When the JumpStart team first met Cristina West back in 2017, she wasn’t feeling ready to start the journey of setting up her own business. In her own words, “I had had an idea for several years in the back of my head about starting my own business but kept dismissing it. I was unhappy in my job and suffering from stress and I knew that I didn’t really want to go back to my working environment and the career I was in.”

When the time was right for her, we were ready to offer her the help she needed. We realise that it is a big step, or rather a leap, to take from being an employee to your own boss. That is why we developed a programme that will help guide you through the enterprise journey, step by step, at a pace that suits you.  JumpStart programme is designed to help and support you to set up a business, become established and grow. Project Manager Sheridan Sulskis explains…

“Our offer is a long-term business support service featuring locally delivered group workshops, access to relevant resources and start-up finance. We believe that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when starting a business – that is why our unique approach aims to provide clients with specialist support tailored to their needs.

“We believe that what clients can learn through our support can always be applied to their own business venture, job search or indeed any other activity they choose. If any budding entrepreneurs would like our help turning their dream into a living and breathing startup, we are here to support them and applying for the programme is simple. Just call our team on 07494 442869 or email us at inclusive-enterprise@cwrt.uk.com and we will take you through the process.”

So, when Cristina contacted us, even if apprehensive at first, we knew that with our support and her dedication, success was inevitable. Here is her story of becoming a proud owner of a “Kidslingo” franchise and creating a Spanish language school for her “little linguists” in Nuneaton:

Cristina

What attracted you to join the JumpStart Programme?

Due to issues at work, I had lost confidence. It was suggested I go on a confidence building course. I thought this could help me build my confidence in general and help me decide whether to give my job another go or going self-employed was actually a feasible option for me.

I had previously met Galya, the Programme Co-Ordinator, at an event so I knew there was something out there for helping people set up businesses. When she called me to talk about the Jump Start programme I didn’t realise so much help was on offer. At this point, I didn’t know where to start with tax, keeping records and the rest of the logistics around setting up. I knew I would not be able to take the step into self-employment on my own. I was not too proud to say I needed help and was happy to take any that was on offer. Even though I was considering buying a franchise and was going to be part of a bigger organisation, I wanted some local support. I liked the fact that the courses were short, within the hours my daughter was at school and that they were near my house too!

What has been the most beneficial/ helpful part of the programme?

I think it has been the workshops’ facilitators. Some parts of the courses were not entirely relevant to me but talking to the mentors directly gives you the time and space to focus on the issues which are specifically pertinent to you.

 If you could describe the support in one sentence – what would you say?

The support received is twofold – the course itself is a well thought out mix of relevant topics delivered by knowledgeable and inspiring professionals, as well as at the same time meeting a great mix of like-minded people in the same situation as you who can support you through your journey.

How does JumpStart programme differ from others (other support you may have accessed)?

I looked around at different options on offer and found that this one is local and also as it is a full programme, rather than one-off courses, you are able to form and maintain a group which supports and learns from each other. This also follows into the networking events where you get to maintain contact with those you have worked with, it is small and welcoming and gives you the confidence to work up to other networking events which are stand-alone and can feel quite intimidating.

I have also received support from the franchise head office and other franchisees, which has been helpful in general terms of running the business, but they do not know or understand the local community in which you are trying to build your business. Also, the head office cannot give you any kind of financial advice etc. and cannot dedicate the same amount of time and individual support as I have received from the Jump Start programme.

Will you apply any of the knowledge learnt? If so, what would it be?

I am already using so much of what I have learnt!

I am using some of the spreadsheets provided which have helped me to manage my finances.

I did a lot of market research to gauge my market and my pricing and am reviewing this regularly.

Learning a lot while having fun!         

Initially, I thought that I didn’t really have any control over the marketing side of things as I had bought a franchise. I am lucky to have a brand and logo etc. behind me but I came to realise that I did have a role to play. Following the workshops with Michelle the facilitator, I have completely changed how I word and focus my Facebook posts and re-drafted my webpage. I have done a marketing plan so I remember key events that I can market around like Christmas, Easter etc.

From one of the mini-workshops and the networking events, I received advice about doing my CV which I was then able to implement when asked for it, as I hadn’t written one for many years. From another came the suggestion of e-mailing first before cold calling and our whole organisation has now taken on this procedure.

I even wrote out a business plan! In it I said I hoped to achieve 10 classes a week by the end of year 1, I am already at that stage after 7 months and I have earnt back what I put in to buy the franchise and the equipment I needed.

My business is far more successful than I could ever have imagined and I have received lots of positive feedback, which is helping me to grow in confidence.

My previous employers refused my request for flexible working and I could have just accepted that and done nothing about it. However, I’m so pleased I have taken the leap into self- employment because it has had huge benefits for the whole family, because of the work-life balance that comes with it.

*The IEP, part-funded by ERDF, is run by Coventry & Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust (CWRT), a not-for-profit specialist finance provider committed to supporting businesses and individuals primarily based in Coventry and Warwickshire. CWRT has partnered with The Women’s Economy (WE), and Warwickshire County Council, to offer specialist business support in Warwickshire through the new and unique Inclusive Enterprise Programme.