Attending a meeting last week at Bude Children’s Centre, for people wishing to start up their own businesses, was a revelation. Run by Debbie Cousins of Bude Works, the guest speaker was local mumpreneur, Liz Higgs, who used to have For Your Child shop in Bude, plus a thriving online business which enjoyed successful worldwide custom, and has since been sold. Liz now runs her own PR and marketing business, focusing on social media, called Social Eyes. Liz was voted one of the top 100 mums in business by Mum’s Club, and also works as a local ambassador to encourage other local people into business. The work she is doing here in that role is being mirrored around the country.
Debbie is working with Bude Jobcentre, whose manager, Lynn, was also at the meeting. Bude, as everyone knows, struggles with employment, much of which is seasonal. At this time of year, it has a 20% increase in Jobseekers Allowance claims, but there are limited jobs available. One of the aims of Bude Works is to inspire people to start their own businesses, helping them with the skills/interest and support they need, often at a very practical level. Debbie’s research showed that there is limited information about Bude out there so she wants to #bigupbude.
One idea is a feasibility study for a small group of 18-24 year olds on this very subject. How do we #bigupbude? How do we get Bude on the national map, encouraging more people to visit, and more jobs, therefore, to follow. For this to work, Debbie is seeking free premises where she can have a ‘pop up office’.
Another idea relates to CVs. Reviewing CVs at the Bude Jobcentre, Debbie discovered that 80% would immediately end up in the ‘no’ pile because people had no relevant work experience, their CVs were too general, or that they were not properly demonstrating their skills. So, a CV workshop, plus a free of charge CV review could soon be available at the Jobcentre. Careers SW would also be at hand to give guidance.
There is a shortage of affordable childcare provision in the area, so getting people into childminding, holiday club leadership, pre-school work and after school clubs in the focus of another planned workshop.
A retail workshop, being run by Smart Savings and held at the Bude New Life Centre, takes place in February. This is a great idea, but the Bude Works umbrella would hopefully begin to draw all opportunities like this together so that people know about them.
Some people also expressed interest in knowing how to use social media effectively.
Liz Higgs explained her own portfolio career:
“I married in 2001, when I had a job in recruitment. Then I became pregnant, and suffered hyper-emesis, like the Duchess of Cambridge, and needed hospital treatment. After the baby was born, I started doing Avon. Then, I had another baby, more hyper-emesis, more hospitalisation and started working for a now closed company called MamaToto. Then I had my third baby, with more hyper-emesis, at which point I decided enough was enough. I was in hospital again”.
Liz’s children were 11 months, 2 and 4, when she moved from Hampshire to Bude in 2008. With three young children under 4, working was difficult, but one day Liz had the random thought that blankets sold in Mothercare were very expensive. It is often these thoughts that spark success, as in this case, where Liz tried to find an alternative supplier, did so, and sold them on ebay. She then moved on to pushchairs, which were somewhat bulkier, so Liz, and husband, Darren, finally got a storage unit on King’s Hill Industrial Estate, where they opened their baby shop, managing to secure exclusive deals with top suppliers for North Cornwall. Running a business is never easy. Indeed, one person I know says: “it’s great to choose which 24 hours of the day you work” and in 2012, stressed with the demands of a growing business combined with looking after three children, For Your Child was sold. Liz had always been ahead of the game in social media and wanted flexibility to fit in with her children. So, Social Eyes was born.
This is, according to Debbie and Bude Jobcentre, probably the worst recession that area has known, with the Jobcentre register of claimants higher than ever. It is in this climate that people are being asked to think outside the box to see if they could make a viable living working for themselves. Around 10 people attended the session, whose ideas ranged from equestrian to gardening to graphic design. Many people there just wanted to check out the feasibility of their ideas. Some wanted help marketing, and some needed funding. The idea of a skills swap was mentioned. It sounded like there were some really good, well thought out business ideas there. The Enterprise Scheme was also mentioned where people with an idea (subject to strict criteria) claiming Jobseekers, have a mentor to help them develop a business plan, and can sign off Jobseekers when they are ready to start with the help of £1000 loan.
Other organisations at the meeting included Outset Cornwall who are keen to investigate the idea of giving yourself a job. If you are willing to explore self-employment, they will help get you on the right track. Anyone can join, not only those currently on Jobseekers Allowance. Petroc were also represented, offering a short course in Bude starting 8th January.
Certainly, running your own business requires an interest or idea. It cannot be run like a hobby, because hobbies don’t pay, and it needs a great deal of preparation, commitment and organisation. But if you’re interested in self-employment and have an idea, then look out for Bude Works events early next year, and make sure you use the skills at hand at Bude Jobcentre. It sounds like Bude Works will have its own website in the near future so watch this space for more information….