Local entrepreneur Julia Mitchell has had to make many changes over her working life: “20 years ago I was told that my spine was fusing and that I should consider changing my career as my work involved being sedentary for long periods. I did change my career and have continued to adapt and diversify ever since, none more so than during this last year.
“Like many businesses, when the first Covid-19 lockdown came in 2020, my income as a Tai Chi instructor disappeared overnight. Fortunately I was eligible to some of the Government’s SEISS and business support grants which made such a difference.
“After a few weeks of grappling with technology and purchasing new equipment, I took my Tai Chi sessions online – where would we be without online platforms such as Zoom! I was completely overwhelmed by the support that I received from my customers and it was such a joy to see everyone. In fact, it’s been such a success that my Thursday early evening session is going to continue online as my customers love the way it helps them to relax, de-stress and recharge.
“And it was during this first lockdown that I discovered ‘Donut Time’, a free monthly networking event for small businesses run by Venture House Business Centre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Temporarily run online due to Covid, here I have met some great people – it’s such a lovely welcoming group. It initially gave me the support that I needed when face-to-face events weren’t happening and I still continue to attend months later.
“I also receive information about small business support and local activities via the Venture House monthly e-updates and would recommend any small business owner signing up to it (https://bit.ly/vhupdates).
“I knew that I couldn’t just teach online Tai Chi sessions – I needed more interaction and income. So last August I went off to Wales with my husband and we both completed our training with British Nordic walking.
“If you have never heard of Nordic walking, think cross-trainer at the gym but in the fresh air! Of course, these sessions also had to stop with the second lockdown but it’s fantastic to be out and about now enjoying the amazing Warwickshire countryside.
“Alongside Tai Chi and Nordic walking, I decided to complete my Health & Wellbeing Coaching qualifications with the Centre for Coaching in London – I am thrilled that I am now able to offer a truly holistic approach to wellbeing.
“Through networking, I met Rebecca Jones from Glory Design who helped me to create a whole new rebrand. And I’m now developing my new e-commerce website and am ready to move forward with my business.
“My aim is to inspire everyone to take really small steps to better health everyday – ‘Mind, Movement and Motivation’. As organisations begin to move back into the workplace I am looking forward to being able to provide support for mental and physical wellbeing at team-building days, corporate retreats and more general wellbeing activities – both online and face-to-face.
“I am fitter and stronger in my fifties than I ever was in my twenties or thirties and now take no medication. If I can inspire others to take control of their wellbeing too – job done!”
Anne Solomon, who manages Venture House, said: “It’s great to see that Venture House activities and the local grants and support programmes are giving many of our small businesses the financial and community support they need to ride this pandemic storm and come out the other side in a more positive position. As with all our clients, we wish Julia every success and hope that her story can inspire others to pick up the phone and call Venture House to talk about how we might be able to support their business or business idea.”
Venture House works closely with partners such as the CW LEP Growth Hub, Warwickshire County Council and the C&W Chamber of Commerce to deliver a complete service to micro and small businesses. The Centre provides flexible serviced offices which have 24/7 access, along with hotdesking and meeting space (the latter is currently still closed).