Life is very tough at the moment. In the last month I haven’t even been able to feed my children. So why have I decided to start a business now? What brought me to this point and what has led me to believe I will succeed?
My story – Carol Frazer
I have to say that I wasn’t raised to believe in myself. I was never shown a real direction in life, I was expected to leave school and find work straight away. Further education and university never entered the equation. Despite that, after starting my working life on a government Youth Training Scheme, I then built a successful career with an international media company in London. I was a customer service adviser for the Sales and Marketing Department, working closely with the directors and editors. I went on to other high profile jobs in London. And I met lots of famous, influential and powerful people. I was fascinated by the high flyers and their different way of life. But those jobs were all a let-down for me. I couldn’t identify with people who earn extreme amounts of money for little work.
I travelled the world with my partner and explored many different cultures during this time as well. I realised that there was a world of desperate needs away from the hectic London lifestyle. Then I fell pregnant whilst travelling and decided to leave my job to bring-up our child. I was 25 so felt it was a good time. But it wasn’t easy. We had to live with my parents for a while, my relationship with my partner wasn’t going well and I started to suffer from depression. A year later we found a place to rent and became a proper family.
Working with people and communities
I got myself a new job at a High School nearby. The job was an attendance officer, something I didn’t even knew existed. It was a brand new role and it was my department. This role was my first interaction with communities and issues surrounding families within this society. I really loved the job and I thrived. My role soon expanded to pupil support officer/keyworker.
I became pregnant again and had my second child. By this stage my relationship with my partner and my depression had both got worse and after four years in the job I had to leave. I was suddenly homeless with 2 children and thousands of pounds in debt. All we had was my car and the clothes in the boot, nothing else. I literally did not know what to do or where to go but I was determined to succeed for the sake of my young children. I had never been in contact with the benefits system and no one directed me, I was completely lost.
Motivation and confidence
Eventually we found somewhere to live and after some false starts, the job centre put me on a Lone Parent course with Working Links. This course supplied motivational and confidence boosting by facing your fears. I absolutely loved this, not only the course but meeting new people in the same boat as me (or even worse). It inspired me to change my outlook on life and most importantly on myself. I changed my hair style and started to have a positive outlook. I was nominated by the Torbay Development Agency for my outstanding achievement on ‘working against the odds’, I was taken to a fancy awards ceremony and given £100, I was even in the paper! I found this a bit strange but it gave me strength to find a job I actually wanted to do, not a job I had to do.
I was then invited to a motivational course with a local employment and training provider who offered me a volunteering job. I gladly accepted and I became an Employment Advisor. I knew nothing about advising people on benefits how to get a job but again I threw myself into this position and loved each and every day. I know that helping people whatever their background is what drives me to work my hardest to assist them. I was enrolled for an NVQ Level 4 in Advice and Guidance and continued this whilst working.
Getting off benefits
The future was and still is a road off benefits. I have had many problems with the benefit system. My children had to spend Christmas and New Year with their dad as benefit errors meant I had no money to feed them. Housing benefit errors have brought us very close to eviction.
Starting my business
Some changes at work helped me to realise that it was time to change. My daughter had been winning all kinds of awards at school and one day she came home with a certificate for a Dragons Den competition which she won, I was impressed to say the least. Within the next half hour whilst doing the washing up I had an epiphany, a sudden realisation that I needed to start my own business. It didn’t feel like a surprise, I think I was planning this without really realising it. It was like an explosion in my head with all sorts of ideas. I knew that the company would focus on the general public who need assistance with life in general. I knew there was a market for this as I meet these people every day through my job. I had decided I was going to work from home but there were obstacles attached to that. I didn’t want clients entering my family home, would I need security? I remembered the offices where the lone parent course was held and I popped in there on the way to work. It was surprisingly affordable. .
I have found a self-employment initiative programme which will help me progress the business and booked a ticket for South Devon’s Enterprise scheme where there will hopefully be people with funding and grant opportunities. And I have also enrolled on a half day course with HMRC to assist me with my tax issues. I opened a business current account with 2 years free banking service. I am waiting to pay for my website domain name and email address (£60 per year) and waiting to install a phone line. I want to make sure I have all the right materials to start selling the company – headed paper, business cards, domain name and correct contact details. I am asking around for second-hand office furniture and I am hoping to decorate the office to a professional standard. For the moment I am funding everything out of my own pocket.
This is going to take a lot of time especially with working 22 hours a week (yes I still provide volunteer work for my employer) picking the kids up at 3:15 and having practically no money. I am fully aware that this could go completely wrong and lots of people think I am crazy. But I know in my head and my heart I can make this work. I have experienced many things in my life and these experiences have led me to start this business. At no stage in my life have I ever felt more confident, strong and career driven than I feel today. So watch this space, the story has just begun!