Posted: Fri 29th Sep 2023
Enterprise Nation partnered with Mastercard and Strive to deliver an online 'One Stop Shop' for entrepreneurs.
An initiative of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, Strive will give 650,000 British micro and small enterprises the support they need to thrive in the digital economy over the next three years and beyond.
We're catching up with some of the business owners who have been using the initiative's Make a Plan discovery tool to find out about how it's benefited them so far.
Here, we talk to Emma Redman of EWE Talk, a non-profit social venture that offers a unique wellbeing and companionship experience by allowing people to spend time with sheep.
When and how did you make the move into owning a business?
My journey into owning and running a business has been a transformative and empowering one. It all began with a series of experiences that shaped my path, ultimately leading me to create EWE Talk, a venture close to my heart.
For a significant portion of my life, I dabbled in small-scale businesses, primarily owning and running a home-from-home dog boarding service. Before that, I worked as a private nanny. At that time, I often found myself uncertain about my future. I didn't consider myself particularly academic, and I didn't think I had the same kind of intellect as others in my family. Being a practical person, I stuck with what I knew, caring for dogs and children.
My life was further complicated by living on a farm, dealing with mental health challenges, and supporting my husband through his recovery from alcoholism – a journey that saw him become the owner of one of the largest agricultural contractors in our area. Amid these personal trials and tribulations, I experienced my own losses and hardships. It was clear that something needed to change.
Throughout all of this, one thing remained a constant passion within me: the desire to become a counsellor. I took steps toward that goal, embarking on a journey that has seen me complete nearly three years of training. However, it wasn't without its struggles. I often found it difficult to retain information and grasp the complex terminology associated with counselling.
Additionally, my responsibilities extend to caring for my three children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). It's during this that I began to recognise certain traits within myself, which led me to seek professional help. In 2021, I received a life-changing diagnosis: ADHD, dyslexia and auditory processing disorder. This diagnosis marked a pivotal moment in my life.
Suddenly, everything started to make sense. I gained a profound understanding of who I truly was and how I functioned. With this newfound self-awareness came a surge of inspiration and determination. Alongside my colleague Pippa, who shared my passion and vision, we founded EWE Talk.
EWE Talk is more than just a business; it's a platform for empowerment and transformation. It's a place where I can use my unique perspective, informed by my personal journey and struggles, to make a difference in other people's lives. Our organisation is designed to make a social and community impact and to create a safe and inclusive space for all – with the use of sheep.
Did you know where to go for support?
Navigating the world of support for our new business has been quite the adventure, to say the least! I must admit, in the beginning, I felt like I was "winging it."
EWE Talk is situated on our family farm and, let me tell you, anyone familiar with agriculture knows it comes with its own set of politics and challenges. As the director and CEO, I've taken on the "business role", despite neither of us having prior experience in such business structures.
To get started, I reached out to a large local organisation through my counselling placement connections. They offered valuable programmes and resources that helped us kickstart our journey.
However, it's worth noting that what we're doing at EWE Talk doesn't neatly fit into any existing model. Insurers scratched their heads when it came to covering us, and the intricacies of our business structure proved to be a bit of a minefield.
One interesting aspect of our venture is that, while we're rooted in agriculture with a farm diversity angle, we don't qualify for any support from agricultural organisations. Our approach to care farming isn't exactly the norm, which raised eyebrows within the care farm community. On top of that, we offer research prospects, which adds another layer of uniqueness to our endeavour.
Despite these challenges, we've been resolute in our mission to create maximum community and social impact, promote rural outreach, and encourage rural footfall. We've also managed to garner significant media attention and piqued the interest of numerous organisations. We're thrilled to say that we're finally on the cusp of launching alternative provision in the next few weeks.
What help did you seek when setting up your new business?
When I embarked on the journey of starting up my business, seeking support was a constant and crucial aspect of the process. Given that this was entirely new territory for me, I recognised the importance of relying on available information and resources to navigate the challenges ahead.
One area where I encountered difficulty was finding generic and simplified examples of the tasks I needed to complete. Our venture, as I've previously mentioned, is multifaceted and unique. Even seemingly straightforward tasks like designing a business plan, establishing timelines, and identifying potential funding opportunities proved to be more intricate than expected.
I found myself in a situation where I had access to a wealth of information, but at times it felt like too much information. This overload, in some ways, overcomplicated matters for me. It was challenging to sift through the vast array of resources available and distil them into actionable steps that aligned with our specific goals.
Despite these challenges, my commitment to the venture and my willingness to learn and adapt have been unwavering. I've continuously sought out support and advice from various sources, leaning on the expertise of mentors and colleagues who have provided valuable insights and guidance.
Throughout this journey, my counselling lead has been an incredible source of support and guidance, truly my rock. They've been instrumental in helping me connect with the right people and navigate the often-complex landscape of support and resources. It hasn't been an easy road, and I'm still finding my way around.
In the early weeks and months, what went well? What didn't? How did you overcome any problems?
One thing that's been crystal-clear from the start is that our focus hasn't been solely on making money. It's been about pursuing our passion and making a positive impact. Of course, the overheads have been there due to our livestock and maintaining the site. The year-round manual labour, as well as managing the administrative aspects of the job, can be quite demanding.
However, I maintain a positive outlook, believing that we'll eventually devise a sustainable source of revenue that will alleviate the strain of consistently working more than 60 hours a week.
Another challenge we've faced is the need to constantly explain and validate our organisation to different audiences. The diverse terminology and explanations required for different stakeholders have been a bit bewildering at times. In a sense, we've had to prove our validity as an organisation, and that's been a journey in itself.
But here's the thing – our willingness to learn, adapt and listen has been our greatest blessing on this journey. When you witness clients spending time with our animals, taking those small steps towards building their confidence, and individuals with SEND needs developing communication skills and a sense of success, it all becomes incredibly rewarding.
Ultimately, it's the moments of humanity and equality that matter most to us. These moments make all the challenges, frustrations, and uncertainties worthwhile. We're not just building a business; we're fostering a community and making a positive impact on the lives of those we serve. And in those moments, the journey becomes a remarkable and fulfilling adventure that we wouldn't trade for anything.
In the end, our journey with EWE Talk has been a labour of love, and we're excited to continue growing and making a meaningful difference in our community and beyond.
You used the Make a Plan tool. What specifically has it helped with?
His invaluable support and personalised guidance have made a significant impact. Egan not only provided practical business advice but also encouraged me to manage stress effectively by taking a step back and having a cup of tea.
This empathetic approach has been a refreshing and reassuring aspect of our mentorship. In hindsight, I wish I'd found this resource sooner because it's provided access to a wealth of information and a supportive mentor who's been instrumental in my entrepreneurial journey.
What do you see as the next steps for your business?
First and foremost, we aim to expand our reach through networking and forging new collaborations and partnerships within our community. These connections will not only strengthen our presence but also enable us to offer more comprehensive support and services to our beneficiaries.
Securing funding is also a priority, as it will allow us to develop our home site further. This expansion will enhance the experiences and opportunities we provide to those we serve, ultimately creating a more impactful and inclusive environment.
On a personal level, I remain committed to my ongoing development. I recognise the importance of continually honing my skills and expanding my knowledge, so I can better serve our mission and adapt to our community's evolving needs.
What are your more longer-term plans?
In the longer term, our vision includes expanding our services to offer a care farm that supports individuals on personal journeys through work experiences and placements, promoting personal achievement and empowering neurodiverse individuals with pathways to employment.
Additionally, we're steadfast in our commitment to supporting those in recovery and further enhancing the wellbeing and mental health of individuals within our community.
What are the most important lessons you've learned from going into business for yourself?
One of the most important is the significance of believing in myself. While it may sound like a cliché, it holds a profound truth.
I embarked on this journey not only for my own aspirations but also to set an example for my children. I wanted to show them that diversities and challenges aren't reasons to refrain from pursuing one's dreams but, in fact, are compelling reasons to do so.
Throughout this journey, I've encountered bumps in the road, experienced moments of self-doubt, and even found myself caught up in what's known as "hyperfocus" (a very real phenomenon). However, I've come to realise that I possess the ability to overcome these obstacles.
Even if my approach isn't conventional, I've learned to embrace my unique path. I'm me, and I'm proud to be who I am. This journey has reaffirmed the importance of self-belief and resilience, showing me that I'm more capable than I ever imagined.
About Strive Make a Plan
Create an account, answer some quick questions about your business, get personalised feedback, then build an action plan that will help accelerate your business's growth. Take the Make a Plan tool today