Small Business Support Blog

If you are interested in reading about how to get your business visible online, with regular insights into being an entrepreneur and navigating your way through the business world, then this blog is for you!

We regularly post interesting articles on topics on leadership, management and visibility - with guest articles and features from experts in their field.

If you are interested in collaborating and would like to do a guest feature then please email [email protected] 

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  1. #ReasonsIstarted

    Counsellors in Bury

    Foreword from Pamela 

    This series of amazing stories from fiercely feminine entrepreneurs documents the journey of some inspirational women who have founded and built incredible brands. These are stories of reinvention, stories of unlocking creativity and pivoting during the pandemic and managing adversity to demonstrate their passion and commitment to building a future legacy.

    In this latest installment we hear from Aislinn from The Calm Within - who took her passion for heloing childen to a successful business helping support the mental health of families across the North West...

    Mental Health Matters!

    January 2021 marks four years since I launched the website for The Calm Within.  It’s been an interesting journey, with this last year being an emotional rollercoaster for me and many of my clients.  But it was actually 20 years ago that I first began to realise the importance of supporting people to take care of and improve their mental health.

    At the age of 21, I left Leeds university with a degree in Classical Civilisation.  I loved the course, and still love the mythology and history of the ancient Greeks and Romans.  But I had no idea what I wanted to do for a job or career.  With most of my family being teachers, there was part of me that wanted to do something different, follow an alternative path, but I realised that, ultimately, I wanted to share my love of Classics with others and that the best way to do that was to teach.  So, I decided to apply for a teaching assistant job in a high school, to test the water, and to give me employment and experience whilst I brushed up on my Latin (amo, amas, amat and all that).

    I quickly discovered two things: one, that I loved working with children, and two, that children find it very difficult to learn if they are preoccupied with emotional issues, thoughts of difficulties at home, or are struggling with friendships, self-esteem, etc.  And there are so many children battling emotional difficulties every day: some openly and loudly, others quietly, secretly.  I found my passion: supporting children with their emotional wellbeing.  

    Kids Mental Health

    A few years later found me working in an adolescent psychiatric unit, completing my counselling qualifications and supporting children and young people with intense mental health needs.  Here I witnessed first-hand the very real and devastating consequences of not providing early intervention, not meeting mental health needs early on.  It was an incredibly humbling and rewarding experience, and many of those patients (and staff) still hold a special place in my heart, but it drove my passion to support young people earlier in their journey: to try and help prevent other young people getting to the point of crisis.  I spent time working in a children’s counselling charity, which was again a wonderful experience but, as with so many charity organisations, funding dried up and the charity had to close its doors.

    My next step was working with the local Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service, as part of the schools’ team, providing an early intervention mental health service in schools.  I loved this role: being part of the education and health service, working with the children and building relationships with teaching staff, as well as my NHS colleagues.

    But family life and working life weren’t balanced, and things needed to change.  Working in CAMHS was amazing, but not without its difficulties and I deeply felt the irony of working so hard to support other people’s children, whilst feeling I was not there for my own.  I made the difficult decision to leave the NHS and took some time out to be with my children: a decision I have never regretted, for it gave me invaluable time and experiences with my family.  But I missed my work and became aware of more and more people needing mental health support, which an overwhelmed NHS wasn’t able to provide.  There is a gap in mental health, where people find themselves in limbo: their mental health is not poor enough for them to need crisis services or specialist intervention, but neither are they doing well.  They fall into the gap and are often missed or placed on waiting lists, until their mental health difficulties escalate, and they then meet the criteria for help.  In 2015, the year I left the NHS, I read an article in The Guardian, which resonated so strongly, I could have written it myself.  Written by an anonymous author, it details what it felt like to be working in a CAMHS service that was struggling.  It’s no big secret that mental health services in the UK are struggling: overstretched and underfunded. “Sadly, investment in mental health prevention is limited. Currently mental health research is only receiving 5.5% of the total UK health research spending.”  I have the utmost respect for the NHS staff, for those who work tirelessly to support those in need.  They truly are heroes.  But heroes who are fire fighting, using buckets with holes in.

    I decided to start my own business, to help support the families around me whilst also having time for my family, and started by offering Relax Kids classes one day a week: fun activity classes which teach children (and their parents) strategies for managing difficult feelings and techniques to help them feel calm and confident.  The classes started gaining in popularity, and I was offered the position of trainer, training new coaches in the north of England.  I was delivering classes in schools, and offering 1:1 sessions alongside community classes.  I also trained in the Baby Mindful programme, and delivered classes to support new parents: collaborating with PANDAs to provide support to new mothers was definitely a high point for me (and the BBC came to film a class, too!)   But I missed the counselling and was being asked by more and more parents for advice and support on how to help their children with more complex issues.  Young Minds tell us that “one in eight (12.8%) children and young people aged between five and 19 has a diagnosable mental health condition”, and yet many are unable to access the support they need.  And so, in January 2017, The Calm Within was launched, offering a variety of mental health services under one name.  

    The Calm Within

    The service grew and blossomed.  I offer counselling sessions to adults and to children, a range of resources to support good mental health, as well as the classes and services for schools.  I have a blog, which explores all things mental health, and love collaborating with other businesses, offering consultancy regarding mental health, or offering services to staff.  And last year, I wrote a book, The Sleep Book: Helping Busy Brains Settle For Sleep.  I collaborated with a fabulous illustrator, Rachael Elizabeth Sligo, of Little Flowers By Sligo, who worked her magic and brought the book to life.  We were in talks with a publisher, and life at The Calm Within was looking good.  2019 saw The Calm Within win the Raring2go! Award for Best Family Service, and I reached the final six of the Made in Bury Awards, in the categories of Health, Wellbeing and Beauty, and Backing Young Bury.  2020 saw me reach the finals for The Bolton Health & Wellbeing Awards, for Female Therapist of the Year. 

    And then, Covid19 hit.  The effect it had on families, schools, businesses across the world was, and remains, devastating.  And, according to a survey by the World Health Organisation, “The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide while the demand for mental health is increasing”.  For me, it meant school contracts were cancelled, classes stopped, the book was on hold and the counselling sessions had to take a different approach.

    But, we go on.  There have been highs and lows.  Networking acquaintances have developed into great friendships, new clients have engaged with me, the book has finally gone to print and, perhaps best of all, I got to teach my children about the Greek myths as part of their home learning! 

    The biggest challenge of late has been taking everything online.  My preference is to offer face to face counselling: being present in the same space as your client, being able to pick up on their body language, feel the emotions in the room, and just sit together in therapeutic silence, can be so powerful.  To take that away, and conduct sessions via online platforms, took a lot of getting used to, and still feels slightly odd.  But with additional training, support from the British Association For Counselling and Psychotherapy and my  supervisor, and incredibly understanding clients, the online counselling sessions are working successfully, and clients are able to access the support they need.  Working online remains challenging (losing internet connection, clients not having confidential space at home, cats wanting to be let in, or out, not to mention delivery men knocking on the door mid-session!), and I welcome the day we can return to the counselling room, but for now, I am grateful that I can still offer my clients a much-needed service and provide a little calm in the storm (and I get to wear my slippers to work!) 

    Sleep aids for children

  2. #ReasonsIstarted

    Nuni Randall Ethical Entrepreneur

     

    Foreword from Pamela

    This series of amazing stories from fiercely feminine entrepreneurs documents the journey of some inspirational women who have founded and built incredible brands. These are stories of reinvention, stories of unlocking creativity and pivoting during the pandemic and managing adversity to demonstrate their passion and commitment to building a future legacy.

    The next in the series is the amazing Nuni - who set up a sustainable fashion brand Enfair with a truly ethical focus...

    The reason I started Enfair

    My name is Nuni Randall, I was born and raised in Mizoram -a small state in the North East of India and I have studied and worked in various parts of India and the Solomon Islands. I am married to an Englishman and we live in North London,

    As a young girl, one subject in Social Studies that stayed with me to this day was about the plight of the poor farmers in mainland India. Despite working so hard all their lives they were born with nothing, lived with nothing, and died with nothing. That really disturbed me, and I knew then that I wanted to do something that would benefit the marginalised.

    Studying in various parts of India gave me some first-hand experience of the unfair class system as well as an insight into the patriarchal system. Seeing how women were expected to play a subservient role made me passionate about empowering women with life skills to boost their confidence and enable them to contribute to their family income.

    Fast forward to six years ago; my young family and I were living in North London. My son was about to start nursery and I was uncertain as to which direction to take, so I prayed and deliberated. It soon became clear without any shadow of a doubt that I had to start something that would benefit women from disadvantaged backgrounds in India. At the end of 2014, I travelled to New Delhi India to start Enfair. I had limited funds and very little experience in running a business, but I was passionate about making a difference, even if that meant helping only one or two women and their families. My vision has always been to help improve their lives through learning new skills including sewing and embroidery. The articles they make give them an income that helps to improve their lives and those of their families.

    As well as myself, I set up Enfair with my friends who are based in New Delhi, India.  They are also passionate about making a difference. In fact, they are the ones who handpicked the women we are working with. At present our team consists of a medical doctor, who works among the slum community in New Delhi and another friend who is an expert at needlepoint, overseeing training the women with embroidery skills. Enfair is and has always been about teamwork. We have been blessed to have a community of friends and family in London and India who always share their valuable time to help us when needed.

    Enfair

    Empowering women: Our products are designed in London and are mainly fashion accessories including handbags, purses, and scarves I travel to India every year to visit our producers, source material for our products as well as to work on new and existing designs. Over the years we have worked with a number of women, some have moved on and some have stayed. What keeps us going despite all the challenges is to watch these ladies growing in confidence. I always feel inspired when I see that our work not only help these women earn an income but also empowers them and equips them with skills. It boosts their confidence and helps them look to the future with hope. Each bag made represents a journey which is as unique as the bags and the women who embroider them.

    Sustainability: We take pride in using recycled material and locally sourced materials where possible. We often use recycled handwoven fabrics, cotton, embroidery threads to minimise material sent to landfill. These materials are either bought by us or donated to us by our supporters. We like to incorporate hand-loomed textiles in our products which we source from Mizoram, North East India. These hand-loomed textiles are either handwoven in a loin loom or a handloom by talented women weavers. The designs are unique and special to that region. We use newly woven textiles as well as old but barely worn textiles and upcycle them into bags.

     Suatainable Fashion Enfair

     

    The Challenges: Over the years we have faced many challenges. We often run out of funds and have had to be financially supported by our families. If we had any doubt about why we started, we would not be here today. When faced with difficult situations and challenges, I look back and remind myself of why I started and how far I have come. Those same reasons are what keep me going now.

    The other problem is online visibility. We have a number of loyal customers, many of whom are repeat customers, who keep us going. I am certain there are more potential customers out there but reaching customers online can be difficult, especially when your resources are limited. I have joined Pamela’s SEO Privilege group and I am learning a great deal about SEO for small businesses. I am hoping that we will soon be able to reach more customers online.