Social entrepreneurs behind the enterprises: Yohana Jones, Jones & Us
In this series we focus our attention on the social entrepreneurs behind the enterprise. Each year we work with hundreds of inspiration individuals to turn their ideas into amazing social enterprises. This blog series celebrates their determination and drive to make a difference in their communities.
Jones & Us is a social enterprise providing a bespoke personal training and sporting activities service. The service has accessibility at its core and aims to support those who struggle with their mental health and/or find traditional sporting methods inaccessible.
Founder, Yohana ‘Yoko’ Jones has had an incredible journey to get to where she is today. She has faced barriers in education through undiagnosed dyslexia, moved from Malawi to settle in Glasgow at the age of 15 and is now looking to change the world one step at a time. We caught up with Paisley-local, Yoko, after she received our Build It award, to chat a bit more about her social enterprise journey.
How it all started
Yoko’s inspiration for Jones & Us was born out of her experience with education and sport. Spending her childhood struggling with undiagnosed dyslexia, being labelled as “stupid” or “disinterested”, it wasn’t until Yoko went to high-school that she began to enjoy education – and sport was the key. Yoko began playing any sport going and her confidence began to grow. Just when sports had begun to open doors for Yoko in Malawi, she moved across the world to Paisley.
I came here at 15, landed in Glasgow and was living with my sisters, they didn’t know much about it [dyslexia]… For the first year I didn’t leave the house, I was petrified. Then I was 16 so I couldn’t register to go to high-school. The sporting life went away. I wanted to register for a football [team], Paisley, but couldn’t, I was too scared.
Staying with her sisters, but with little parental guidance, Yoko understands the importance of role models and how they can change your direction. “If you have that person to catch you in the middle and it’s not your teacher, it’s not a family member it’s not a parent it’s just somebody you can relate to… I had a social worker who encouraged me to get a career in sports.”
With a new source of encouragement, Yoko found her motivation and began to focus her energy towards pursuing a career in coaching. With her mind set, Yoko went to college and then university, before working for a local coaching organisation in Glasgow. However, she quickly noticed a gap in the coaching market.
The initial spark for Jones & Us
I started to notice that there was a lack of one-to-ones, a lack of communication, just a lack of giving those that need it the one-to-one attention. I believe that a coach is a mentor, someone to guide people towards what they want to do.
It was at this point that Yoko, with a gentle push from her friends, set out to start Jones & Us and provide a more accessible path for individuals to explore physical activity.
I just thought if I’m not going to be able to change the world now, I’m not going to be able to do it later, am I? So I just decided to go for it. I didn’t really know what I was going in to, but with the right support and the right people… I believe anything can be done.
Jones & Us now works to provide one on one sessions, group sessions, nutritional classes, workshops and fundraising events to ensure there is something that suits everyone. At its core, Jones & Us believes that no matter your ability or disability, gender, race, religion, or outlook on life, a person should be able to engage in some form of physical activity.
It wasn’t quite plain sailing from there, Yoko still found difficulties along the way and filing paperwork and filling out funding applications remained a key challenge.
I felt so overwhelmed, because I don’t know anything about business. Funding forms were the worst. But my peers and friends were really supportive, and I had a great networking system through Engage Renfrewshire. When you tell people your weaknesses they can help and turn it into something beautiful.
The future is looking bright for Yoko!
I’m looking to have my own little spot, looking to have more coaches coming – looking to get more volunteers, more equipment and we’re looking to get a small van to get our equipment back and forth. The journey is going! I’m just more excited to get more people on board, there’s more teamwork and more unity.
Lately I’m really proud of myself, and my team and I want this journey to keep going so we can keep helping people… I’m not yet changing the world but I’m getting there, step by step.
I’d like to thank Firstport for the support you’ve given Jones & Us and me. I am honoured and feel really humbled that this is where I am. It’s been hard work, and a journey, but you have to get burnt to appreciate the heat.
Has this story inspired you to start something good? Why not take the same first step as Yoko and register for Just Enterprise support today? Just Enterprise has a wide range of webinars, workshops, and one-to-one support available for free!
Not sure if social enterprise is for you? Then the best place to start by reading the rest of our case studies! If you think social enterprise is for you then check out our ‘Is Social Enterprise for You webinar’ available online.