In July, ten Southern Housing Group customers took part in a training programme designed to help them start their own businesses. We caught up with Ceri and Peter, who took part in the course, to see how far they’ve come.
“My motto is: ‘I would rather take a risk and try something that ends up failing, instead of never trying at all,’ explains Ceri Thomas, who first heard of the Enterprise Exchange course after receiving a leaflet through her door offering Group customers the chance to take part.
The course was the idea of Employment Skills Officer for Southern Housing Group, Kate Wainwright, who wanted to help customers looking to be self-employed. She sought the guidance of training provider Enterprise Exchange who specialise in business startups, and together they delivered the course, which took place in Brighton over seven weeks.
The course included both group and one-to-one coaching on aspects of starting a small business, including funding and tax, marketing, and overcoming personal barriers.
Help for Ceri’s canine company
Ceri says: “I found the course really interesting, fun, and full of helpful information; we learnt everything we needed to know to start up a small business. The main thing I learnt was how to create a website as well as some really useful marketing tips.”
Since the course, Ceri has launched StreetPups, a dog clothing brand that currently offers graffiti-themed t-shirts, bandanas and hoodies for dogs. A volunteer dog walker, Ceri has always had a passion for dogs and one of her designs, aimed at rescued canines from unhappy backgrounds, is branded ‘I refuse to sink’. She says: “I’m hoping to find a dog rehoming charity that would like to collaborate with me so I can sell the t-shirt through them and share the profits I make.”
With a grant from Southern Housing Group, Ceri is currently setting up her website and producing the clothes she’ll be selling; in the future she’d like to offer customised clothing with logo designs from customers.
Canine apparel from Streetpups
Kate believes a key value of the course was giving participants the belief they could start up and run their own businesses.
She says: “It has given those who took part the chance to receive professional support and guidance to develop their business ideas, access funding and grants and in some cases the chance to undertake a work placement with one of our contractors.
“Moreover, self-employment is a more feasible option for many of our customers, such as those with disabilities, health issues, or single parents; it enables people to earn an income in a way that doesn’t impact the issues they face, and they can decide on the kind of work they can do, the hours and scope.”
A guiding hand for Peter
For Peter Joy, the Enterprise course proved invaluable in helping him realise his long-standing ambition to become a qualified therapist, a journey he first started 21 years ago.
He explains: “I grew up on a London housing estate and experienced some of the social problems associated with estates of that kind, at the time. I studied social psychology 21 years ago and at the time I thought a lot of the problems I experienced in the environment I came from were philosophical in nature - about our understanding of ourselves and our world, and how certain ideas instilled in us impacted on our sense of worth. When I found myself in higher education, I realised that access to this information, and therapy, could have a real impact on social inclusion and social justice in the kind of communities I grew up in.
After completing his studies, Peter worked as a contracting housing officer with various housing providers in Sussex. “I enjoyed working with and helping tenants on a one-to-one basis and decided to start my training to become a therapist in 2009,” he says.
He completed his therapeutic training in October 2015 and shortly after was invited to take part on the Enterprise Exchange course.
“I always wanted to start my own practice but was not in a position to set up a business effectively,” he explains. “The course was fantastic and gave me vital information to get on and start my practice, including how I could support myself while building my client base. I was given great information and support and was shown a clear and viable path to growing my business from a position of financial disadvantage.
“Without the course, I would not have thought it possible for someone in my position to start my own business - it was, and continues to be, an invaluable help to me.”
Peter now has a website and social media accounts for his therapy business, Whole Mind Counselling. He has a plan and schedule for growing his business, and has received help with his start-up and development costs from Southern Housing Group and the government-funded New Enterprise Allowance.
He continues: “I’ve experienced how people who do not start near the top struggle. I want to be useful for this group in society, and bring my own experience to my practice. I also want to grow my business into a social enterprise later down the line and help find better ways to increase access for different people to the service and the profession.”
“Having done the Enterprise course, I would recommend people talk to Southern Housing Group about how they support customers in this way. And remember, being human entitles you to be part of and contribute to anything good and worth doing - regardless of where you come from in life. Our core human value is never diminished and is our entrance pass to all human culture and endeavour. Take the risk, get support - try it!”
Peter Joy has launched his own therapy business with help from Southern Housing Group
For enquiries, please contact:
Mary Weeks Communications Manager Southern Housing Group 0207 553 6841