Tag Archives: work-life balance

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!


Best of Both Worlds

30 Dec

It can take time for a business to get off the ground and start bringing in enough profit to create a real income.  In the first few months of trading, most of your profits will go back into the business – buying more stock, equipment, or marketing materials.  Therefore many small business owners choose to start up whilst continuing in employment as well.  This provides the reliable income of employment, giving you time to build up your business over time, the way you want to.  Depending on the business you are starting, you may be able to continue working full time, or want to change your hours to part time.  Alternatively, you may be working part time and need or want to supplement your income and hours.


Jo Abram has worked with disabled people for over ten years, but in 2012 decided to follow her dreams and open Jo Joe’s – her own vintage clothes shop in Bideford, North Devon.  She continues to work part time to subsidise her self employed income.

“I decided to leave my corporate job, move back to Bideford and set up Jo Joe’s at Butchers Row  – they have small retail units which are ideal for a start up business, they are priced at £100 per month and are small enough for you not to feel too overwhlemed! I also work part time helping people with learning difficulties find employment – I think it’s important to say that unless you have lots of savings or a rich husband (who does!!) that it is unlikely that you will earn enough on one of these units to live on, so most of us there work part time elsewhere too.”
“I don’t miss being employed full time but I must admit I do like the balance between running the shop and office work 50/50. I have worked with people with disabilities for 10 years and I am glad to still be involved in this type of work, there may come a time when I go full time in the shop but I actually enjoy the variety of having two jobs at the moment.”

You can find Jo Joe’s at http://www.facebook.com/jojoesretro.co.uk


Laura Gamble created her own beautiful paper bouquet for her wedding, and after receiving lots of positive feedback, decided to start her own business – A Paper Rose.

“As a classroom assistant I’m sort of spoilt with my hours, I work 8:30 – 3:30 – so can get an hour of work done each day when I get home, before it’s time to make dinner etc. I also have the school holidays to work on the business – which is great. I usually spend an evening or two per week working on A Paper Rose and try and do a few hours on a Saturday. It depends how many orders there are or if a wedding fair is coming up.”



As well as working as an Enterprise Coach for Opportunity Plus South West, Chloe Myers runs her own small business selling baby slings.

“I love that there is no pressure on me to make a full income from my own business, it is something that I can enjoy and put in as much work as I want to, when I want to.”



Many people worry that they will have to pay higher rate tax on a second job (or self employment alongside employment).  In fact, you should not be paying any more tax than if you had the same income from one job.  Everyone has a tax-free personal allowance which they can earn before they start paying tax.  Generally this would have been used in your first job, so you will be paying a higher percentage of your earnings in tax in your second job.


Thinking of starting your own business?  Why not check out the range of Business Start-up Courses available with Opportunity Plus UK.  They are full of ideas and inspiration for a range of business ideas, as well as all the information you need to get up and running.

Flexi-Mum Project

22 Apr

We are delighted to announce that Flexi-Mum, a pilot project set up by Opportunity Plus South West to support Mums of all ages to develop and improve their work-life balance, has been supported by the Big Lottery and has received an Awards for All grant.  This funding will allow us to inspire Mums of all ages and backgrounds across Devon and Somerset, and beyond, to pursue their goals, and make the most of their local resources.


We started running Flexi-Mum as part of the second phase of the main Opportunity Plus South West project.  A large proportion of our customers seeking business start up support in the first phase of the project were Mums looking to start their own business to gain more flexibility, or to top up their part time employment income, often using new skills and passions they had discovered since becoming a parent.  Flexi-Mum is designed to support Mums (with children of any age) with the specific difficulties they can face.  This includes things like:

  • Returning to employment after maternity leave
  • Starting your own business
  • Seeking new, flexible employment
  • Volunteering
  • Retraining
  • Choosing to take a career break to focus on parenting

We have been out and about meeting Mums across Devon and Somerset to discuss their needs/worries and have come across a range of inspirational stories and ways of managing work-life balance as a working parent.


With the funding we have been awarded, we will be publishing three magazines as part of this project, to inspire and motivate Mums.  If you would like to write an article for the magazine, please get in touch.  We are looking for a range of articles, and would love to hear your ideas.  This is a really exciting opportunity for anyone looking to get into any kind of journalism, or wanting to promote their business, or just share their story to inspire others.

You can find out more about Flexi-Mum by following us on Facebook, joining our Facebook group for peer support, and reading our blog.  If you would like to discuss your own situation, call our friendly advisors on 0800 043 2440.

View the Fleximum advert.