A client of Curricula and Co’s Entrepreneur Academy. Last year, we produced a three-part series of blog posts containing an in-depth interview with Donna about her decision to start her business, and her journey towards her dream.
We caught up with her again at the start of the new lockdown, and she shared the latest developments of Legacy, how she continues to provide an escape for her clients during the pandemic, and finding a building house the business. This, and more, will be revealed in this three-part series. Here is the first instalment…
By the time lockdown had started, Donna had reached her target number of clients. At this time, she was still using her house as teaching location for her vocal coaching studio. She knew she wanted to diversify her services to include masterclasses, and she needed a space to do that in. Once lockdown was brought about in March, she decided to play it by ear, to see if she should end Legacy once and for all, or keep going…
“I was really frustrated with everything that was happening, and I did not meet the criteria for government support”, Donna said. “I didn’t qualify, partly because my husband Richard was still working, and we had some savings. Even though I wasn’t making as much income as I really needed to realistically keep going and to grow further, I was not losing money. I only lost five customers, but I took on another three who live abroad. I still had overheads to pay and was making only a small amount of profit. I had to choose between carrying on with the business as it was, or to cut my losses, and go back into sales, where I would make far bigger profits.
I remembered how I have build my business from the ground up, and invested a lot in my training and education, and given up a lot to get to where I am, so I decided to dig my heels in and not give up on all that I have gained so far. When three different people tell you to take a leap of faith and keep going, you kind of listen to them, especially when one of them is your accountant…”
Donna’s conversation with her accountant have her some clarity on how to proceed. He said she could pootle along as she was for as long as she liked, but if growth was what she wanted, she would have to expand, which would not really be possible from her house. What she really needed was a premises.
“I had been looking for a long time. Nothing was affordable or exactly right, but the accountant gave me a few ideas as to what to look for. I did another search, just on the off chance, and I happened to find the perfect building. It was cheaper because of the pandemic, and it was far enough away from neighbours for noise not to be an issue. What I needed was very specific. The location was perfect, and so was the price, and I just had enough money coming in to cover the cost of it, with a little investment from my savings. It was a no brainer”.
Donna took a risk by opening the building at a time when growth was not completely guaranteed because of COVID, but she decided to do it anyway and take the risk. While she was in this process, a long-time student of hers was in a good position to become the extra teacher she had been looking for. He seemed suited for the role, and was keen to get on board. He has been working with Donna as a singing teacher since September, working on a semi-freelance basis, bringing in students of his own. Donna takes a small percentage of his earnings. He is a kind of business partner, so this is something he is invested in part time. She has given him the freedom to pull out if and when he needs to, so there is no reason for him to feel tied down. His involvement has brought significant growth to the business since opening the building, as there has been a steady stream of new students. This is a significant stepping stone towards his career goals, as his dream is to open his own studio one day.
Donna and her business partner have big plans, to create courses, and bring numbers of people into the space. The building has everything she needs - a big room that can hold twenty people, a reception area, a kitchen, and a lounge space for people to hang out while their kids are having lessons. There is a breakout room as well. There are spaces that can be used for performance and recording workshops.
“I wanted it to feel premium and professional, like people were coming to a business, rather than someone’s house”, Donna explains. “Now that I have the building, my mindset has changed. Not only is it forcing me to commit more to the business, get my head down and focus on growth, rather than being a bit blasé about it, it’s given me extra security knowing that I am not using my personal space as a public area. This means that when I am at work, I feel like I’m at work. When people come to me, I can now legitimately advertise this professional space for them to come to. I can’t believe how close I came to saying, ‘oh well, I gave it a go, it didn’t work, lets just apply for a sales job - especially when someone contacted me about a sales job - like, here’s a job, 50K and a BMW, when can you start? I was tempted there for a moment…
We hope you enjoyed our exclusive interview with Anita Frost! She shared some brilliant practical wisdom on navigating these crazy times.
If you missed it, you can catch up on our three part article series by heading over to the blog page of our website.
We have loads more interviews and stories coming your way over the next couple of months - we will be catching up with Donna from Legacy Vocal Coaching and Chi Opara from Dinky Mix about the latest developments in their entrepreneurial journey throughout lockdown, plus Rebekah, our content writer and blogger will be talking all things employment, postgraduate study, communications, and more..
Curricula and Co’s Entrepreneur Academy sees start-up owners attend once a month, and fortnightly for training sessions, in order to stay sharp and focused. Many have accessed finance such as grants and funding opportunities, so that they can invest into their business, as well as upskilling themselves as leaders.
‘They come to us more often for training because they are pioneering and moving things forward. We now that these businesses will be in a great position in these coming months, as they are capitalising on what is right in front of them in terms of training and finance, Anita says. ‘As well as business education, others are coming to us just to discuss the challenges they are facing - they need mentorship for their career paths”.
Mentorship is an important part of success - listening to those who have gone before us, and can offer helpful tips. Anita accesses mentorship through books - mentioned in the previous post - and courses. She is about to start a leadership course that lasts for 10 weeks. Even though she has been leading a business for a number of years, she knows that she will always need input and mentorship for herself.
Curricula and Co’s Entrepreneur Academy has not changed much about its services during lockdown, other than simply making themselves available.
‘We are really focused on the needs of our clients. Since this has happened, we have sharpened our focus, because we know the economy is in crisis. Business people need clear guidance and tools to help move their business forward. Our services are the same, but practically, we a we are focussed more on the immediate needs of businesses for extra training and support.
‘This current crisis is temporary. We need to remember this. If we look back to history, we can see all these famines, plagues and wars, and so many people who have continued to prosper and do great things. It’s about making that all-important decision - Do you want to thrive, or be held back?
Even if you don’t have a business, and are either in a job or currently unemployed, the best place to focus your energy is on finding and taking hold of the opportunities that are there. Now is the perfect time to dissect and rebuild your CV - make it creative, turn it into something that stands out to employers. Believe it or not, companies are still hiring! Maybe the industry you really want to work in, or is relevant to your degree, is not booming right now, but figure out which industries are looking for new employees, and apply for those jobs. Whichever industry you are working in, you are gaining skills and valuable experience that will show employers that you have been using your time well during this lockdown - you are still adding to your CV, and when the time comes for your industry to pick up again, the first thing bosses will do is look at what you have been doing at this time.
“Whatever your situation, you have something to be hopeful about!”, says Anita. “It’s a mindset. You could have studied your whole life and invested a lot of student finance into something that is not hiring right now, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be forever’.
“We have been in touch with people who are doing apprenticeships and different things to stand out. You could do a six month internship. Young people, especially, can get apprenticeships and traineeships to keep their CV alive and standing out”.
Now could even be the perfect time to re-think your whole career. It could push you in a direction you may not have even considered. If you have had a job loss, DO NOT feel like a failure! Yes, it’s a hard situation to deal with. You have bills to pay and outgoings to account for. But take this time to take stock of your skills, gifts, talents, and what you enjoy. You may have a hobby that could be used to earn money, that could become a business in the future.
Think about what people need. At the moment, people need to boost their morale, as a result of isolation, and not being able to see loved ones as often - so many of us are turning our hand to creativity, or taking up art. Perhaps you have a skill you could teach people, so that they can make and sell things?
There are so many voices shouting about what you can’t do. But what CAN you do? How can you work around things and be resourceful? It can be helpful to get out your pen and paper and write out what you can do, and what the possibilities are - it’s a good way of getting stuff out of your head so you can make sense of it.
But if you are feeling overwhelmed by fear, please get into contact with us at Curricula and Co - just a phonecall could be the thing that pushes you towards a new way of thinking. Whatever you do, don’t be isolated and alone at this time.
It’s when we need each other the most. We need to encourage and build each other up, because we can get through this. We have come through crazy things before, as individuals, as families and as a nation. Let’s be kind and spur each other on!
With so much doom and gloom and fearful language floating around, as business people especially, but for everyone, we need to find that balance of staying informed and aware of what’s going on in the world, but at the same time, know our limits, so that it does not affect our emotions and get in the way of our goals, and the kind of lives we want to be living.
We need to be wise with the kind of content we are consuming, and make sure we are choosing things that will be uplifting and motivating - things that will inspire and empower us.
‘To stay informed about current affairs’, Anita suggests, ‘it is best to follow your local government, and be aware of what they are saying. We need to follow the guidelines given to us, no matter who we agree or don’t agree with - in order to do our part to help our country overcome this challenge. Also, if you are a manager, make sure your staff and teams are up to date with regulations.
Anita advises entrepreneurs, and everybody, to read loads of stuff about your industry, whatever that is.
‘If you are a creative, read blogs, listen to podcasts, read books and articles that inspire you, educate you and keep you up to date with everything that’s going on with the creative world. If business finance and making profits is your thing, look for resources and quality content on the economy, finance, stock markets, etc. If you are someone who leads teams or a company, read stuff about leadership. For me, reading is feeding!’
Anita is currently reading Zero to One, by PayPal founders Peter Thiel and Blake Masters. This book talks about how there are still brand new things to be invented that have never been thought of before - that every new stage of progress has to start from zero. This is an exciting book about progress and scaling up that will refresh the way you think about what’s next.
What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey is another classic one that Anita comes back to again and again - it’s a collection of thoughts on the human soul - about resilience, clarity, possibility, and more.
Also, John Maxwell’s How Successful People Think , which explores tapping into your creative potential, and how to think outside of the norm.
Over the last few months, we have been producing a lot of content on our blog and social media about physical and mental health and wellbeing. This is because we are aware of how fear can affect people in so many different ways. It can affect the way we think, our ability to make decisions, our creativity can get squashed…
Eating well is massive for general wellbeing, together with getting as much fresh air as we can, through daily walks, even if it’s just in the garden, sitting outside. All of this goes a long way towards supporting our wellbeing during challenging times.
In Part 3, Anita updates us on what Curricula & Co has been doing to adapt their services to the current situation, talks all things employability and business, and just generally gives our morale a much needed boost!
Anita Frost, Curricula and Co’s founder and director caught up with Rebekah, our social media content creator, and shared her perspective on navigating lockdown and the current climate as a business person, as well as how the company is adapting to meet clients where they are at.
In this first part of the series, Anita chats about the main challenges facing entrepreneurs, how she is facing them head on, and gives some great advice on how to navigate these crazy times.
‘Here at Curricula and Co, as soon as lockdown started, our prime focus was to make sure everyone was able to access all the updates, because it is critical that we are informing on some of the huge questions that we are facing -
How do you navigate a small business forward effectively at this time?
How do you keep going with your aspirations to get that first job, or work experience?
Maybe you want to reduce the time you are spending on it, or you may decide to take up some part time work on the side for extra financial security, or take on full time work, and work on your business in your spare time.
Whatever they decide to do, we want to encourage people to keep hold of their dreams, and to continue accessing training and support from Curricula and Co and our business partners, so that they are still growing and developing.
Anita explained that the single biggest challenge facing entrepreneurs and new business owners is fear. The overwhelming instinct is to shrink back and instantly decide to put everything on hold, as a result of all the news we are hearing about the effect lockdown is having on the economy, and the uncertainty that comes with that.
‘This is absolutely not the best thing to do!’ Anita said, ‘we understand that everyone is financially challenged, however, we encourage people to continue investing in themselves because it is ultimately YOU that will be driving your business forward. If there are gaps in your knowledge and skills in this economical climate, now is the time to upskill like never before.
‘If you are struggling with a lot of fear and anxiety, and don’t know where to start with moving forward, a good starting point is to take stock of where you are - get a hold of the facts on how your finances are, what resources you have, etc. You have to ask yourself do you actually want to pursue whatever it is you are pursuing? Did you ever really want it to start with? Really, some of the greatest businesses the world has ever seen have come risen up out of huge challenges like war, famines, plagues, etc
They are still carving out some time here and there to make this happen. A high percentage of women are making the decision to shelve their business plans until Corona has passed over. This is sad to see, because we need both women and men to navigate forward through these challenges’.
Anita is someone who loves to take on a challenge. She believes that a massive part of succeeding in business is problem solving. During lockdown, she has been setting a great example of what it looks like to up-skill as a person leading a business. She has been reading books, and has enrolled on a number of courses, including one on leadership that she was due to start the same evening!
“For me, it’s about learning and gaining knowledge - looking at and evaluating everything you have - what’s working? What’s not working? What do you need to get rid of to make room for something else? Also, it’s super helpful to find people to come alongside who can help you become the next level of yourself - that’s what we want to be for our present and future clients.
Personally, I have had to get rid of excess busy-ness. Even though I was productive and doing masses of stuff, the busy-ness was not always rewarding. A good thing about working from home was that I had those extra couple of hours to use for other things that I would normally be commuting and driving around. Not having to commute has given me some extra freedom. I am continuing to get rid of things in my schedule that I don’t really need - it’s all about being savvy with your time management”.
Next week, Anita shares some of her best book recommendations, and talks wellbeing and healthy routines...
Next month, get ready for a 3-part series in which we share an exclusive interview with Anita Frost, Curricula & Co, Founder…