Radian’s ‘Create’ course is a self-employment programme designed to support those thinking about starting their own business. The ten-week comprehensive course is open to people whose ideas are ready to transform into a business; providing students with essential information, access to a team of experts, an online helpdesk and up to two years post-course support.
Gill Simmonds graduated from the Create course in December 2018 and became the 2000th person to have been supported through training by Radian’s Employment, Support and Training team (EST). Gill’s background in writing and PR led her to the idea of creating Simply Hampshire; a magazine supported by advertising and subscription, which would provide its readership with timely, topical and informative articles covering a range of Hampshire interests. These might include food and dining, sports and leisure, regional faces in the news, the arts and classified.
The course helped Gill to overcome some of the hurdles common to anyone starting their own business. Gill said: “Whilst I had the idea, having the confidence to speak to others about it, know where to start and know what to do and how to do things was a real challenge. I also found that staying motivated and maintaining the belief that I could really achieve my goals was sometimes difficult, but the Create course really helped me overcome these issues.
“The weekly homework tasks were so helpful; it kept the course moving and gave me motivation and direction – I was excited to start on the paperwork, homework and planning immediately after the first session. The first steps are always the hardest when starting something like this but the homework acted like building blocks, so I never felt overwhelmed. Learning how to do SWOT analysis on both my business and myself as well as creating and regularly updating the cashflow and business summary templates as my business idea developed was also really useful part of the course.
“Having to pitch my business idea regularly throughout the course in front of the class and to a panel helped build my confidence, as did hearing from the other students who were so inspiring; there were some great ideas and I realised that I wasn’t alone in my ambitions. I left the first day thinking ‘I can do this’ and even felt more confident when talking about my business idea to my family – something I was nervous about before.
“I also found the 1:1 with a trainer fantastic; at first, I thought it would be intrusive and scary but actually, it was all about advising me and was very much reality based. I was able to ask specific questions about my business and finances that I wouldn’t have wanted to ask in front of a big group.
“I never expected a free course to be so helpful and I went in with the preconception that a housing association would ‘pitch’ the course at a low level and it wouldn’t be aimed or adaptable to my level. Gladly, I was proved wrong – as soon as I met the EST trainer, I realised the course was exactly what I wanted and needed. There was a lot of focus on individualised work and, because the trainer was an actual business person with first-hand knowledge of self-employment, the information given was truly valuable rather than just being read off a script.”
Since the course, Gill has continued to work on and develop her business. Gill said: “The Create course has been the best thing I could have done to get my business idea up and running. My confidence in myself and in my business idea has grown significantly. I’ve recently taken on some freelance work and have formally told the Job Centre Plus (JCP) that I am trading. My JCP coach is helping me to apply for a ‘New Enterprise Allowance’ and she is really supportive of the EST programme. I also feel that the Job Centre can see that what I am doing is legitimate and valuable which is something I wasn’t expecting.
“When I first came across Radian I was at a low point in things but with their help both in terms of my housing situation and with the ‘Create’ course, I have been able to move my life on. From the very beginning, Radian has exceeded all of my expectations.”