Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Encouraging Community Arts Engagement is a Family Affair for Kathryn & Sarah

Running an art focussed business together had been a lifelong dream for Sefton residents Kathryn Wilson and Sarah McLaughlin.

They said “Being closely related, Aunty and Niece, we both have a long running passion for the arts and have dreamt about running this business together since the age of about ten! We felt there was a need for a service run by professional artists, which both the community and organisations can access. We wanted to provide preventative, educational and therapeutic services which would be available to vulnerable adults, children and young people.”

Kathryn is a practicing artist, last year she project managed painting a 48x16m high mural in Waterloo Marina near the Antony Gormley statues. She also gained a teaching qualification earlier this year, furthering her training expertise. More recently, Sarah had been voluntarily fundraising for a school in India and before becoming a full time mum in 2010 she was a support worker to young runaways, children in care and families in need of positive intervention.

Both have experience working in a rehabilitation centre in Liverpool as Art and craft tutors, in a one to one environment with ex addicts/offenders. Between them they realised they had the experience of both art and working with vulnerable communities in order to offer a top quality service that could make a difference. Having established their idea they knew they needed some help to turn an idea into a trading business.

“We talked at length with each other and our families then contacted The Women's Organisation and enrolled on a two day course,” they said. “This then led to being assigned a personal business advisor when we were ready. We felt extremely positive after the course and especially after each personal advisor session, as we were given excellent advice each time and set achievable goals, which we completed, moving the reality of owning our own company nearer each time.”

Besides both needing to juggle their responsibilities as a mum alongside their new business, they had to think their idea through carefully and make sure they had all bases covered. Cashflow and start-up finances were a big consideration: “We had very little finance to start-up, and not had much experience writing funding bids before. We are always learning and have been helped by the £200 start-up grant from The Women's Organisation, which has covered the cost of our CRB's and towards initial advertising. The adviser we were linked with at The Women’s Organisation specialises in Social Enterprises and gave us excellent guidance, which was tailored to what we wanted to achieve as a company.”

So far Kathryn and Sarah are enjoying being their own boss “We have more freedom and choice and enjoy the empowerment of being able to innovate and inspire future generations and families to communicate through positive creativity.”

Creative Balance CIC run educational, therapeutic and fun art workshops for all ages and abilities. Through creative workshops, individual support and events, their aim is to boost confidence, self-esteem and develop basic life skills. Creative Balance tailor make packages to suit individual needs and abilities and aim to make a positive difference through creative expression.

Things are going really well so far for the enterprising pair. “We are making a great start to our enterprise. The ‘Art Club’, for 3-12 year olds, has now been running for a month. The children don’t want to leave each week and the parents are signing up for more sessions. We have one primary school signed up to our ‘One to one’ support service, working with Looked After Care children. Also a local wrap around care provider in Merseyside contacted us after seeing us in a local newspaper to run workshops on their premises. We finished our first year of business on a very positive note with a well-attended 3hr Christmas workshop at Jets centre Waterloo. This year we are aiming to hold more workshops in the school holidays, anyone interested can keep an eye on our website for updates.”

Kathryn and Sarah are positive about their achievements so far and looking forward to seeing how this year will take them further forward. “We are optimistic the contacts and clients will increase as our reputation becomes more established. We feel very proud and positive in the steps that we have made in starting up the business, and are enjoying the process. We aim to expand on our achievements so far and look to establishing a bright future for service users of Creative Balance and ourselves!”

To find out more about the services on offer contact Kathryn and Sarah at email@creativebalance.info or visit their website www.creativebalance.info

And if like these inspirational women you have a burning ambition you would like help to realise then contact The Women’s Organisation for FREE advice and support on 0151 706 8111 or info@thewo.org.uk

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