Budding social entrepreneur Fiona shares her journey

Fiona Page is one of the entrepreneurs who is part of the Vital Spark programme. She has been working on her business Takeaway Creative since November 2015 and is now ready to launch.

As the Vital Spark programme is opening for applications again, we talked to Fiona to find out more about her journey as an entrepreneur, her experience of Vital Spark and advice that she wants to give new applicants.

Takeaway Creative Fiona Page 

Tell me about your enterprise, Takeaway Creative.
It is designed for people who want to learn or revisit a skill, primarily in their own home. They might not have access to arts or creative hobbies. It could be because they have to stay at home because they are caring for someone or that their own circumstances keep them at home. It could be someone who wants to learn at their own pace. There is a wide variety of possible users.

Takeaway Creative is about to launch a pilot mid March. It will be piloted in a rural area in Argyll and in a more densely populated area in Inverclyde and within distance of Gourock.

Where did the idea come from?
The idea was inspired by my own experience when I was caring for my mum. She was house bound but she still enjoyed having a lot of fun. I tried to find activities for her, but I couldn’t find a service in the home. It was in the Manchester area. I did a wider sweep of the UK and discovered that there wasn’t a service like that in the UK.

My mum died in 2012 and since that time I became close with the care organisation that helped us. I hoped that somebody else would have the idea. I kept looking and thinking “why doesn’t anyone do this”? It is always around the lowest echelon of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, about feeding and cleaning. The basics of life. Why isn’t there a service for people to have fun in their own home?

I felt increasingly frustrated. More and more people I knew were becoming quite desperate with the fact possibilities were so limited for people who couldn’t access hobbies outside their home.

How has the idea been received by people around you?
The individuals in the village are very supportive. What has been very well received is the whole possible range of skills which at the moment go from traditional painting, drawing, photography to traditional games like learning how to play mahjong, scrabble, working with paper, baking, and technical drawing. There is a whole range of possibilities that can be ordered in on a takeaway basis into the home or into a group type sessions.

Who will be teaching these hobbies?
The providers are really creative people who have a professional qualification or have years of experience.

What motivated you to apply for the Vital Spark programme?
I started to write a business plan last year and initially applied to Firstport for funding. I was very keen on understanding if my idea had business legs. Soon after that, the Vital Spark programme set up in Dunoon so it seemed totally appropriate to go for it! I wanted to get feedback to see if others saw in my idea what I saw in it. I also needed some kind of critical support.

Tell me about your experience being on the Vital Spark programme.
The programme is a bit like an octopus. Once you are on the programme, it gives you access to lots of different advice and lots of other businesses. It gives you the network of all the other social enterprises.

Getting access to an office and support locally has been very important. There has been a sense of belonging to something. Starting your own business can be very isolating. Having somebody on the phone who is on your side has been fantastic.

The programme has been an important infrastructure that enabled me to move forward with confidence.

Did you feel that it was a big confidence boost in terms of telling you “you are part of the programme, we believe in your idea”?
Yes, “we believe in your idea and we believe in you”. It is a very positive experience. There is a very good balance of telling you to get on with things (in a nice way) and at the same time, supporting you through some of the more difficult things.

There is the functional support “here is somebody that can help you with marketing”, “have you talked to the person over there?” and on the other side, there is somebody who engages with you, talks to you, and supports you.

What are the positives of working in the hub?
I think the hub is very important, particularly in this rural environment. It gives a sense of professionalism to what I am doing. I can get online. I can’t always get online at home! And it is warm! A warm place with internet, I wouldn’t promote it too much! I like the way it has been designed, the clean lines. It is a place to meet and be.

I use the hub to have meetings with the providers for Takeaway Creative. If I didn’t have the hub, I don’t know where I would have the meetings. Probably in a coffee shop which isn’t very private. I could do it at home but then it would involve providers travelling 30 minutes to my house and that’s not ideal.

In your journey as an entrepreneur, what has been the most challenging?
I would say keeping a sense of resilience. There are two things going on here. You have an idea and you just know there is something in it. You are following your gut feel and keeping passionate. But sometimes it doesn’t always feel like things are going in the right direction. It feels a bit overwhelming.

Is that when Shona, the Vital Spark programme manager, has been a good help?
There is sometimes days and days when I don’t speak or email with Shona but when I do, I feel “yep she understands”. I love living in a rural area but when things go wrong, it is harder to bounce back because you are a bit disconnected from the heartbeat of the market. That’s why having Shona in the hub is important.

What is the best tip that was given to you through your journey as an entrepreneur?
Trust your instinct. A second one is to be true and genuine about what you are trying to do and why you are trying to do it.

What tips would you give to people applying for Vital Spark?
Be brave, just do it.
Have fun.
Share and talk to others about your ideas.
Don’t be afraid of dreaming.
What’s to lose, you know?

Thanks Fiona, it was great talking to you!

Find out more about Takeaway Creative or get in touch with Fiona:
01700 841 361

The Vital Spark programme is open for applications until the 29th March 2016, in Dunoon, Rothesay and Campbeltown. Click here for more information. 

 Fiona was talking to Sophie, our communications officer. 

More information on Takeaway Creative and its upcoming launch here.