Category Archives: retraining

Magazine News!

This year, we have been awarded funding from Awards for All to create three magazines for Mums, all about improving your confidence and motivation, inspiring you to make choices that will improve your work-life balance.  We are very excited to have got the first copy printed – it looks great!  It’s packed with inspirational stories from Mums who have started their own business or dealt with the worry of returning to work or training, as well as loads of information that will help you to progress.  We’ll be posting some of those stories on this blog, so don’t forget to keep checking back!

If you’d like a FREE copy of the magazine, please give us a call on 0800 043 2440.  If you have a story you’d like to share, please email cmathers@opsw.co.uk or get in touch through our Facebook group.

If you’ve got your hands on a magazine already, please let us know what you thought!  Comment below, or on Facebook – we’d love your feedback!

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Filed under creative, employment, Inspirational Women, retraining, self employment, work-life balance, writing

Fancy doing some volunteering?

Voluntary work is a great way to learn new skills, make friends, and build your confidence, as well as adding to your CV and giving you a recent reference.  If you’re considering a career change, it can be a perfect way to try out a new role and show potential employers how dedicated you are to the new career.

There are lots of fantastic opportunities to get involved with volunteering.  The Do-it website is a great place to start.  If you’re already involved with a local organisation that you’d like to support, then you could ask them directly about volunteering opportunities.  Pre-schools, playgroups, schools, and Children’s Centres often need all kinds of volunteers, from receptionists, to gardeners, as well as roles that are more involved, such as playwork or breastfeeding peer support.  Most charitable organisations will be looking for people to help out with fundraising – from selling raffle tickets, to events organisation.

Here are some organisations that we have identified that offer voluntary positions that we think will be of interest to Mums in particular:

Home Start is a national charity, supporting families that are finding it difficult to cope.

Balloons is an Exeter based charity, supporting children who are dealing with bereavement

Real Nappy Advisors help new Mums get to grips with reusable nappies.  In many areas this involves providing a trial kit for a month and supporting the parents in using the nappies and deciding on the best options for them.  This goes well alongside a real nappy retail business, as the family is then offered a discount voucher if they buy from you (refunded to you by the local council).  Read blog posts from local nappy brand, Eccobots, and retailer, The Natural Nursery.

Breastfeeding Peer Supporters help new Mums deal with the many issues they can face with breastfeeding.  They can volunteer within Children’s Centre groups, and in hospital maternity wards in some areas.  Training is usually undertaken through the local Children’s Centre, and locally has been done through Healthy Babies UK.

Have you done any voluntary work?  What sort of voluntary work would you consider doing?

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Filed under charity, childcare, employment, Inspirational Women, retraining, work-life balance

Angel Face

A few years ago, in a previous job, I was looking for voluntary work for a customer and stumbled across some opportunities to volunteer in a Bridal shop.  It wasn’t right for that customer, but it looked like such an amazing opportunity, I stored it away in my memory for the future.  Fast forward a couple of years, and my boyfriend surprised me with a proposal!  I immediately remembered the shop that I’d seen all those years ago, and got on Google to see if they were still there.  I was in luck.  I got in touch with Angel Face and a few days later (and more than a year before the wedding itself) I found myself in there trying on what would become my wedding dress.  (In my haste, I tried that dress on, not in the traditional company of my Mum and bridesmaids, but of my 3 month old son.)

Angel Face is much more than a bridal boutique.  They are a social enterprise.  They provide fantastic, friendly and personal service that makes you feel like the first bride they have ever worked with, and then they invest their profits in young people.  They create training, sponsorship and employment opportunities – helping young people discover their talents – in design, seamstressing, modelling, photography or event planning.  They also showcase young and local designers in their shop.

If you are lucky enough to be looking for a wedding dress, I highly recommend visiting Angel Face’s lovely shop on the river in Buckfastleigh, Devon.  You can also follow them on Facebook.

The Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust

Supporting families since 1853.  The Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust (FTCT) was founded over 150 years ago, to support disadvantaged children, whose parents or carers work in the UK fashion and textile industry.  We provide grants to support all aspects of a child’s well-being including sickness, disability, bereavement, and issues arising from financial hardship.   Here in Devon, thousands of parents are, or have been, employed in retailing in clothing or shoe shops, working in manufacturing or working in our historic Mills. When family crisis strikes or financial hardship takes hold, children are often on the frontline of suffering.  This amazing charity provides essential grants to ensure every affected child can still thrive and achieve their dreams.  Learn more about FTCT here.

The BIG Little Dream Company

This is the non-profit arm of Angel Face devoted to helping children and young people gain self confidence, skills and belief in their talent.   We provide a broad range of skills based programmes to help discover and nurture the best talent in the South West, particularly amongst children, young people and women who have faced significant barriers in their lives.   We believe passionately in the heritage of local communities and reviving skills in industries that have declined here in the UK.   We want to inspire a new generation of designers, craftsmen and women, sales and marketing leaders and young entrepreneurs who embrace the concept of social enterprise.   We link emerging young leaders with experienced industry contacts to provide mentoring and support as they set about turning their dreams into a big reality.  We aim to contribute to the re-generation of vibrant, prosperous local communities here in the South West.  For more information:  01364 644988

 

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Filed under charity, creative, hair and beauty, Inspirational Women, retail, retraining

Creative Writing

Since starting this blog last year, I’ve discovered that I love to write.  I still have a lot to learn, but blogging on a regular basis is giving me lots of practice and I can feel my writing developing all the time.  I have been thinking about taking a creative writing course, but have been a little reluctant because I don’t really have any ideas to write about.  So when this course popped up on my Facebook news feed the other day, I couldn’t believe my luck.  It’s a one off “life writing” course about putting your memories onto paper.  Two of my favourite books are The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson and Boy by Roald Dahl, both are autobiographies about their childhoods, and they tell such lovely stories in them, I’d love to be able do the same about my own childhood memories.

This course is run by one of my favourite authors, Sophie Duffy.  Sophie has written two great books – The Generation Game and This Holey Life, both of which I have read over and over.  Sophie is one of three authors who have set up Creative Writing Matters, an Exeter based group running courses and workshops on all aspects of writing, including supporting people who are entering competitions, and providing a mentoring service.  Sophie has previously written a guest post for the OPSW blog about becoming a writer, which you can read here.

If you love to read, you should also check out The Reading Room, who run day courses at a beautiful country house on Dartmoor.

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Filed under creative, retraining, writing

An Inspirational Story…

Today we have a really inspirational story from a lovely lady called Emma Jones, who unexpectedly became pregnant whilst travelling.  Emma is now trying out a few different business ideas to create a flexible business that will give her the ideal work-life balance:

I had quit my job as a teacher and gone travelling to South America to change my life. Seeing as I returned ten months later having found the love of my life, and with the shock news for everyone back home that I was pregnant with our baby (not to mention the shock it had been for us), I would say that my goal had been achieved!

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Our little accident in Argentina, Eva, is now 15 months old and is the greatest delight of our lives. However, it hasn’t been the easiest of journeys. We had returned without anywhere to live (and as Ciarán is Irish, we hadn’t yet even decided which country we would live in), and without any income between us. My savings had been completely depleted – mostly I think on too much alcohol in Peru – but thankfully Ciarán had some in a separate account. We were also extremely lucky to have very supportive and generous parents, including mine who remortgaged their house in order to provide us with a monthly income. I had gone from having a good income and being completely self-reliant, to suddenly being dependent on family once more. It was this, I believe, that was the main spark for my antenatal depression, which stayed with me to varying degrees until Eva was born.

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I had never had an exact plan for my return to the UK, but that was just as I wanted it. After years of feeling tied down and stressed (not just from teaching in a challenging inner-city London school, but also as I had been a local councillor in a highly deprived area at the same time – I had averaged 80-90 hour weeks, including evenings and weekends), I needed the feeling of coming home and still being free. I had assumed that I would work in any old job and didn’t care where I slept, and/or that I might go abroad again to work, then at some point I would do a Masters and start my new career path from there. But the baby meant that a real plan was needed, and we only had about seven months in which to get reasonably settled. Abortion crossed our minds several times, but our unborn was the product of the happiest time of our lives, so we knew that we wanted her.

Once the terrible morning sickness had finally vanished (the same morning sickness that had started when we were in 40°C heat in India, and which I had initially assumed to be a strange case of Delhi Belly), and on days when the antenatal depression wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t get out of bed, I started applying for a few jobs. But I was quickly starting to show, and when I went to an interview and saw the interviewer glance down at my tummy with a knowing smile, I knew that this was a pretty fruitless exercise. So I threw myself into my writing. I had done some freelance travel writing while I had been away, and had also spent a month working as a guidebook writer in Uruguay. I continued to do this throughout my pregnancy, mostly education and travel writing, but by the time Eva was born I could still count the number of paid commissions I had received on my fingers.

Meanwhile, Ciarán’s jobhunt had not fared much better. After a couple of months of his applying to a variety of jobs that we knew he didn’t really want anyway, we made what many people called a very brave decision: he would study for his Masters in Meteorology then aim to get a job from this. To us, it seemed the obvious thing to do – we knew we had to start thinking longterm, and there was no point in both of us giving up our post-travel dreams.

Fast forward to the present day, and after spending a year living in Reading where Ciarán successfully completed his Masters, we are now in Exeter where he has been working at the Met Office for the past six months, but this is not going the way he wanted. I look regularly at jobs, but nothing I could do other than teaching would make any money after having to pay for childcare. And the very thought of teaching again literally gives me the shakes, so I fear a return of depression if I tried it. I still have a place held at University College, London, to study my MSc in Neuroscience, Language and Communication, but it is unclear when – if ever – I will be able to follow this dream.

Instead, I am following another interest. Having taken up running while a teacher and councillor, which I found was the best stress reducer, and having continued to run during my travels and throughout my pregnancy (including a slow one miler on my due date!), I am studying by distance learning for a diploma in personal training. I hope to use this to work flexibly around Eva. I am giving myself experience of leading group exercise sessions by having started Mummy Active, a buggy fitness class on the Exeter Quayside. Currently, I am asking for donations to the charity for which I am running this year’s Brighton Marathon, but once I am a qualified instructor and can be insured, I aim to expand this as a small business. I also have a number of other similar ideas up my sleeve, which I will reveal at a later date.

Mummy Active pic

Unfortunately, my other business venture, parent and baby Spanish classes, has not taken off in the way that I wanted, despite good feedback from those who have attended. Hola Bebé will therefore have to end before I lose any further money, sadly.

Ciarán, Eva and I are not yet self-reliant, and as well as being eternally grateful to our parents, we are very thankful for Child Tax Credits. We don’t know where we will be living in a few months’ time, and our careers are very much up in the air. But we are together, and we are happy. And Eva has been worth every moment of worry, every tear, every fear and everything we have given up. One day, we will return to South America as a family, and hopefully stay there for a good length of time. Unlike in our 20s, when our work was the focus of our lives, it is now merely the method by which we can aim to give our family the life we really want.

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Filed under children, creative, employment, Inspirational Women, retraining, self employment, work-life balance

Crafty Moments

Crafty Moments is a group started by Friends of Sure Start Dawlish and Teignmouth (FOSS).  FOSS was set up in October 2009 in response to funding cuts for Sure Start.  The comittee of parents fundraise and arrange fun events and activities for young children in the area and their parents.

FOSS have organised kids discos (my boys love these), family fun days (amazing events full of great activities), sponsored toddler waddles, a Mums netball team, nearly new sales and craft fayres, and have created a fantastic sensory garden in Dawlish.

Crafty Moments is a group for Mums to go to one evening a month, to meet other Mums in a non-baby related setting, and to learn new simple crafts, and of course drink tea and eat cake!

So far the group has done things like glass painting, salt dough, paper pom poms, bunting making and much more.  This Wednesday, 17th April, they will be making simple skirts – take a look at the event on Facebook for more information.  All Mums are welcome to come along, and for this one you will need to take your own fabric.

Check out our lovely new skirts!

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Direct Sales: Pampered Chef

Direct Sales is an excellent way to get into self employment with the backing of a larger brand behind you.  Many Mums choose to do Direct Sales either as their sole work, or alongside part or full time employment, as it offers such flexibility.  Pampered Chef is an example of a Direct Sales company.  Consultants come to your home (or workplace, school, youth club, day centre, etc) and do a cooking show where they showcase their products whilst creating lovely nibbles for your guests.

Caroline Cannon is Mum to Jack, 3, and became a Pampered Chef consultant in October 2011.  She also works part time in Customer Services.

Pampered chef is an American company that was founded in 1980. It offers high quality kitchenware and tools and is sold through the party plan (like Tupperware, Ann Summers).  It offers hosts amazing incentives for having a party; consultants (like myself) are incentivised and rewarded for selling the goods and people that buy the products are investing in amazing superior kitchenware that will not leave anyone disappointed.

I was recruited at a Pampered Chef party hosted by a friend. It’s not something I would ever have dreamed of doing but I love it. I love the flexibility, meeting new people, my new cooking skills and newly acquired confidence.

When my director (who was the consultant at the party I attended) talked about extra money and ‘how £50 was a lot of money you could earn instead of watching the TV instead of an evening’ I realised this was a real opportunity I should grab.

It instantly appealed to me and I haven’t looked back since. It’s an excellent way of meeting new people and will give you a confidence you probably never knew you had!

There are monthly meetings and these introduce to you all the other consultants in the area and there is always a cooking show. It’s a great way to see how others might do a cooking show and everyone is always very friendly.  My experience in going to these meetings is finding out about everyone else and their story about getting into Pampered chef. There are many who used it as a stepping stone to get back into work after having children. And this is massively successful. Having children seems to lower women’s confidence and it can take a while to build this back up. I can honestly say that the women I meet now are so confident and love what they do.

How much you want to work is entirely up to you. You can choose to pursue it as career, and indeed a very successful one at that.  Or you could do what I do and hold one or two parties a month.

I am more than happy to talk to anyone about Pampered Chef, and if you want to discuss anything please don’t hesitate to call me on 07810 501385 or you can email at carolinecannon.pamperedchef@yahoo.co.uk

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Filed under childcare, creative, employment, food, Inspirational Women, lone parent, online business, planning, retail, retraining, self employment, work-life balance