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

COVID-19 Update: We’ve moved all of our training programmes online and are still here to provide support