On my Facebook memories today (24th December 2022), on my VieNess Discover You Love You CIC page, there was a post from nine years ago; it said: Merry Christmas Everyone. Thank you so much for liking my page and for joining me at the start of this journey. Xx (I always put kisses; I occasionally worry that it’s not professional and then I think that it’s who I am and what I do, so I carry on.)
Nine years! I sometimes forget how long I have been doing all that I do.
Nine years ago, my business was just called “VieNess”, and I was teaching burlesque and vintage dance forms, as so many people had seen me dance and perform, then asked me to teach them. I had no long term plans but, after years of not being able to work due to health issues, I was just glad to be doing something.
The classes were so much fun! We laughed a lot! What I really loved was seeing women come into the classes, especially the burlesque workshops, with them saying, “I don’t know why I’m here”, “I can’t do this”, “I can never be sexy”, “I can’t dance”, then leaving with their heads high and a wiggle in their step. The next day, I would often get messages saying, “I walked the kids to school with my head up today and lots of people smiled at me; it felt really good.”
After a couple of years, people started saying that they wanted to feel the way the women that came to my classes did, but they didn’t want to dance, and they definitely didn’t want to take any clothes off (usually, in my workshops, the only clothes taken off were ones I had asked them to put on over the clothes they were already wearing. Anyway…), but could I teach them how to feel that good, too? The body confidence workshops were born!
Also on my memories today, a post from six years ago: I have recently become a Body Image Movement Global Ambassador 😍. It’s an incredible group, and one where we all celebrate body diversity and positivity. I’m very pleased 🙂. xx
I began showing the film, Embrace, created by Taryn Brumfitt, the woman behind the Body Image Movement, and having Q & A discussions after. The conversations were fantastic! And so helpful for everyone to see how many things we can feel alone in are actually shared concerns.
A few months on, I started voluntarily running a branch of the brilliant Red Box Project; it was a great organisation that aimed to eradicate period poverty in schools. People were very generous with their donations, and regularly gave period products, pants and toiletries, for me to take into schools in my area. I would take the products in big red boxes (the clue was in the name 😉); the teaching staff would ask what I did outside of the project and I would say about the confidence workshops. “We really need that in our school”, they would say.
I knew how much many schools were struggling financially, so I started to investigate how I could teach in schools without them worrying about the money, if they couldn’t afford it. I eventually found out about Community Interest Companies; social enterprises that could run in a similar way to charities, being eligible for some grants, able to take donations, and have people fundraise for them.
A little while on, I found out about the School for Social Entrepreneurs, linked to Action Hampshire; they offer courses, with great support from Lloyds Bank, to people who want to set up social enterprises. After a stressful time of applications and interviews, I got offered a place! In September 2018, I started the course, with 19 other entrepreneurs, all of us excited, and probably a little bit scared, to be starting towards creating our own projects. It was a fantastic course and I learned so much.
In June 2019, the CIC was born. I was just going to continue as VieNess CIC but, in Companies House, there was already a Vieness, a property developer, I think, so I needed to add more to the name; Facebook friends suggested Discover You Love You as they were already on my logo.
I started networking a lot; I went to meetings at the local council; I contacted schools. I organised a few small scale events to raise awareness and funds, and started organising a big event for March 8th 2020, International Women’s Day. Things were getting exciting!
Well, I think we all know what else happened in March 2020. The event wasn’t as big as I wanted, as people were, understandably, scared to venture out, but it was still wonderful. Anyway, we all knew that this new virus wasn’t going to be around long, didn’t we?
Oh but it was. And it had a huge impact on so many of us.
The CIC was not exempt from this.
Bookings were cancelled and schools were not having any external facilitators in. The only way the CIC could survive was by diversifying.
Thankfully, just before the first lockdown, I had met the brilliant Dr. Jennifer Jones (I am fairly sure that is her superhero alias), and she had suggested I wrote a book to establish my expertise. I was a bit slow to start the book she suggested, but I did start writing decks of cards and a children’s book that had been in my head for years.
2021 brought the March release of Where Are We Going?, then the December release of Who Am I?, the second children’s book, and La Vie Est Belle. Learning to live hopefully ever after, the book Jennifer suggested I write. These all got published with huge thanks to the wonderful people who supported the crowdfunding campaigns.
My profile has been raised, fantastically helped by being mentioned in national and global articles (I shall put the links at the end), but those articles don’t pay.
In honesty, I have been hanging on by the skin of my teeth (where does that saying come from?!). Regular donations have dropped off; fundraising has almost been impossible; grants are getting harder to qualify for and be approved for; and I feel I am starting again with contacting schools.
I am still paying myself the nominal fee I started with in June 2019, which equates to me paying myself just over £1 an hour. That’s not sustainable, sadly.
As we approach 2023, decisions need to be made.
I can say, with every ounce of me, that I completely LOVE what I do. I know I make a difference, and I know I can continue to do so. I want to have the options for schools and groups to pay on a sliding scale, because I know they are struggling even more financially than they were in June 2019, and I know my work is needed much more than ever before.
And I know that others believe all of this, too. Pretty much every day someone tells me how much my work is needed, someone tells me how brilliant I am. That’s truly lovely, and I appreciate every compliment. However, those wonderful compliments do not pay my rent or bills.
I would love to continue to do what I do, and I am fairly sure that there are lots of you that would like me to continue what I do, too, so, can you help? Could you make a regular or one off donation to email@example.com (or the bank account)? Or perhaps put on a fundraising event to raise funds for the CIC? Maybe you could suggest to your workplace that I come in and run a workshop for the staff on workplace wellbeing? Or, if you belong to an organisation that has guest speakers, perhaps you could encourage them to book me for a slot? Being paid for workshops and talks enables me to run the subsidised workshops for those who can’t afford them; it would be awful for them to miss out because I could only afford to charge full price, which is my other option.
Can you help? It would be incredibly wonderful if you can help support the CIC to run. It would be fantastic to be able to say to the children and young people I work with that there are beautifully kind people in the community who want them to live happier, kinder, more confident lives. Can you help make that happen?
As always, thank you for reading these blogs, and thank you for your support.
Wishing you a wonderful festive period, and a 2023 full of love and kindness.
Here is a link to the brilliant Dr. Jennifer Jones’ website; I highly recommend her if you would like to write a book. https://ewc.coach/
Here’s a link to Action Hampshire and the School for Social Entrepreneurs: https://www.the-sse.org/schools/hampshire/
Here are the recent articles that I/the CIC have appeared in.
#LloydsBank #SchoolForSocialEntrepreneurs #SSE #ActionHampshire #SocialEnterprise #SocEnt #Community #Confidence #SelfEsteem #TheGuardian #Yahoo #IncrediWear #BodyImageMovement #BIMGA #Embrace #CommunitySupport #Donate #Support #Kindness #Hope #Belief