As a full-time mum to three lively youngsters, Lisa Hutchinson knew it would be difficult to commit herself to a ‘traditional’ job but was determined to find an outlet for her skills and enthusiasm.
When Golding Homes invited the 35 year-old to attend the PopUp Business School the housing association co-sponsored at the Tovil Community Centre, the former plumber’s mate and waitress started thinking about what she could do.
PopUp Business School sets out to inspire people like Lisa to create their own business by pointing out the possibilities rather than highlighting the red tape they might encounter down the line.
“I went along with lots of different ideas of things I could try, and by day two of the course I had decided what I wanted to do,” said Lisa, of Brunswick Street, Maidstone.
“I had been thinking about clothes design for children, party planning and a few other ideas, but the clear message on day one was that we should focus on one idea and devote all our energy to pursuing that goal,” she went on.
With ‘energy’ clearly playing a huge part in the well-attended and inspirational event, Lisa decided to focus on clothing design, with the result that the Miss Lolli Clothing website began to take shape within a day or two of the decision being made.
Lisa said lead trainer Alan Donegan had made her realise anything was possible and that she had everything she needed to get her business up and running once she had decided which direction to take.
“The course was excellent and gave me the impetus I needed,” she said. “Alan made me realise that there was nothing stopping me and that all I needed was focus and commitment. I learned a huge amount.”
Lisa’s new business will customise quality children’s wear by, in her own words, “adding magic to children’s clothing”. She plans to capitalise on her Caribbean heritage by adding bright prints to clothes and then selling them online.
While she found the course inspirational, she was also helped by the practical arrangements. “The crèche made a huge difference; without it I could not have attended,” she said. It meant Lisa and her husband Ivano’s three children – six year-old Italo and twins Lorena Rose and Viviana Grace (two) – could play happily while mum prepared to launch her new business.
Helping people like Lisa who struggle to fit into the normal work pattern is a prime aim of PopUp Business Schools, as Alan Donegan explained.
“It can be very difficult for full-time mums and people with other pressures on their time to find work” he said. “Our main purpose is to empower people to make money by doing something they enjoy, and working with organisations like Golding Homes allows us to take that message to people who can really benefit from it.
“Too many people believe they need money and a business plan before they can even think about setting up on their own, and we are here to show them that simply isn’t true. What they need is an idea and the drive to put it into practice.
“The people on the course brought an amazing array of great ideas with them, from Pokémon card events to swimming training and customised children’s clothing, and it was a privilege to help them develop those ideas.
“Now, more than ever, is the time to make money out of something you enjoy doing, and that’s what the PopUp Business School is about.”
A number of small businesses set up as a result of earlier PopUp Business School events held locally are still doing well. One of the earlier entrepreneurs, Lisa Bishop, who now runs synchronised swimming sessions as Lisa Bishop Tutoring after attending a course in October 2015, was at the Tovil event to share her experience.
“These events help build communities by supporting people who have limited employment options,” said Golding Homes’ Head of Community Development, Caroline McBride. “They inspire and support would-be entrepreneurs and focus on cultivating ideas rather than on bank loans and business plans.”
The course ran over nine days, with would-be entrepreneurs able to drop in on as few or as many of the sessions as they wished. “We were delighted with the response and we are now looking ahead to the next PopUp Business School, which will be held in Parkwood from 2 to 13 July,” Caroline added.
The PopUp Business School events have been jointly funded by Golding Homes and West Kent Housing Association.