‘Success lies on the other side of fear’ – said Actor Will Smith

Personally, I totally agree with this thought and highlight the importance of ‘facing the fear’ in all of my wellbeing and mental health training.  Many people have said  something along the lines of ‘it’s not things in themselves that affects us but our reaction to these things’  for centuries – literally!  Epictetus a Greek slave  50-135AD said it, so did Shakespeare and many others.  It has stood the test of time.

 

For many the impact on Coronavirus has been negative especially where there are vulnerabilities already present.  For others they have seen the pandemic as an opportunity to reflect on where they are and do something completely different.

 

Check out the feature below from the BBC News website this morning.   Reflect on where you are.  Is now the time for you to do something different too?

 

Coronavirus: The women who started businesses in lockdown

 

Natalie James, Charlie Pears-Wallace, Mya Wander and Caroline Haegeman
Image captionNatalie James, Charlie Pears-Wallace, Mya Wander and Caroline Haegeman

The coronavirus pandemic has hit businesses hard, leading to sweeping numbers of redundancies and millions of workers being furloughed.

Despite the downturn, some people have decided to take the brave step of starting a business.

We spoke to four women about why they did it and how their ideas are progressing.

‘I started it on a whim but it’s become like my child’

Young entrepreneur Natalie JamesImage copyrightNATALIE JAMES
Image captionNatalie started a subscription service to bring people the beauty, makeup and self-care products they were missing during lockdown

Natalie James, 30, from Wanstead in East London works in fashion PR. Although she continued working through lockdown from home, she didn’t like the fact that she wasn’t able to pamper herself with her favourite beauty products as all the shops were shut.

Realising “a lot of other people felt the same”, she decided to start a £10-a-month subscription box service called Tingle, which offers a curated selection of beauty, makeup and skincare products sent to your door.

“I started to get cabin fever and hated that the only place I could go to was the supermarket,” Natalie adds about her decision to open a business.

She invested £300 in building her own website on Wix and designing the packaging for the box. She also approached beauty brands and managed to get most products gifted, while others were bought at cost price.

The companies that partner with Tingle get to include information about their brand in each box, along with discount coupons for further purchases.

Natalie says she has had 400 orders to date and made £5,000 in sales, but it has been hard work.

“I do literally everything – I’m staying up until 3am on some nights, but it’s worth it.”

‘I needed something to keep me going through lockdown’

Young entrepreneur Mya Leonie WanderImage copyrightMYA WANDER
Image captionMya started a Caribbean takeaway meal service during lockdown

Student Mya Leonie Wander, 20, had always fancied starting her own business and is a “big foodie”.

So in June she decided to start MJ Eats, a part-time Caribbean “soul food” takeaway service, cooking from home two or three days a week.

Mya, who advertises on Instagram, has so far had around 20 orders a week and made £500 in sales. She also says she broke even after just two months.

“I started my business because I needed something to keep me going through lockdown,” she tells the BBC.

She had been a competitive athlete most of her life, but not being able to do sport or find work “took its toll”.

Mya plans to continue running her business part-time and studying for her degree when the new academic year starts in October.

‘I finally had the time to commit to launching a business’

Young entrepreneur Caroline Haegeman and her partner JaiImage copyrightCAROLINE HAEGEMAN
Image captionCaroline Haegeman and her partner Jai pose with her “date night” subscription box product

Caroline Haegeman, 25, is studying for a PhD in oncology at Imperial College London.

Part of her work requires her to carry out experiments in the laboratory at university, but her course was put on hold for three months during lockdown and she had to stay at home.

Spending so much time indoors with her partner made her realise that even if they couldn’t go out, the couple needed to have “fun date nights” for the health of their relationship, but there weren’t many activities to do.

So she set up subscription box service Box42 “to bring back the romance”. Each one-off box retails for £33, or £29 for a monthly subscription, and comes with two fun activities following a theme, as well as snacks, non-alcoholic drinks, curated playlists and “mood setters” like candles.

“I started the company during lockdown because that’s when I started really seeing a gap in the market,” says Caroline, who partnered with independent food and drink companies and negotiated wholesale prices on the items.

“Previously, although I’d had different ideas, I’d never had enough time to commit to launching a business.”

Caroline has so far invested £1,100 in the business and her sales total £950. She hopes to break even soon.

‘It started as a necessity and then I decided it was brilliant’

Young entrepreneur Charlie Pears-WallaceImage copyrightCHARLIE PEARS-WALLACE
Image captionCharlie Pears-Wallace forged a new career for herself during lockdown

Charlie Pears-Wallace, 34, from Newcastle had come from a sales and marketing background and quit her job just before the coronavirus crisis.

She had hoped to change careers and get a new job that allowed her to use her French, but the pandemic made this very difficult.

But during lockdown she began helping small businesses with their social media strategies and marketing, thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations.

She now works as a marketing and PR consultant under the brand Charliecomms, and says she has brought in enough revenue to break even, pay her bills and put some money aside.

“I guess it started as a necessity and then I decided it was actually brilliant,” she says.

“I think if this year has taught me anything, it’s that you never know what might happen. But I like to think that I’ve safeguarded myself in a way, as I’m not a full-time wage to anyone.”

 

History repeating itself? Technology helping or crushing humans?

Watching a feature on a news channel this morning about the pros and cons of capitalism has left me wondering if we have learned anything from the Industrial Revolution to the financial markets crash of 2008.

 

I’m not sure I’m any clearer on an answer!

 

Hundreds of years ago machines started replacing humans’ physical labour.  Less people were employed which more was produced.  But workers laid off faced destitution with no money to feed, clothe themselves or provide shelter – remember this was before state unemployment benefits.

 

With the advancement of machines cracking codes in WW2, computers reducing in size from huge rooms to pocket size and robots being used in medical sciences we’ve seen many pluses to this technology.  But is it now going too far?

 

The online news feature showed Bob Pisani, On-Air Stock Editor for CNBC – American news channel who liaises with stock traders and explains the markets to the general population.  Bob passionately believes in capitalism without which he feels  there would be no financial support within the economy.  Markus Koch a Stock Market Correspondence stated traders have been reduced from thousands to hundreds in recent years as machines have taken over.  More thought provoking for me was Tarek Mashhour, Audi Plant Germany explaining their goal is to have a production network of communicating robots meaning increased productivity with the same resources.  But if less humans are working – who is buying the Audi cars?

 

Dirk Heitmann of IBM Germany explained they are developing cognitive machines capable of learning on their own!  Dirk feels this increases human creativity capabilities.  But could this be at the price of human jobs?

 

Anthony Scaramucci, Hedge Fund owner believes capitalism is the only system which works.  ‘There is tremendous opportunity for growth over the next fifty years.  We can mine for minerals essential in technology in asteroids in space’.  Now that idea might sound completely out there but we have computers that can talk with each other, robots used in manufacturing, healthcare and so on.  Is it really out of reach?

 

An interesting thought concluded the news feature by Professor Tim Jackson – Economist at University of Surrey who believes ‘we live on a finite planet therefore the expectation we can all grow and profit from capitalism is false – we can’t’.

 

We seem to get richer in technological advancements but the divide between rich and poor seems just as wide and just as unbalanced.

 

We watched with baited breath…..

 

Will it work?

Today sees the official launch of the Government’s Kick Start programme aimed at  unemployed 18-24 year olds.  The idea, as reported in the press this morning, is Government will pay employers £1,500 per head towards a 25 per week, six month work experience placement.  The Government’s idea is many will be kept on or step into permanent jobs elsewhere.  Referrals will be made by JobCentre Plus staff.  One of the first employers to sign-up is Tesco who want 1,000 people.

Check out http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-53985144

 

Alarm bells are ringing for me.  I wonder if this has been thought through properly.  We have evidence from various previous work programmes including the recent Future Jobs Fund which doesn’t seem to have been learned from going by the press reports today.

 

My concerns are:

 

  1.     Will there be vetting of employers to ensure integrity that these unemployed young people won’t be scarred further by being used for six months in basic roles with nothing at the end?
  2.     Is a robust audit trail in place so all parties are accountable and progress/gaps in training are addressable?
  3.     What ‘work experience’ elements will be focussed on to ensure attractiveness to employers who do have jobs but don’t want to have to ‘re-train’ bad habits?
  4.     How can employers in good consciousness take part if they have furloughed/made their own staff redundant?
  5.     JobCentre Plus staff are on a huge recruitment drive themselves with thousands being recruited into Work Coach positions.  How will KickStart be managed to ensure any concerns raised are investigated quickly?

 

At Growing Talent, we know it’s successful even where there are multiple barriers to employment in place for unemployed individuals because:

 

  1.     There is a dedicated mentor for individuals, employers and sole contact with JobCentre Plus leads to monitor progress and address issues immediately
  2.     There is a robust audit trail to highlight progress/training gaps
  3.     It’s five weeks long including a week orientation and holistic whole person skills
  4.     There are robust employer and participant agreements in place
  5.     There is a permanent job ring-fenced for the individual at the start of the journey which is theirs on completion

 

I would personally be more reassured if this KickStart programme was targeting future industries – Artificial Intelligence, Coding, green energies or industries that usually look at degree education/experience such as financial services.  To ask someone to work for six months with no guaranteed job on completion with employers like Tesco fills me with concern.  What about you?

 

 

 

 

 

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