Tag Archives: torbay

Our Community Matters

18 Feb

Kasia McClure, Director, Our Community Matters – Blog #2

Why did I start my business?

I do not underestimate how brave you have to be to start your own business. I am in my thirties (don’t ask me to be more specific). I have always had the safety net of being employed. Sometimes I was paid well for doing work I didn’t enjoy. Other times I was paid a pittance for doing work I loved. However when I realised that even if I was paid a reasonable wage for doing something I really enjoyed, I would still be frustrated with the lack of autonomy, I decided to do something about it. Hence Our Community Matters.

Having moved to the UK at a time when social enterprises were formally recognised and defined by the Government, I knew that I had found something which resonated. Whilst wanting and needing to earn a living, I also felt strongly about giving something back to my local community. This feeling grew stronger and stronger as my children progressed through nursery and my eldest started primary school. You open your eyes to everything. I have never been one to blame – I always look at the root of the problem – and then, somewhat annoyingly some might say, the root of the root of the problem.

This is the problem. There are many children and families in Torbay who need support, training, education, guidance and confidence. But most of all they need to be understood not patronised. They need to understand the language. They don’t want to be ‘referred’, ‘statemented’ or work with ‘multi-agencies’. They just want to be heard. Then they want to see action. Most of all they want someone who empathises, doesn’t wag a finger and most of all isn’t driven by targets.

The irony is that whilst my niche is ethnic minorities, particularly the Polish community for obvious reasons, the families who have been the most grateful and who continue to be in contact with me are UK nationals. I hope that whatever your nationality, you will be able to gain something from Our Community Matters. I work with children with special needs, families who are vulnerable, ethnic minorities who need guidance and we also translate and interpret for any organisation which works with the Polish community. All I want to do is to give people in Torbay a better chance. I feel that they deserve this as a minimum.

To find out more, look at my website, follow me on Twitter @kasiamcclure1 or like and share my Facebook page.

Kasia McClure – Director, Our Community Matters – Blog #1

10 Feb

My journey has been an interesting one. Born in Poland in the 70s, my father was granted political asylum by Germany when I was little, but it took years for my mum and I to follow. When we eventually joined him, I was placed in a school with no German language skills. I had never left Poland – at that time, firmly behind the iron curtain. I was bullied, my parents struggled and the shock was immense. Nevertheless within a year I had immersed and made it into a grammar school. This was when my parents decided to move to Canada, where I had to do it all over again, graduating from high school and eventually becoming a teacher.

I am still a teacher by profession, though along the way I have also been a journalist (in Canada), trade and investment advisor (for the British Embassy in Warsaw) a media assistant (in London) and I worked with foreign national prisoners in Northern Ireland. I have also lived in America and Mongolia. So how did I end up in Torbay? My husband is from the Bay. We worked all over the world as he had a variety of postings, and I was able to teach in most places. When we had children, he was offered a home based job and we decided to move to Torquay, as it is a lovely place to raise a young family. When my second (and final) child turned two, I decided to go back to work and got a job in the Pastoral Team at Ellacombe Academy.

I loved the work but wanted to expand and use my life experience, my qualified teacher status and my love of working with vulnerable children and families for the greater good. I handed in my notice and set about working on establishing my own social enterprise, now known as ‘Our Community Matters’. Four weeks after having left Ellacombe in November last year, I had developed my product concept – and built a prototype website. Many of my contacts and ideas come from the school run, and Helen from Pink Fish Design (www.pinkfish-design.co.uk) was one of these people. Helen came up with wonderful branding and a logo based on my colour pallet and I was starting to build a credible business already.

But what is my product? I wanted to work with the local community in Torbay, particularly with primary and secondary schools, working with children with learning difficulties, those who don’t speak English as their first language, those who struggle to integrate and those who have behavioural problems. I want to help their parents and carers. I want to give teachers and assistants ideas on how to reach these people. I want to make a living, but I want to reinvest most of my profit into the community – hence I am a social enterprise. And I am thrilled to say that with four contracts, 400 twitter followers, a facebook page with over 200 likes and a thriving dialogue with other similar organisations in Torbay and further afield, I couldn’t be happier with how things have started.

To find out more, look at my website, follow me on Twitter @kasiamcclure1 or like and share my Facebook page. Stay tuned for my next blog entry and @boosttorbay!


Competition Winners

14 Jan

Our Big Ideas competition closed at the end of last year.  We asked 18-25 year olds to tell us their business ideas.  We shortlisted our favourites and our judges kindly gave us feedback on them, which we put together to decide our lucky winners.

Our final winners are:

Holliey Pearce, who opened a shop selling vintage homewares with her business partner, Jayden, in December.  Check out The Bloody Chic of It.

Sam Birtwhistle, who runs Voyage World Jewellery, selling fairtrade and ethical jewellery from around the world.

Jenny Hill, who had an idea for a device called “Alcostop” to check whether a person is fit to drive.

Thank you to everyone who entered, we loved all of your ideas.  A massive thank you also to all the businesses that kindly donated prizes for the competition: Caz Steffens Photography, L.A Barbers, Parkfield Torbay, The Osborne Hotel and many others.

And thank you to Peter Jones of Dragons’ Den, who gave us this great supportive quote:

The UK needs young people to step forward and seize their futures, and competitions like Opportunity Plus South West’s play an important role in rewiring the next generation to be more entrepreneurial, and encouraging them to follow their business dreams.

Much of my work with the Peter Jones Foundation is focused on equipping young people with the tools to be entrepreneurial, either in the workplace or running their own business. The mentoring support being offered to Opportunity Plus entrants is exactly what is needed to instill the culture of enterprise and help create a British Dream for young people to aspire to.

Want to be a writer?

17 Sep

We meet so many customers who dream of getting a book published one day.  Sophie Duffy is a writer who lives in Teignmouth, Devon.  She has had two (fantastic) books published in the last couple of years.  For her, it all started when she took an evening class in creative writing after having children.

So you want to be a writer? Well, let me just say, it’s the best of jobs and the worst of jobs. Well, not completely the worst – it’s not like you have to go down any mines or endure arm-to-arm combat – but it is one that requires tenacity and a very thick skin. You have good days and bad days and days that you wonder why on earth you are doing this, but once you embark on your writing journey, it is impossible to retrace your steps.

Once a writer, always a writer. You will look at the world differently. You will have more empathy for your fellow human beings. You will notice words and the beauty and rhythms of language. You will read differently. You will yearn for some time and space for your writing. Time will be even more precious than before. You will have to get used to rejections (lots of them). You will have to get used to criticism and weed the useful from the distinctly unhelpful. You will learn to find ways to answer the same old questions graciously: ‘Is this really fiction?’ ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ ‘Do you earn loads of money?’

Mmm, yes, money. There won’t be loads of it. Maybe a trickle here and there if you are lucky.

You will have to be disciplined as you work home alone. ‘No, I can’t look after your toddler this afternoon, I am working.’ ‘No, I can’t meet you for a cuppa this morning, I am working.’ ‘No, I cant pick up that package from the post office today, I AM WORKING.’

But don’t let any of this put you off if you have a desire to write stories. It’s all worthwhile when you hear from someone you’ve never met that they loved your book.

So how did I start? It was back in 2001. We’d just moved from London to Worthing with our three kids, aged 2, 4 and 5. I didn’t know anyone and my brain was going to mush so I decided to do an evening class. I chose creative writing partly because I had done an English degree but mainly because it was on an evening when my husband was around to babysit. After the first lesson, I was hooked. I had a fantastic tutor and made some great friends. I went on to do an MA in Creative Writing by distance learning at Lancaster University.

In 2005, having completed two unpublishable novels, we moved to Devon. I joined Exeter Writers and began writing The Generation Game. Always one for competitions, I entered the opening chapters into the Yeovil Literary Prize in 2006 and it won. This gave me the confidence to carry on, especially after being approached and signed by an agent. Unfortunately, once finished, the agent didn’t sell it.

So I began on another novel, This Holey Life. I entered the opening chapters of this into The Harry Bowling Prize in 2008. Although it was runner-up, my agent didn’t like it. So should I start another novel or go it alone?

I left my agent. In 2010, after a year of wondering if I’d ever make it, I saw an advert for the Luke Bitmead Award for new novelists and entered The Generation Game. To my delight it won and I received a bursary and a publishing contract. The Generation Game was published in August 2011 by Legend Press. A year on This Holey Life has been published, also by Legend.

It’s been a long journey but I’m glad I carried on. The good thing about writing when the kids were small was that I learnt to write in small bursts, to make the most of every opportunity and to treasure those times when I could write stories. And now, at last, people are reading them.

And finally. My novels are fiction but I do write what I know and so I write about family life. The Generation Game explores what family means – it’s not necessarily your blood relatives but the people who bring you up and love you that count.

This Holey Life is the story of Vicky, a reluctant curate’s wife, struggling to come to terms with a bereavement and her husband’s new-found faith. When her older brother comes to stay, her world is turned upside down as childhood roles are replayed between brother and sister.

Eleven years on from that first evening class, my kids are 13, 16 and 17 –  so look out for teenage angst in the next novel. Now I just have to write it…


Writing can be isolating so think about joining a group


Maybe do a class

Enter competitions – get your work out there!

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