After a whirlwind career taking her from Buckingham Palace to working as an undercover surveillance officer, Claire Jackson decided it was time to take control and re-adjust her work-life balance following the birth of her daughter. Offering interactive storytelling, creative play and adventures for under 5’s, Story Explorers was born.
Wanting to find out how to make her small business more successful in its first year, Claire joined us for our ‘Boost Your New Business’ course. We caught up with her to find out more about her new business and how things have changed since we last saw her…
Following the birth of her daughter and returning to the workplace, Claire found that her work wasn’t flexible enough for her to strike a good work-life balance. A dilemma which many new mums and women returners face.
She says: “My previous role was pressured in what I was expected to do and so I found it difficult. Certain issues made me feel unsupported. I believe people expect you to return to work after having a baby to be the same. Your priorities shift.”
“I placed high expectations on myself as well and this contributed to me having anxiety and depression. I needed to find a new job to stop these triggers and find a way I could achieve some of the elements I was missing.”
For Claire, starting her own business was the ideal solution. With support from her family she took the plunge. “I have always had this little idea to start something myself and use my education and passion. Having a child made me believe that I could work with children and so I just needed a push to make me take the leap!”
As with any start-up business, taking those first steps to becoming self-employed was daunting for Claire.
“It’s very daunting – you can feel like you are alone out there. I was so used to having peer and management support before and now it’s just me so you feel like you are making it up as you go along. I was worried financially but my family have been amazing – we’ve had to cut back but we are getting used to it!”
Claire now enjoys the flexibility of working from home and being her own boss. “Being remote means I can take my sessions anywhere – even outside which gives me lots of flexibility. I choose when and where I work and I can factor in more time with my family.”
Story Explorers’ unique sessions carefully tie in to the Early Years Foundation Stage framework, so they are the perfect mix of education and fun for little ones. Claire also creates bespoke sessions to fit around exhibitions, events or different locations.
So, what does one of Claire’s sessions look like? She explains: “I create and provide fun 45-minute story sessions based on themes in popular stories. We do a song warm-up before finding clues relating to the story with our binoculars. Then we embark on some educational activities which are related to the story. We end with a bubble dance and then I read the story on the story mat!”
Looking to take her business to the next level, Claire decided to take advantage of Enterprise Hub’s ‘Boost Your New Business’ course. The course is designed to help those in their first year of trade review important aspects of business, including sales and marketing strategy, as well as business planning and management.
“It was a fantastic two days of sitting in a room with other small business owners, knowing you are not alone and hearing about new approaches to give what you are already doing a big boost.”
So, what did Claire take away from her time with the Enterprise Hub?
“I immediately got a card machine! This now means attendees are not put off by having to pop to the bank before a session. I refreshed my business plan by putting it into a new format which was suggested as part of the session. It helps me to better understand what it is I’m offering and gives me a clearer view of what I’m trying to achieve. I now have a clear handle on the social media platforms that I need to be using for my desired audience and I also now say no to doing things for free!”
Now into her second year of trading Claire hasn’t looked back: “I am finding more and more people attending and I am thinking of other ways I can share what I do. We now have four sessions in various Wirral locations as well as themed events. I have started to do more parties and festivals as well as working with charities and being in schools.
“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing her pretend to be me at home with her teddies watching her leading her own little class! I am a happy mum who now can spend more time together with her family.”
We asked Claire what advice she’d give to someone wondering how to start up a new business: “Find someone who can hold your hand whilst you start such as The Women’s Organisation. You need a business advisor to make sure you create a strong foundation – a business plan to start from a firm platform. Simply having one gives you confidence!”
To find out more about Story Explorers, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find them on Facebookand Instagram.