,” she added. “It helped me to realise that I needed time to plan my idea properly including working out a budget.”

Kimberley is continuing to make plans for her business and is looking for a suitable property which has meant a lot of research into which locations would work best. “I have decided that I need to get the café side of the business up and running first to provide the income to develop the studio as I build my customer base.”Kimberley is using social media, particularly Instagram and Facebook to develop sales leads with regular posts along with promotional support from the studios where she currently teaches yoga, and this has enabled her to build up a strong client base. 

“Like many new business owners, it was the financial side of things which concerned me most,” she stated, “ However the skills I have developed through the AWE programme have enabled me to make sound decisions and plans to hopefully make my business more successful long term.” 

“I have to work hard at managing my time productively as I also still work full time at a restaurant in Truro, but this is helping to further build my knowledge of the hospitality industry.” Kimberley said, “The approach that I am taking is slow and steady, but I hope that this way, I can avoid some of the risks of setting up your own business – I’ve learnt that preparation is the key to confidence!” 

For more information, search Cinnamon Yoga on Facebook

Sophie Dialkova – The Palm Tree Yoga

Sophie Dialkova

Originally from Hungary, Sophie Dialkova spent half her childhood in Austria, which meant that she spoke fluent German. Her aptitude for languages led her to study Translation Studies and she became a language teacher, working in a range of places, including the Middle East. However, a passion for yoga and wellbeing inspired Sophie to set up a new business when she found herself living in Devon, not knowing anyone and unemployed. 

Sophie tried yoga a few times, first in 2006 in Scotland, in a cold and dark room at the Student Union and then a few years later in Austria and again in England in 2010. However, she didn’t really start practising it regularly until she moved to Dubai, to teach German.  For a time, it was running that she enjoyed most, completing a half marathon and triathlons but the popularity of yoga in Dubai meant that Sophie soon started practising again. “I was finding the running scene to be too competitive and was looking for a way to exercise, mentally and physically, in an environment that was not pressured,” said Sophie. 

Having visited Bali on a yoga retreat Sophie started to plan her future. She enjoyed working with children but wanted to find a way to be involved in more flexible learning which incorporated mindfulness and non-competitive movement, which was a view shared by her fiancée Alan. “We wanted to focus on the non-academic side of education,” said Sophie. 

After completing her training as a yoga teacher for adults and children, Sophie started to teach her pupils in school which they thoroughly enjoyed.  One of Sophie’s major achievements was to implement a yoga curriculum for students aged 10-14, which saw students practise yoga and mindfulness weekly. She also began running yoga sessions for families, teachers and children in her local community. 

When their teaching contracts ended in Dubai, Sophie and her fiancé  Alan, moved to Plymouth, which was Alan’s home city and where he had located a new teaching job. Finding herself unemployed, Sophie started to develop plans to start her own business and carried out research on business support organisations. This led her to meet members of the Outset team who provided her with the training, advice and mentoring for the initial stages of her business start-up, as well as introducing her to the Accelerating Women’s Enterprise team.

Sophie participated in the start-up workshops, where she learnt about cash flow, business planning and digital marketing. She then extended her knowledge with more in-depth workshops. “Whilst I gained a huge amount of business insight and knowledge, the two biggest things that I gained from participating in the support programme were the friendships that I have formed with people that I met. Also the positivity and enthusiasm towards my business that I have received from Outset and AWE, which boosted my confidence,” she stated. 

Sophie continued, “Some of the most useful parts were the 1:1 sessions where I received tailored advice for my individual business. This also helped my advisor to gain a better understanding of the ethos behind my business which is to create a positive, kind and educational yoga and wellbeing environment for all levels and all ages.”

Having started providing yoga classes at a studio in Plymouth, Sophie registered her business in October 2019 and week by week, the number of attendees increased. She also started to provide yoga for staff and pupils at Alan’s primary school as well as corporate yoga. 

“At this point I had an Instagram page but not many followers and I didn’t really promote it. Outset encouraged me to set up a Facebook page as more of my target audience were using this platform, which linked with my Instagram page,” explained Sophie. “It was a steady process to gain followers, but it has proven useful to connect with other yoga teachers and new clients” she continued.

In March 2020, the first lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which had an impact on her ability to deliver yoga classes in the studio. However, with the support of the AWE team, Sophie found yet again encouragement and transferred to an online provision which was popular with her regular clients. 

Where possible, Sophie provided yoga outdoors through the summer months, mainly to adults as schools were closed. Venues included a café overlooking Plymouth Hoe where breakfast was included – all outside in the beautiful sunny weather. A business connection made through social media, helped Sophie to start running classes at Ocean Studios, at the Royal William Yard  which she describes as “a beautiful venue with plenty of space, light and atmosphere.”

Her classes attract a range of people – beginners, groups of friends, students, mums and daughters, couples, families, retired people looking to try something new as well as keen cyclists and athletes. “One thing that I have learnt on my business start-up journey is the importance of word of mouth which is amplified on social media,”stated Sophie. 

When asked about the main challenges of setting up a business, Sophie responded, “When I moved to Plymouth, I didn’t know anyone, I was unemployed, and I didn’t know how to run a business. While my excitement levels were high, I didn’t know how or where to start.” Support from Outset & AWE enabled Sophie to gain the skills she needed from a practical and an emotional point of view. 

Due to the support she received, Sophie was able to present her business at the South West Business Expo in 2019, reaching out to other businesses and building her network of contacts. 

As lockdown continues, Sophie is continuing to provide yoga sessions through Zoom, and she has adapted her timetable to fit with the change in people’s lives as they are now busy with home schooling and remote-working.  She does however say, “I would 100% recommend Outset & AWE and have already done so to some of my fellow local businesses – one is booked onto an AWE course already. I would not be here doing what I love if it had not been for Outset & AWE.” 

Looking forward, Sophie would love to return to delivering yoga in schools as well as classes in person at the venues she worked at previously including outside in the sun!

“I would love for my business to become a space where people can come together and practise yoga, whether that is online, in a studio, in schools or on a beach. I could see the business operating from anywhere in the world bringing communities together through movement and healthy food, maybe a yoga studio and a vegan café under one roof.” 

For more information about Palm Tree Yoga visit www.thepalmtreeyoga.com

Chris Heirani – The Creative Den

Before starting his Outset journey, Chris was working part-time in a pizza takeaway as well as studying for a degree in web design.On completion of his degree, he knew the job market was bleak. However, after hearing about Outset through a friend, he was motivated to take matters into his own hands.

“Outset was the inspiration I needed for me to take that big step forward and actually get the ball rolling and get my business off the ground,” says Chris. “While many people are finding it hard to get jobs I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get my business started. I knew that I had found the help and support I needed to succeed.”

Chris attended Business Start Up workshops, delivered in his local community at the Anglo-Iranian Society headquarters. He also received one-to-one coaching with an Outset Enterprise Advisor.

“The advisors who taught me during my time at Outset Bristol have done a fantastic job at getting the information across in a non-complicated way that was understood by everyone, even the people whose first language wasn’t English.”

The free support Chris received from Outset meant that he could be confident that he was launching his business from a firm footing, armed with the tools he needed to make his business a success.

“I’d like to thank the whole Outset team for helping me establish my company and myself. It feels so good to own my own company and it’s now become my little baby who I hope to see grow and grow.”

Now in 2014, some 6 years since conceiving the business, Chris has amassed an impressive portfolio of work for a number of multinational business. These include LGV Transport Training, Transparency Solutions and Personal Best.

Chris has also returned to Outset on a number of occasions to ‘give back’ to other budding business owners. Giving up his own time, Chris has run an ‘Ask the Expert’ event for other clients who are already trading, giving them the opportunity to learn more about the importance of web design for their businesses.

As for the future, Chris says: “I still have a dream of getting my own premises set up but it has to be at the right time – when the business really needs it!”

Alison Gardner – Poppys Vintage Tearooms

Living and working in the same area for a long period can be a great advantage when exploring the possibility of starting a new business. Without much effort, the people who attend our workshops are able to draw on their knowledge of local services, shops and leisure facilities available. It only takes a bit more research to identify the potential gaps in the market.

Alison Gardner worked as the Tourist Information Officer in St Neots for 11 years before becoming redundant. During this period she had built up an intimate knowledge of the town she loved and so decided to focus her efforts on starting a new business in the area.

“It became my mission to start looking for a space that would suit a Tearoom.” She said. “The search took a number of years – it had to be in the perfect location away from the hustle and bustle of the high street with outside space.”

In April 2013, a long standing local business moved premises and a unit became available just off the high street in the shadow of St Mary’s Church and a WW2 memorial. After her first viewing, Alison knew she had found the right spot.

“I wanted to respect the history of the location and the sacrifice that many local people made for our country. I decided to call our new place Poppy’s Vintage Tearoom.”

Alison realised that she needed some guidance to set up her business and contacted Outset Huntingdonshire.

Funded by Huntingdonshire District Council, the programme provides free-to-use business start-up support to anyone in Huntingdonshire who is looking to start a business. Alison met with Outset advisor Stacey Pike for one-to-one mentoring sessions while attending the programme’s Business start-up workshops.

“I found the courses and sessions with Stacey very useful.” She said. “Outset Huntingdonshire gave me an insight in to how to set up a business and the hurdles you may need to overcome.”

Her hard work and perseverance paid off with Alison opening her new business in June 2013. Visitors to Poppy’s Tearooms are greeted with an original vintage decor and plenty of tasty treats including a wide range of teas, cream teas, an afternoon tea service and a selection of light lunches and snacks.

Now in 2014, Alison’s business employs 5 staff and has links with many of the local shops who she helped support in her previous role. She has also created a new summer menu, a new website and has started to offer gift vouchers as a periphery product.

“The feedback so far has been amazing, I have been incredibly busy with customers returning” Alison said. “Poppy’s will be a place where all ages can come together to share that great British past-time: a good cuppa!”