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Minding your own business

| 01.07.2006

What does it take to start your own business? Does stammering make a difference? To find out, Speaking Out spoke with three BSA members who recently started their own business in photography, craft retailing, and personal coaching.

The quiet determination that kept Darren Scott on course as a self-employed photographer lies just beneath the surface, but only just. It was recently noticed by the Prince's Trust who nominated Darren for a national achievement award.

Self-employment was always an option that he wanted to pursue since finishing a photography and new media course at the Hull School of Art (now part of the University of Lincoln). "I don't like to follow the crowd," he said.

In September 2005, Darren opened his photography studio in Bristol, to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the city's regeneration programme. He didn't listen to the people who told him that he should do something else because of his speech.

"I didn't take their advice at all," he said. "Most photographers are freelance, and starting my own business wasn't such a big change. Although my speech has slowed my progress, it wasn't the main factor overall. You have to jump in and sort out the speech issues as they arise and desensitise yourself to the things that you fear, for example the telephone. You put yourself in situations where you just have to use it. I have really only learned this in the past year, and that you have to push through the opposition - the people who suggest alternatives because of your speech. You have to be fearless with your speech otherwise you won't achieve anything."

Darren is planning a photo exhibition of people who stammer, to show both the inner and outer person. It will be on show for International Stammering Awareness Day this October. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact Darren.

Tel: 0117 955 5527

With his Yorkshire feet-on-the ground approach, Andrew Saunders trained in carpentry and furniture making after finishing school and worked in a safe, secure job until last year. He could have stayed, but took the risk to leave and start his first online business, It is soon to be joined by a second online business, a local guide to services and trades in York.

Birchwood sells a variety of handmade crafts from local craftspeople, many of them in wood and exhibits locally in Yorkshire.

"I had wanted to have my own business for a long while and I knew that I had to make a start or I would end up regretting it," he said. "But I didn't think I was capable of fronting my own business, talking to new people and using the phone."

Two years ago Andrew decided to make a change. He continued working for two days a week and started to learn the web design skills he would need. "I am confident with IT and although I knew nothing about websites and servers I knew I could learn," he said.

Andrew also faced the anxieties his stammering caused him, particularly on the telephone. Although he described himself as a bit of a salesperson - "I'm not a shy stammerer", he knew he would struggle with his speech, so sought help from a speech therapist and the self help group in Hull. "It was really helpful being able to talk about things with the group, and the therapy helped me to focus on using the telephone," he said.

Most of Andrew's contact with people is through the telephone, a demanding medium in which to make a good first impression. He has always recognised this. "It can be a struggle, especially for the first call which is often the hardest. But it does get easier once you get momentum after a few calls."

This is an attitude he applies to the businesses. He said that the hardest thing with the local web directory will be getting it started. "I expect it to be a struggle," he said. "I will be persuading people to advertise in a new venture that they won't have heard of. But once the momentum builds, I expect it to snowball."

Setting up as a personal and business coach is something Vijay Patel felt strongly that he needed to do. He began his career in sales, moved onto sales training and from there to management training, before leaving to start The Easy Living Company last year.

Vijay is also a qualified hypnotherapist, which he said adds an extra capacity to his work, rather than defining it. "What I do is help people become more effective in what they are doing, or in what they want to achieve. It is based on personal growth, on developing confidence, and on setting and achieving goals. My approach is very goal oriented, by helping people to identify what they want to achieve and helping them to develop an effective way to achieve it. I really enjoy helping people to make changes and to move from where they are now to where they want to be in life."

It is a path he has travelled himself. Now 38, his stammer was quite severe when he was younger. It really held him back, and he described his former self as a very negative person. Then an incident at work helped to turn things around.

"I told my sales manager how anxious I was about using the phone. She turned to me - and I will always remember this - looked me in the eye and said: 'You'll never fail at anything Vijay, you haven't got it in you [to fail].' I realised she was absolutely right."

It was people like this who contributed to Vijay's decision to start his own coaching business, and he described it as the single biggest incentive. "If I could give back just a quarter of what has been given to me, I will."

What I do is help people become more effective in what they are doing, or in what they want to achieve.

What became clear from Vijay was that motivations and beliefs are the basis for the practical side of starting - and sustaining - a business. Becoming a father was also a big part in changing his attitude to life. "While I am aware of the risks in starting a business, I want to set a good example by doing what I say I believe in, and thus to help my children get the best out of life."

And the most important factor in being self-employed? "Passion and a real purpose," he says. "Of course, you need to be organised, have a good plan, be effective in communication and sales, administration and bookkeeping. But real enthusiasm is the key. If you do something you really love, things will come your way."

Books Vijay highly recommends:
Anthony Robbins: Awaken the Giant Within
Steven Covey: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Robert Holden: Happiness Now

Tel: 0161 217 9647

From the Summer 2006 edition of Speaking Out, pages 9-11