A former teacher and single parent who came to North Somerset with a “make or break” plan to set up her own business delivering GCSE English Tuition has taken 300 people through exam retakes, been engaged in a project to teach English as a foreign language and won an exciting University contract – all within her first year.
Alice Smith had been through a traumatic period in her personal life when she came to the West Country. She had enjoyed a successful career and was Head of Department for a private school – but choosing to walk away from an abusive marriage left Alice destitute.
“At the age of 40 I found myself a single parent, homeless with children and trying to start all over again. I had severe post traumatic stress disorder from the abuse and was unable to function”. Alice explains.
“All I could do was write. So I wrote my experiences around the world into successful stage shows and performed them in a bid to inspire other domestic abuse survivors with my mental health recovery. As a result, I slowly but surely began to regain my confidence”
Just as it seemed her rebuilding was finally paying off, Alice suffered a further blow when her Father passed away in October 2017.
It was at that time and using her 14 year track record in teaching English – both in public schools and in some of the UK’s most challenging classrooms – that Alice decided to start her own business, Goddesse Education.
“I had nothing else to lose.” Alice reflects.
Offering a caring educational service, she quickly found a huge demand for her services.
“Not only were there hundreds of people out there who needed support to retake the exams they needed, but I found many parents of younger children also seeking support. So I quickly adapted to offer tuition for all ages.
“I also introduced GCSE Literature and Language workshops so that people could gain confidence in small groups and at a lower cost than one-to-one tuition. This was all alongside being an examiner – and a supply teacher!”
The call for Alice’s services didn’t stop there and she won her first contract to teach English as a foreign language to students from Martinique. Next month will see her teach English to Spanish students for a prestigious University.
In the process of planting the seeds of education, nurturing people towards their goals and receiving thanks from grateful students and parents alike, Alice has reaped the benefits from her business which are far from just financial.
“I came from a low point where I felt that everything had been destroyed. But running my own education business has helped me regain my sense of self-worth. The more I do, the greater I heal, because it feels like I have a real purpose now and I am helping so many people along the way.” she reflects.
The business has been helped by North Somerset Enterprise Agency’s (NSEA’s) Starting in Business service which is sponsored by North Somerset Council and funded through the Enterprising West of England programme.
The Enterprising West of England programme has been commissioned by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) aimed at supporting SMEs to support business growth.
The programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Business West, The Prince’s Trust, YTKO Group, Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, North Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council.
“I went to one of the free business events at The Hive (NSEA’s business development centre) and that’s where I found out about the Enterprise Agency and the range of help available.
“I followed up with an excellent accounting course (run by Weston College in conjunction with NSEA) and then some free one-to-one advice sessions. My business advisor, Abdullah, had a profound effect on how I run my business and opened my mind to the need for time management and prioritisation. I learned I had to focus on what needed to get done, instead of what I wanted to get done!”
By January Alice had filled all of her available one-to-one teaching sessions.
“At that stage I realised that actually I wasn’t enjoying my weekends, which tended to be my “alone” time. So I flipped the situation on its head and offered weekend tuition. Almost before I realised, I had a completely full diary.”
Alice has exciting plans for development of her business.
“Firstly, I want to make myself available to help as many people as possible. Many parents are concerned for their child’s education and work hard for the money to buy in help. It is rewarding to be the person that helps them see all that hard work paying off.
“Secondly, I feel for people who are struggling because English is not their first language. I am planning to introduce affordable evening classes that will help in this direction. My ultimate aim is affordable tuition for all.
“Thirdly, I intend to take on a member of staff to provide Maths support in the same way that I am providing English tuition and, in this way, help many more people.”
Alice says that she would certainly recommend self-employment but warns that it comes with challenges.
“You don’t have the financial security of a regular income – there may be gaps and what you project you are going to earn, may not be what you get. If you are ill, you don’t have any money coming in.
“However, you make your own money and there is money to be made from using your skills and experience. I think you need to decide if you are going to be a money-driven or value-based business – and be aware the latter is harder to make money from.”
She recommends that upcoming businesses spend time on building their brand.
“You are your business. Think of yourself as a brand with all the different skills that you can bring into play and translate this into money.”
Alice is justifiably proud that her business helps to support 25 children at a children’s home in India, buying new school suppliers.
“I love this part of the business and, after losing it all, it helps me to see that I didn’t lose one thing – my humanity.”
Finally she says if you have a longing to run your own business, don’t wait.
“Don’t think: I’ll do it when I’ve retired … or have a partner … or when the children finish University, as there will always be a reason not to. Decide now is the time and go for it … I did and I don’t regret it for a minute.”
Contact Alice on 07887585553, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: www.goddesse.co.uk