Ready to Launch?

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Launching A New Business?

Advice from Suzanne Smith

Setting up a new business might not have been your “Plan A”.  That’s 100% OK.  Contrary to popular belief, not all business owners are born entrepreneurs.  More often than not, sole traders evolve, taking the lessons they’ve learned from corporate life and using them to work independently.  Coronavirus has been a game changer for many of us but maybe, just maybe, you’ve been using this time to develop a new interest or passion which could grow in to a source of income?  This interest might yet prove to be a valuable investment in yourself and your future as it evolves in to a business idea. 

That’s certainly true for me.  Five years ago, I was a corporate management accountant in a company which was heading in to an age of uncertainty.  Now I’m a successful therapist and coach helping people recover from Chronic Fatigue.  Yes, my business was borne from my interest but it’s supported by good business planning and the skills I learned at work.  It CAN be done.   

Before you rush in to starting your business, it’s a good idea to seek help and advice from as many people and places as you can.  Information is power and you need to power up! 

3 Top Tips

1) Seek support from your local and regional advisors.  Advisors are available through free, government-funded Growth Hubs for social enterprise.

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I worked with a fantastic coach from the Growth Hub.  Not only did he help me formulate my plan, he was able to signpost me to lots of different resources, courses, networking and large organisations.

2) Conduct in-depth research:  Who is doing what you are thinking of or something similar?  Arrange a chat with them to, pick their brains and get information. 

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I found 3 Accredited Practitioners, told them I was thinking of undertaking the training and asked for their honest feedback.  Their information helped me to make a decision to go down a more niche route so I could target my activities and marketing.

3) Find a 100% supporter, someone outside of you family to whom you can freely speak about your business and know that they will give you an honest response. 

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I have a friend who is also a sole trader who has been running her own business for 14 years.  I really value her perspective and feedback. She helped me to keep my feet on the ground as well as take stock and celebrate how far I have come over the past 4 years.

My Story

One moment I was on top of a mountain: in full health, a successful management accountant, a wife and mum of teens skiing in style in the French Alps.  The next moment I had slipped on ice, crashed and torn the ligaments in my knee.  Back at home and house-bound, even simple stuff like going to the loo and going to the shower were complex operations so that I didn’t jostle it and bump it and make it sore.  At the same time, whilst I was off work, there was a re-shuffle and change in values as the company prepared to outsource to Lithuania.  I went back to work but all of the productive work relationships that we’d had before were broken up and it was clear that more disruption was on the way… Everything was changing and the future looked uncertain.  I really didn’t enjoy working anymore.

I took the plunge and left my corporate Management Accountancy job.  For a few months, I didn’t know what to do and I dwelt on the loss of really important work relationships and the loss of a good income.  My initial thought was to get a similar job in accountancy but my heart wasn’t really in it. 

In my spare time I had been reading about Health Kinesiology and I knew that it was a therapy that had a great deal of potential.  I did a lot of learning that first 12 months, completing five training courses in order to become a member of the FHT the Federation of Holistic Therapists.  I learned more in that year than I had in 18 years of being a Management Accountant and I loved every minute of it.                  

The next thing was finding a community at the Silver-web Centre in Clay Cross and getting a therapy room.  Here was a group of like-minded people talking about therapy and working with people energetically.  I too was passionate about therapy and energy and I decided to specialise in working with people living with fatigue problems.  Finding the Chrysalis Effect online also gave me a bigger toolkit because of the coaching qualification.  It’s a way of working that feels really in-line with clients who want to understand themselves, who want to work it out for themselves and need support along the way.   

Since starting my business four years ago, I am now in a position to look back on the progress of my business and the journeys of my clients.  My business is viable because the therapy I offer gets proven results. I can now say that working with me for 18-24 sessions WILL help a client suffering with Chronic Fatigue to reach a point where they are well enough to move forward.  I currently offer sessions on-line via Zoom and I’m fully accessible to clients.

Contact Suzanne at http://www.reconnectingyou.co.uk

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What Makes You and Your Business Unique?

I love getting to know people. It doesn’t take long to strike up a quick chat but that human connection often makes all the difference. Here’s some background information and a quiz about me. Can you separate fact from fiction?

I was born in a northern town in Cheshire, 7 miles south east of Manchester, where the river Tame and Goyt merge to create the Mersey. For many years, my home-town was famous for hat-making. People from this place were sometimes said to be “mad as hatters!”. In fact, it was the chemicals used in the manufacture of the hats that caused this phenomenon.

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Q1. What is the name of the town where was I born?

A: Bolton

B: Barnsley

C: Stockport

My first job teaching English was at a summer school near Barcelona. It was a great challenge, something which I gave a huge amount of energy and thought to. It was also fun. I had studied English Language and Linguistics at Sheffield University, (gaining First Class Hons), so that helped. After my third year on summer camps, I also did a TEFLA qualification (to teach English to adults).

Q2. What did I teach in Barcelona?

A: Dance

B: English

C: A school of dolphins

I returned to Sheffield University to qualify as an English and Drama teacher. After that I worked in some of the best secondary schools in Derbyshire. I was in charge of GCSE English and English Literature examinations for seven years. I also taught A Level English Language and General Studies.

Q3. Which exams was I in charge of:

A: Spanish and French

B: English and Literature

C: History and Geography

After my second child was born I took time time out of mainstream education and became a Parent Governor of the playgroup my children attended. I also taught children of all ages who were out of school because they were unwell.

When my youngest started school, I went back to teach in schools. I then discovered that schools had changed: Michael Gove was in charge of the Department of Education. Children were forced to study complex Literature and they were not allowed to talk or ask questions. That made me feel very sad so I went to work for charities where I could help young people who had been excluded from school with their spoken and written English.

Q4. Who changed the school system and became my arch enemy?

A: Michael Gove

B: Lex Luther

C: Winston Churchill

I started writing down the stories of young people who want their voices to be heard. During the Covid-19 lock-down, I started developing my two blogs: Good Apple Copy, a storytelling and English tutoring business and Slow-cycle.com, a source of information for people who like cycling and slow, experiential travel.

Q5: What kind of people do I listen to and work with?

A: Rock stars and popstars

B: All sorts of people

C: Footballers and the super-rich

If you have any more questions about me or my services, please ask. Get in touch if you are interested in getting tuition for your child or you would like some help with your brand story. Let’s chat! Ruth 07504007740. Email ruthmcintosh9@gmail.com

The Benefits of Online English Tutoring

I wrote the article below in January 2019. It explains my love of teaching, but also why I quit. Now it looks like we’re facing a prolonged lock-down of schools, some children and parents might be feeling a bit lost.

Supporting my own children with their learning has reminded me how much I love teaching English, especially when you can take your time and let them ask questions, discuss ideas and get those light-bulb moments when everything makes sense. If you would like some support with teaching please get in touch. I know that I can make a difference, one child at a time. Email me at ruthmcintosh9@gmail.com or text me on 07504007740.

Remote Learning vs Face-to-Face online Tutoring (using Zoom):

Although schools are getting better at setting work, it must be hard for some learners to get started. Many learners also need help along the way: they need to ask questions or clear up confusions. Tutoring helps with their understanding and speeds up progress.

The dialogue that children get from their teachers via email is not continuous and doesn’t really address individual problems. Also, the “model answer” feedback, (so favoured by Academies), is missing the point of marking to give useful, individualised advice. Over-loading feedback with A* answers written by teachers isn’t useful if you’re an anxious young person or struggling. It focuses on what is called the deficiency view, in other words, what you’ve not yet learned or perfected! Tutoring can fix this, giving your child the confidence they need to actively find their academic voice and reach the next achievable level.

Making willow balls at Hardwick Hall where I work as a volunteer in Visitor Experience.
Weaving willow together. Before the days when I had to choose my bubble!

Original Article from January 2019

On Work-Related Stress:

Teachers Can Knit Fog and Plait Sawdust…Until they can’t

In colloquial British English “knitting fog”, is used to describe something which you are trying to do but which proves to be impossible or nigh on impossible.  Despite this I know some amazing individuals, particularly teachers or ex-teachers, who can indeed “knit fog” as they can create meaning, structure and material from mere strands.  Teaching and learning are acquired arts which take time to develop.  There’s also an element of mystery to the mastery.  It doesn’t just happen.  It takes ability, understanding, knowledge, effort, skill, precision, timing and that special edge that defines you as a unique human being.

True teachers are a resourceful lot.  Time and time again they show their resilience, exceed expectations and take risks. They are role models who inspire by showing not telling.  They are strict but kind.  They are firm but fair.  They turn the other cheek and take it on the chin.  They work on a shoestring and stretch to a challenge.  And all this time, when it really counts, they are constantly knitting fog and holding it together…

Until they can’t. Sooner or later the perfect storm catches up with them*.  Early mornings, lunchtime lessons, after school interventions, assessment cycles, performance management, weekends triple-marking crates of books, late nights.  And still the relentless shower of criticism flows from above.  Eventually you become saturated by self-doubt.  It doesn’t so much creep up on you occasionally anymore; it beats you up, follows you home and spooks you in the middle of the night.  And you think that you can’t knit fog anymore.

Nobody needs that kind of negativity in their life.  So, what do you do?  After 5, 10, 20 years of teaching?  Keep going and ignore the blows?  Fight back?  Get out?  Any of these options.  Any response is better than transmitting the negativity, pressure and stress downwards on to the children you teach.  Don’t tell your students that they are completely useless in order to justify the excessive negative feedback you’re under pressure to deliver.  Don’t fail to find some thing worthy of some praise or promise. Whatever happens you must respect your students and yourself.  Know this: bad teachers fail people; good teachers help people to thrive. The same goes for management.  So, if you have succeeded consistently before, why are you consistently failing now? 

The up side of the perfect storm is the calm afterwards.  Remember that when you can knit fog or plait sawdust you can do anything.  Re-build your life.  Re-connect, read, write, dance, meet new people.  Get a life.  Get another job**.  Do something fun for a while.  And if all else fails: go on supply and teach.  The negative feedback culture can’t touch you and you can say goodbye to those extra pressures.  Finding people who can knit fog isn’t easy.   Those who can teach.  It is a kind of magic.

Post-script:

*No doubt the Coronavirus outbreak is as difficult for teachers as it is for students. Learning relies on interaction, and losing that creates a new challenges.

**Tutoring on a one-to-one basis makes so much sense!

I am currently looking for one-to-one English tutoring work because I still love teaching and I know that I can make a difference, one child at a time. Email me @ ruthmcintosh9@gmail.com or text 07504007740.

Different ways of Talking and Listening to Voices

Many thanks to Suzanne Smith at ReconnectingYou for hosting our WISETribe meeting today via Zoom. It’s always good to share problems and solutions.

Some take-aways:

  1. Many of us are working flat-out to get our businesses online. In the post-pandemic lexicon, this means that we are pivoting, creating new events, products and services. You might hate the word, but pivot! you must.
  2. We’re home-schooling kids or looking after students who have bounced-back from University. This means managing resources, creating boundaries and instilling discipline so that everyone can continue to function.
  3. We’re teaching and learning life new skills, particularly around conversations and chatting. This means using Zoom and getting kids to interact with teachers via email so they can get their voices heard, giving and getting feedback on their learning.
  4. We’re thinking about how to look after our homes and other properties we manage for other people, making places safe and sustainable to live in.
  5. We’re looking ahead at building communities to support people who are struggling with the changes and challenges wrought by social isolation.

Tutoring Testimonial

A Year Ago – When my son was the same height as me!

I think my son has grown 6 cm since lock-down started. He’s taller than me now! I asked him for a few words about how I have helped him with his learning, especially with his English. This is what he said:

“tutoring makes me feel sure of my ideas”

“and helps me to include the right words”

“…saves time because I know I’m doing it right”

My son

If you are looking for a tutor for your child during lock-down, give me a call on 07504007740 or email me at ruthmcintosh9@gmail.com. Sessions delivered via Zoom.

How is Home Learning Going? Want to Learn Some Short-Cuts? Get Your Child Reading for Pleasure the Good Apple Way! 8 Things You Can Do… 3 Things You Need to Avoid!

Top Tips Below!

At home in lock-down with The Good Apple we’re having mixed results with the home learning… The biggest plus is getting my youngest reading more for pleasure. Actually, it doesn’t matter if your kid is struggling with some areas. READING WIDELY is the single most significant indicator of future success. So… what can you do if they’re not reading?

DO – some of my favourite methods:

  1. Let your child choose the book. Choice is the greatest motivator. This is reading for pleasure so it is additional to the class reader. Reading their own choice will also help your child with techniques for reading set texts. *I’ll drop some tips for getting free access to books during lock-down at the end*.
  2. Context or picture prompts: take time to establish the context. Do the images help your child feel more curious about the setting? Enjoy the getting started bit and take your time to have a chat about what they’re expecting.
  3. Go down a level: sometimes fluency and confidence are more important than moving up a level, especially if you are helping your child become an independent reader… this is about establishing a reading habit so it becomes don’t-tell-the-teacher FUN!
  4. Turn-taking: your child reads a line or paragraph or page then you do the same with them. It is a simple and amazingly effective technique. It forces you to share the same story space and keeps the pace moving. Aim for a number of pages which is fairly low, say 15 for a twelve year old and they’ll want to do 20 or 30 and maybe manage another 20 on their own before they put it down for the day. Now is the time to up your ninja-warrior mind-control game!
  5. Make the dialogue come alive: get them acting and give them the best lines!
  6. Find a comfortable spot to share reading. This might be away from the place where they do their home learning. Remember snuggling in the reading corner when you were a kid? Get yourself a tea or coffee and settle in with a rug and your feet up.
  7. Read after food. Maybe after breakfast when you are slowly warming up for the day or after lunch or supper? Reading is a reward for doing the busy-busy stuff. If necessary, bribe your kid with chocolates, raisins or slices of apple. Try to avoid doing it when they are super-tired or grumpy and bear in mind that kids with reading problems like dyslexia will be more or less affected at different times of the day and less stress means more success.
  8. Get a tutor… I am available for Zoom sessions, ruthmcintosh9@gmail.com

DON’T – some not-so-favourite methods:

  1. Audiobooks: OK, this might be controversial… whilst your child is an emergent reader I would STAY AWAY from the audiobooks. What your trying to foster here are reading skills. Readers need to see the shapes that words make in print or on screen. How are kids going to get used to print if they don’t see it?
  2. Adults reading alone out loud. No. Nay. Never. This is too passive. Always. Imagine my consternation when I heard that teachers in Primary schools had text read aloud without the kids having their own copies! No wonder modern kids struggle to read! All learning in our schools had become too passive and teacher-led as kids are silenced in the name of classroom control. YOU CAN FIX THIS. And when they are back in school maybe you could make sure that, at the very least, teachers use visualisers (Ladybugs) which allow them to share their copy on screen?
  3. Watching films. As any English teacher worth their salt will tell you, NEVER WATCH THE FILM before you have finished the book! I am a firm believer in this. Your goal is to get your kid to learn what a book can do that a film misses. When reading, understanding grows over time so a film can feel like a bit of an anti-climax. Even stuff like Kes where they miss the back-story out. Your ultimate goal is for them to say that the book is better than the film!

*For FREE ONLINE libraries search through your local authority, for example mine is DERBYSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL>LIBRARIES>Ebooks… Thanks Dad for getting me started on this one.

Please get in touch if you are interested in my GOOD APPLE TUTORING SERVICE to cover reading for pleasure at all levels… I can also cover texts for A Level or GCSE English Literature and Language to all levels and my goal is to get your child involved in active learning which will increase their confidence and improve their life-long learning skills.

Stay-at-Home Problems

Funny things happen when we stay at home or lose our positions in the wider world.  When these things happen, our identity “slips” in to the unknown because we are no longer defined by external forces.  Having the time to worry and feel low doesn’t help but that’s where we are right now.  We’re afraid, we lack courage.  It’s OK, we’re only human. 

Some thoughts on COURAGE by Glenda Strong,

courage for me can be picking the phone or simply walking out of my front door to greet the day. Sometimes that takes huge effort.  For the small things in life I am very careful.  For the big things in life I will risk it.  Big acts of courage have been moving countries, for example immigration to the UK and starting over, establishing a new identity as an illustrator and leaving behind the security of a regular salary and job description.  Courage is a work in progress and the will to simply keep going… the courage to be me”.

Looking from the outside in, or from a distance, it is easy to see the journey.  This is enough.  Most of us have been through MASSIVE CHANGES before.  So, the good news is…YOU CAN DO IT!

Interview with Ruth McIntosh at The Good Apple Copywriting Service for Kumi Osawa

Total Word Nerd

Tell us about your business!

I’m a total word nerd!  I love sharing stories so I offer copy-writing, content writing and proof-reading services through my business Good Apple Copy. 

I blog for business and have two WordPress blogs. I also publish posts by guest writers so anyone looking to collaborate is welcome to contact me.  Interested?  I’ll proof-read and publish your post free of charge! Goodapplecopy is a vehicle for brand stories and new content whilst Slow-Cycle.com is a just-for-fun blog for lovers of experiential travel.

What made you start your own business?

I was a teacher of English in secondary schools for 20 years before I took time out in 2018 to volunteer in a book shop at a National Trust Property.  Following that, I worked for youth and disability charities, primarily as a support worker.  I also had fun by teaching creative writing, organising events and updating social media so I thought… In my next move, I’ll do more of that!

What advice can you give to those that are looking to start their own business?

Like many people starting their own businesses, I’ve found getting started a lonely and tricky business.  You never know how it will work but sometimes there’s a spark that you can nurture in to a flame.  I’ve found Networking a valuable source of information: when people come together, they can collaborate and exchange skills.  I’ve learned not to be shy!  When you have a small business, you are your brand so you’ve got to SHOUT about what you do and put yourself out there.  I’m confident in myself and my abilities, I think you’ve got to be. 

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I’ve got two children in secondary school so I spend my spare time supporting them with their learning.  I’m also in to Art, walking, cycling very slowly, salsa dancing, mooching and eating.  I read a lot, sometimes a book a day.  I spend a lot of time day-dreaming! 

What’s your favourite song and why?

I’ve been humming American Pie recently!  I remember the original version by Don McLean. I don’t object to Madonna-mother-of-reinvention’s rendition but the story doesn’t read the same as the lyrics are about a young musician losing his idol. 

A long long time ago
I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile…
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step…

Sure, the lyrics tell a story and there’s that feeling of loss and sadness which starts to subside a bit when you get to the chorus before returning with a vengeance.  It’s sad to think of a world without music or dancing.  Impossible too.  There are so many other things that are touched on in this song: missing people, thinking about collective experiences.  I’m not a muso but my current boyfriend got me hooked on him when he played guitar and sang a soppy song.  Yes, I am a sucker for emotional blackmail!  He’s also an excellent salsa dancer with cool friends so that’s all good.

What have you learned from lock-down?

Since the world went in to lock-down we’ve been learning so much so quickly, once we recovered from the culture-shock that is. We’re constantly being bombarded with challenges so I think that the corona-coaster will be one hell of a ride with twists and turns a-plenty.  On a basic level, I’ve learned how to breathe in a smaller space without losing my mind and how to open up to the wider world with my writing. I still have the odd wobble every now and again. This crisis has made me feel vulnerable and grateful for what I’ve got.

What help do you need to develop your business?

Reflecting on my business and personal growth I’ve realised that I’m not yet “a big sharer” beyond my current circles.  Hello reader!  Please can you help me with this?  The most important thing I’ve learned is that health comes first. As long as you’ve got that, you’ve got time on your side.

What’s new for you in 2020?

Ideally, I’d like to pick up a range of regular clients from different kinds of businesses, charities and service providers. 

My big vision is that my writing will, in some small or massively-successful way, reduce social isolation, stress and other nasties.  There’s also a desire for me to hear and share diverse voices, tackling issues around sustainability and kindness so that we can look towards the future with confidence.

Copyright 2020 @goodapplecopy.com

Adrian Mole and the Coronavirus Lockdown

A Spoof by Ruth

March 10th

Rat Wharf, Leicester

Dear Boris,

You may remember me.  We met at the Rat Wharf HS2 redevelopment project in Leicester.  We had a brief conversation about bees before you were called away to ruffle your hair for an urgent sound bite.

I am writing to ask you to write a letter about the threat posed to all citizens by the Coronavirus.  I am booked on an Easyjet flight to Rome for March 13th at a total cost of £87.51, which I paid on January 7th.  Imagine my alarm when I turned on the television today to see people in Rome confined to playing violins on their balconies!  My problem is this: international flights to Italy are still operating on the date I am supposed to travel.  Being a man of 53, with the possibility of underlying health conditions, I could not happily take my seat.  Even better, perhaps you could provide a back-dated letter to my personal travel adviser Jonny Bond of Latesun Ltd explaining my special circumstances?  I can ill afford to lose £87.51.

I remain, sir,

Adrian Mole

March 14th

I went to see Daisy today at Fair Green Cottages and Holiday Homes, formerly The Piggeries.  It might be a long time until I see her again and we’re not really on good terms after the Marigold texts.  That was fifteen years ago and somehow she’s perkier than ever since the divorce.  When Daisy was digging in the garden I could see her taut frame under her White Company shirt and camisole, her hair blowing in the breeze.  The green fields beyond sparkled and birds danced through the fruit trees in the orchard.  I asked her what she thought about the virus.

“I think we’ll go in to lock-down and everything will close for twelve weeks or more,” she said.  She then went on to tell me that she was closing her AirBnB and monetising her blog so she could expand her virtual counselling business.  

“What will happen to the sale of Rat Wharf?” 

“I don’t know Aidy, only time will tell.” 

She looks so beautiful when the corners of her mouth turn up. She reminds me so much of Pandora Braithwaite.  I wonder where she is now?

“No, there won’t be a lock-down Daisy, don’t be stupid.  What will happen to the economy?  Planes are still flying you know and the government will be meeting up to talk about it. I’m sure Boris has got a plan.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be meeting Rosie in Italy this week Aidy?  What happened? 

We didn’t talk much after that. Daisy was busy taking snaps of her homestead for Instagram.  Clouds were gathering and I thought I’d go home and watch a bit of afternoon tele.  I don’t like thinking about bad news in the afternoon.