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My entrepreneurial journey so far………..

What inspired you to start your own business and why this particular business? Also to write your book?

I was a business developer for 12 years running a CIC supporting learning-disabled adults to speak up for themselves.  I met with a steering group each month and the members would tell me what they wanted from their service, and I would go away write the funding bids and grants and set up various projects. 

They told me they wanted a club night in the city centre and at the time there was no other club night in the city only nights in church rooms.  200 clubbers attended every month.

In response to them telling me they wanted more employment opportunities, I set up Café Leep which is an accredited training café where they train in a working café, get their NVQ in food safety and then placed in employment within the community.  21 people were put into employment through this project.

During lockdown the Chair of the company a lady with Downs Syndrome said she wanted to model and create her own clothing label, so I set up AND clothes which stands for Abilities Not Disabilities in 2020 which 8 learning-disabled adults ran, from modelling, marketing and designing and the idea behind it was to change public perception of learning-disabled adults to show that everyone has an ability to contribute to society.

During 2020 I had just come out of a narcissistic relationship, long before I even knew what one was.  I was completely in love with this man, and I truly thought that he was my forever partner and that I had found the one.  He was very different to other relationships I had been in and was the sweetest man in the beginning which I found out was love bombing and part of the tactics that a narcissist uses.  Towards the end of the relationship, it was very different, he ghosted me after a disagreement around picking up dog poo so I could cut the lawn (his lawn and his 5 dogs).  I had moved in with him during lockdown so we could still see each other, as at the time travel wasn’t permitted. 

The ghosting continued for two weeks, and he kept telling me he wasn’t ready to talk.   In the meantime I had been searching on YouTube what to do when someone ghosts you and a coach appeared who began talking about co-dependency and narcissism and something struck a huge chord in my head and knew I had to get some thinking space.  My son and his wife had moved into my house during lockdown, so I didn’t have any where else to go and felt trapped.  I eventually reached out to my friend who told me to come and get a couple of days space to think which I did.  During this time we were still in contact with each other but he continued to tell me he wasn’t ready to talk,  this continued for a week. 

Something in my gut told me to finish the relationship because no response is a response, which I did but was left heartbroken.  A week later I found out he had been cheating on me, so always listen to your gut feeling.  What it brought up for me at the time was that I had never healed from an 8-year domestic abusive relationship previously which was horrendous and I knew I had to do lots of inner work in order to move past the trauma and begin loving myself again and start to recognise signs of unhealthy relationships. 

I began journalling in the beginning, doing lots of mirror work and positive affirmations and self-love meditations and learning all about what narcissism is and how to spot signs of red flags in relationships.  My journalling then became my book ‘Fix your Future’ and this helped me to look at my life as a whole and childhood traumas that often we hold onto without even realising.  I then added all the self-help techniques that I used in order that other women could learn the signs of coercive control and what tools I used to help me move through the trauma. 

I taught myself how to self-publish which was a massive accomplishment for me but it took me 6 months from publishing my book to even tell anyone about it.  I began talking about it on stages on an audio app called Clubhouse, this helped me to move past my fear and go public.  The fear was so real to me, what if he finds out, what will others think, the list goes on…. what if, what if!

Then the what ifs changed to “what now?”  In Christmas 2021 I went public and began speaking up about my book, narcissism and spotting signs of red flags. I began connecting with other survivors and started a podcast called ‘Heal with the Reel’ talking with survivors to thrivers and running my own club in Clubhouse called ‘Trauma to Triumph’ around awareness of unhealthy relationships.  The need for me to help other women find their confidence took over as my passion and I left my full time career to begin my own personal journey and follow my dreams.

I then set up my two businesses in February 2022, one Fix your Future Ltd and the other Inspired-Nation CIC still supporting learning-disabled adults within the community.

Had you been self-employed before and was your previous work or career background helpful to you in doing this business?

My previous work was so helpful in creating my business as I managed a team of 12 and knew quite a bit about managing a business.  Because I was an experienced funding and bid writer I knew how and where I could get funding from and so began writing for other businesses as a side hustle to bring in money whilst I set them up.  Setting up a CIC is a much longer process, getting directors on board and then signing the bank forms etc so that took 5 months in total but setting up the Ltd company was much easier.  There is still so much I didn’t know, and you just learn as you’re going along.

Tell us about your business journey?

I just knew after I had finished my book that I wanted something more, I had got to the top of the organisation and wanted to go and set up a social enterprise for me.  When I first left my work, I wasn’t quite sure what my business looked like but I joined a coaching group on Facebook and began the process of understanding my avatar and what my purpose was.

How did you get published? Lots of people aspire to write a book but don’t know where to begin – do you have any advice or tips? 

I didn’t have a clue how to self-publish but watched lots of YouTube clips, learned how to use Canva and the rest is history.  During this time, I also published AND which was the life stories of the learning-disabled entrepreneurs running the clothing brand and what it meant to them to run a business. 

What have been the biggest challenges?

The biggest challenges have been making sure I had enough income, I used some of my own savings but I’m now seeing the benefits.  It also took us 3 attempts at setting up the CIC and Companies House never told you where you are going wrong so that took longer than we had anticipated.   Even getting a bank account for a CIC is a long process and we couldn’t apply for any funding till we had that in place.  We had applied to one small funding pot for a £1000 from Arnold Clark and we didn’t have a bank account in place at the time, we thought we may lose the funding but they let us put it into Fix your Future Ltd which was a huge relief.  

In July 2022 we ran our first retreat for learning-disabled adults in a log cabin in the woods on a farm in a beautiful location with the £1000, it was an incredible day and the sun shone, the feedback from the attendees was amazing.  Shortly after I also won £1000 from Live Well Leeds for Fix your Future Ltd and ran another retreat in the same location, this time it was a trauma-informed retreat and 8 women attended.  It was such an inspirational day, we had a sound-bath, Vision boards and some of the ladies had major breakthroughs which makes what you do so worthwhile.  I recently got a quote from one of the women attendees who said “You were the shift I needed and forever will be grateful for” which brought a tear to my eyes.  If I can help just one person, my job is complete.

What is your long-term vision and plan now?

At the end of last year once we got our CIC set up I began writing funding for my own business which felt amazing to do.  Planning my own future and how that would look. 

We were successful with all our funding bar one grant, but we have some incredible projects for 2023.  One of which is working with 16 learning-disabled adults to become artists.  They will be learning how to do digital art online and creating NFT’s which is art that is sold on the blockchain.  We will be having a final showcase of the artists creations where they will be speaking up about their art, they have created at Left Bank Leeds and inviting investors up from London and local media.  We have become partners of Leeds 2023. 2023 is going to be a year that changes Leeds as a city forever and for the better. Leeds is embarking on a year-long celebration of culture, happening all over the city and we are super excited to be a part of this and be a partner with our project.

My other vision is to set up a domestic abuse service for learning-disabled adults as there is no other service in the North of England and only 5 services in the South which needs to change.

What have you found most helpful in your journey so far and what tips and recommendations would you give to other women starting and running their own businesses?

I would say to anyone go smash your dreams, if you are passionate enough about your work it never feels like work.  It’s a scary thing to leave full time work but if you can reduce your hours or even find a side hustle to bring in income like I did then it allows you to set up your business in the background.  I worked long days when I worked full time, writing my book on an evening sometimes till late at night but I feel the hard work paid off and I’m starting to reap the benefits now.

Do you have any role models?

A man called Marksteen Adamson who is currently building his own village called Pheonix Village and wants to support the kids that were always sent home from school because they didn’t get the right support or were misunderstood or didn’t get a chance to shine or deemed as the naughty kids.  This was my son, and I was forever called into school for his behaviour, I always felt such guilt for this because his dad used him as a pawn during the abuse which was so sad.

If school had looked at the reasons why, he would have been given the right support.  Marksteen has already made such a difference to many young people’s lives and many more once the village has been built.  This is exactly what I want to do with supporting people to understand what healthy relationships look like.  Thankfully my son directed his anger into kickboxing and has now gone on to win many fights and gold medals, I’m super proud of him.

What do you find most rewarding and what are you most proud of?

I think the most rewarding thing about my work is winning funding for people but also finding out what they do.  One business called Soundproofbox go into schools to deliver a project called ‘Red Flags’, they do forum theatre and the audience members wave red flags if they witness any coercive control.  Project like these are vital in helping young people understand signs of unhealthy relationships.  The other thing is stepping into my fear and telling people this is me, letting go of my limiting beliefs and having the courage to set up in business even though it was a scary time.  Lastly was when I ran the trauma-informed retreat and a particular woman has a major life breakthrough, these are the moments when you know what you’re doing is all worthwhile.

(24) My YouTube channel and my journey into entrepreneurship l – YouTube

(24) Series 3 – Heal with the Reel’ with my guest Amy Fleckney. – YouTube

Amanda – Domestic Abuse Advocate (@amanda_haigh_fyf) • Instagram photos and videos

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