Super Mums Club Launch Event

On Monday, we will be offering free face painting, and giving out free copies of our magazine at this event, see you there!

SUPER MUMS CLUB OPENING EVENT MON 2nd DEC 10-12PM at the COURTENAY CENTRE, NEWTON ABBOT

SUPER MUMS CLUB is a place especially for busy MUMS to get pampered, take a workshop or class, get information from local services and advice on things such as parenting & work options. Mums can try & buy local products, or just relax with a cuppa while your under 5’s play with Pandamonium, our cheeky panda mascot in the play areas! We have some childcare time available for you so you can have a little time to yourself to indulge in a mini treatment, enjoy an activity or watch some demonstrations! Come and join us at the new mums playground! Our Mission is to help mums with small children access all the things that mums may need & enjoy. To give mums a little bit of ME time and to motivate, inspire or just relax them, while at the same time helping promote local small businesses, especially those owned by mums too.
We will be opening Super Mums Club in Newton Abbot, Torbay & Exeter in January. For information about what’s on offer at our OPENING EVENT  see our Facebook page. It’s all for you! So come along for a taster of what we will have for you in the new year!
If you have a business that would benefit our Super Mums please get in touch.
£5 per family. Includes a drink & 2 hours Mums & baby/toddlers play. Access to mini treatments/workshops & activities. Discounted shopping & services. Half an hour crèche space for first child. Or 1 hour with a paid workshop/activity. Additional crèche spaces available at £1 extra per child.

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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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A jobsearching Mum’s story

Looking for work can be really tough, looking for flexible employment that fits around school hours and holidays can be even harder, as the jobs that do come up are in such high demand.  Below is the very honest account of a Mum who has fled her previous life to start afresh with her child in a new area, she has kindly shared her story with us.  We are working with her to find the right solution for her, and we will hopefully be updating this story soon with a happy ending!

I married for love some years ago to a man my age but of a different colour and culture. I took on his religion and a new name to go with it. Things were good to begin with, but things slowly changed, so slowly I did not see it coming. The control and my life diminishing apart from work and home, nothing else. I had a child and things got worse. Me as a person was gone. I was a full time worker and any other time I was Mum. No “me time”, no free time, no nights out and I let this go on for about two years. I was getting more and more in debt thanks to him. Life at home was awful, so miserable, I got very bad depression and was signed off work for two months. My child and I were suffering, weeks of silence in the house, one living upstairs and one downstairs, the child torn between the two.

There came a night when things came to a head and 8 weeks of not talking was broken by a dreadful argument and wrestling match. Things did not change and there was no acknowledgement of any problems in the marriage. I decided I had to take action for my child’s sake and my own.

My husbands culture meant that his friends would “report” back on me if they saw me out, so to leave him, I had to move away. Far away. I planned everything for when he was out the country, managed to pack some stuff into a friends garage and pack clothes, but everything else was left. I walked away from my home, my car, my friends, my job of eleven years and started again.

We moved into a women’s refuge for four months hundreds of miles away from what I knew. Then we got a house of our own. We started to build a new life for ourselves. I filled the house with charity furniture and other people’s generosity, my child started school and it was hard at first, I had to walk away listening to the screams.

Then my child turned 5 and suddenly I HAVE to find work. But now things are so much harder. I have no car, so rely on public transport to get anywhere. I hardly know anyone here so do not have a reliable source of child care. So I need part time work, that fits in the school opening hours, close by for transport.

Yet everyone thinks it sounds easy to get a job. “There is loads out there” is what I hear them say. There are jobs out there, but there are also lots of people applying for them. I have applied for over 60 jobs so far. And most of them you don’t hear a word back from. No acknowledgment at all. It is so demoralising, soul destroying. I have applied for jobs that I could do with my eyes shut but maybe I am overlooked in the volume of applicants. Also as I have a foreign name, there is the chance I am discounted as maybe I am seen as not having English as a first language.

I have had full time jobs pointed out to me by the job centre. I have no problem personally working full time, but what about my child? After what they have been through, how fair is it to put them in breakfast club AND after school club? That would be from 8am to
maybe 6pm every day, so 10 hours a day, 5 days a week in school. Is that fair?

I understand the culture of getting people in work and helping mums back to work. But the job centre and the government just see numbers, they do not see individuals. I am so scared that I am going to be worse off financially. They do not understand my worries. And they do little to help with them. I still do not know if I will lose my child’s free school meals. How much I can earn before my housing benefit is affected. Will I have to pay the council tax? But all they see when they look at me is another number on the unemployed list. I will have to pay transport costs. Possibly child care costs. Tax credits pay 70% of the cost of child care, but I pay 30%, how am I going to afford that? And what about school holidays? Six weeks of child care?

And then there is the stigma to live with, of being “unemployed”. One man told me I should be in the gutter for not feeling guilty for being unemployed. Until I pointed out to him that I am out of work because I had to run away from an abusive marriage so had to leave my job.

I am not stupid, I can write my own CV, my own letters, I don’t need a job club. I just need for them to keep off my back and let me get on with it. If they want proof of my applications, I can provide it. Stop making me come in for meetings. There is nothing to gain, every time they just tell me that I am doing everything I can….I already know that! I want to work, I need to work, I need to get out and mix with people and keep busy, some people think I enjoy not working. I DON’T.

I have had the depression now for nearly 3 years and still on the medication, recently it has been bad. And the job searching is not
helping me. How can I keep up the enthusiasm to apply when all I get is rejection or just plain silence? I have come close to asking the doctors for help. Asking them to “sign me off”, take away the pressure the job centre is putting on me.

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Interview with a Photographer

Last week, I told you about a photoshoot that I had been a part of, and how much it made me appreciate the incredibly difficult job that wedding photographers have in trying to get hundreds of beautiful photos without impacting too much on the couple’s day.  When planning my own wedding, we came across an advert for a photographer looking for experience of wedding photography.  Lionel agreed to photograph our wedding for us for free to add to his portfolio, and I think we were really lucky to catch him at this point in his career.  Here he tells us about how he got into wedding photography.

How did you get into photography, and when and how did your turn your hobby into a business?

I used to be in a band and we used to tour a lot round the UK and Europe, I only had a point and shoot camera then but tried to document my trips as much as possible. It wasn’t until a few years after the band finished, when I started shooting a few local gigs that I realised I wanted to take it more seriously. I started shooting for local venues and local publications and started to photograph more and more bands. I have been to many festivals and photographed some amazing musicians over my time.
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What made you decide to start doing wedding photography?
I never considered doing weddings as I didn’t think I would enjoy it or be any good at it, so it wasn’t until a friend asked me to help out assisting on a wedding, and experiencing it first hand that I realised it wasn’t too dissimilar to photographing bands. Shooting bands live I tried to translate the intensity into each photo, and it’s the same with weddings, the intensity is capturing the crucial moments and documenting the energy emotions of the day.
How did you get started photographing weddings?
I tried to contact a few professional wedding photographers regarding assisting wedding with little success. Before I could take my wedding business off the ground I needed to build a strong portfolio. I couldn’t justify charging with my lack of experience so I decided to put an advert out offering my services for free in exchange for photos for my portfolio. Due to offering something for free, I in return wanted some special unique weddings that would look great in my portfolio.
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Congratulations on your recent wedding!  Do you think that having had a wedding will affect your wedding photography at all?
Having a wedding definitely gives you first hand experience (and stresses) of the business. The moment you mention the word ‘weddings’ prices seem to inflate substantially. Some things more justified than others. We were lucky enough to source out the things for our wedding within our budget, it’s so easy to go overboard though.
I do more than ever think that wedding photos are really important not only from photographer’s view but from a groom’s point of view too, as they are probably one of the few things after the wedding you will still hold on to. Another thing I learnt from my own wedding is to make sure you make a list of shots you want such as family portraits. You don’t want to look back and think you have missed anyone from your photos.
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How do you market your business?
The world of wedding photography is a huge minefield and getting your name out there is probably the hardest part of the job. Social media is a major marketing tool nowadays and I usually spend a lot of my time networking on Facebook, twitter, wedding sites, forums and anywhere else I think a bride will be looking. In the age we live in to succeed you have to embrace things like twitter and Facebook.
My initial price structure also dictated my marketing, I first started to offer my services for free to build up my portfolio, I now start from a reasonably low price. We all have to start from somewhere and at this point in time I can’t justify charging huge amounts as I have only been in the wedding business for under a year. The one thing starting in the budget end is sometimes potential clients pick you solely on price and not on your work which can demoralising. I don’t think it will be very long though as my experience in the wedding business is quickly growing and soon enough I will have to raise my prices to what I’m actually worth.
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What has been the hardest thing so far about working for yourself?
Learning how to run a business, I would say 70% of my time now is now devoted to the business side, such as marketing, networking, bookkeeping and most importantly disciplining myself to actually sit down and work. Also being self employed you have to factor in the long hours without getting anything like sick or holiday pay.
What is the best thing about your job?
Getting to go to travel to different places (I recently went to Italy to shoot a wedding), meeting new people, photographing weddings which in themselves are amazing events, and doing something that I love.
What are your plans for the future?
More weddings! Carry on expanding and exploring through my wedding business. Hopefully meet some awesome people on the way.
Check out Lionel’s work on his website: www.stealthestagephotography.com

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Photoshoot

A while ago, I was given the opportunity to go on a photoshoot for Pip’s Garden.  Pip’s Garden sell high quality, personalised gifts – bedding, towels, dressing gowns, and children’s clothing.  The photoshoot was held at the Fisherton Farm in North Devon.  Fisherton Farm has three beautifully restored caravans, and you can hire out the whole beautiful secluded meadow for a Glamping weekend with up to twelve people.  It was the perfect setting for a photoshoot with a difference.  Photographer Simon Gilbert, from Gilbert and Evans, was able to turn what was in fact a drizzly, dark, cold evening into a beautiful set of sunny photographs.  This was amazing to see first hand, looking at the photos you would have no idea that it was so cold!!  Pip actually commented on the day, “this is why the models always look cold in their sunny bikini shots”.  Carmen Croxall from The Very Vintage Hire Company provided some props for the shoot, and modelled in it too.  It was really interesting to see just how much work goes into getting one perfect photograph, and it highlighted for me just how hard wedding photography must be!

 

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Flexi-Mum on Facebook

Through the Flexi-Mum project, we hope to inspire you, to build your confidence, and to help you get closer to the perfect work-life balance.  One way in which we think this works best, is through you speaking to each other, sharing your worries and experiences and supporting each other through difficult and exciting times.  Please join our Flexi-Mum group on Facebook to be a part of this.  Everyone we meet has an inspirational story to tell – whether it’s dealing with the difficulties of starting a family and coming through it, or starting your own business.  Just having the opportunity to speak to someone who is a month or two behind where you are can really support them coming forward, and give you a boost in the process!

One of the first Mums we met with the project was still on maternity leave.  She was really worried about settling her daughter into nursery so that she could return to work.  This is a completely normal concern that most of us go through at some point, but few of us actually get any real support with.  A group of Mums that I met recently described it as a “black cloud” hovering over their maternity leave.  Having a group like this on Facebook gives you an opportunity to express your worries and know that you’re not alone.

And, of course, if you would like additional support from our advisors, please call us on 0800 043 2440, or access our Virtual Services.

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Interview with a local artist

Catt Kinsey is an artist who is just starting her degree.  After two failed attempts at college, she thought her life in education was over, but now she is embarking on her degree and even plans to go into further education and possibly teaching later on.

Tell us a little about yourself

My name is Catt, I’m 20 years old and currently living just outside of Exeter. I am studying an Access course in Art at Exeter College and will be moving on to Study at degree level in Bath in September.  I applied to do A Levels when I first left secondary and wasn’t very prepared, at this point being in education just wasn’t where I wanted to be and soon dropped out. The following year I went back to college and tried again but unfortunately due to personal reasons I left after the first year. After the second failed attempt at A Levels I didn’t think much about education as at the time I didn’t realise it would be possible to get back in to it or reach a point where university was possible.  I focused on working and gaining my own independence but then I met someone who informed me about Access courses. My life ambitions had taken a back seat but this one year course for over 19 year olds gave me a lot of hope. Everything happened very quickly from then on really. I applied, had an interview, was given a place and made the move up from Plymouth. The support given here was fantastic, not just with the application process but with financial help as well. It completely changed my life direction and I haven’t looked back since.

What inspires your designs?

At the moment my work is very broad, including paintings, photography and 3D pieces. I’m currently working on my final major project based around the human emotion of fear, which I’m finding really interesting.  I love looking at other Artists and being inspired by their work, especially in local galleries. It’s wonderful how much the area has to offer with its galleries like the Spacex and Exeter Phoenix, showing their great exhibitions for free most of the time.

Where would you like to be in 5 years time?

In 5 years time I would have looked to finished my degree, whilst studying I’m hoping to start selling some of my pieces or making greeting cards out of more illustrative work. I’m not certain on what I want to do when I finish my degree but I expect it will involve further education, either specialising in a certain area or to enable me to teach.

Is there any advice you would give to other young people who are struggling to find work or career goals?

I think people are often expected to know exactly what they want to do and how they are going to achieve it but the reality is that people change and ideas grow. Sometimes it isn’t about focusing on one plan or one direction but being more open as a lot of the time you’ll find other ways of success. Don’t let small problems get in the way. If you enjoy something, or are passionate about something then go for it, often with enough effort any obstacles can be overcome and you’ll be amazed at the amount of help and options there are available.

You can find out more about Catt and see some of her work on her website.

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