Helen Fores - Founder, Spark Sensory
Describe yourself in three words ...
Genuine. Dedicated. Silly
What makes you happy?
My family and simple pleasures with them; breakfast out, a walk in the park, a chippy tea! Knowing others are happy; seeing my folks settled and enjoying good health and retirement, seeing my partner playing football in the park with our sons, having a glass of wine with friends and laughing about the trials of motherhood. I'm a simple creature at heart and am happiest when I have a simple, steady and stress free day.
If you could share a bottle of wine with anyone, anywhere who would it be with and where would you be?
I'm such a geek! It would be with Lee Mack as I think he's hilarious and I have a weird crush on him!
A book or podcast you're currently obsessing over?
I've just started a book Club with friends and we've read 'Little Fires Everywhere'. I wouldn't say I'm obsessing over it but I really enjoyed it and loved how it made me consider myself as a mother and my role in shaping and influencing my children's thoughts, actions and moral compasses.
Best way to unwind?
Oh a very large glass of crisp white wine and half an hour in front of the TV
When did you realise you wanted to create a change or do something different in your work life? What was the trigger for this?
I was just feeling increasingly anxious about my job and lifestyle. I felt frustrated, unfulfilled, belittled and undervalued at work. I hated that I left my children daily at 7am and didn't get home until 6pm. The thought of not being there for Charlie starting school filled me with horror and I knew something had to change. It was probably around 18 months ago that it came to a head and I handed in my notice this time last year.
Thinking back to then, how were you feeling?
Looking back, I definitely had symptoms of anxiety. It wasn't chronic but it was starting to be debilitating. I was ill regularly, I couldn't switch off, ever. I snapped at my family. I was over emotional and I had awful back pain from the tension I was constantly carrying around with me.
What first steps did you take?
Lots of research into viability; what was already out there, what wasn't, why not etc etc. I also wanted to ensure I could make money from the business idea so I spent time focusing on the finances and how to ensure financial viability. I have always started with the end in mind in everything I've ever done in my career; this journey has been no different.
How did you figure out what you wanted to do?
I knew I wanted to work with children still, utilise my specialist training and knowledge of sensory development and I was clear that I wanted to slow down and get off the treadmill I felt I was constantly on. The creative aspects of the business developed more organically over a few months and many a glass of wine. I love being a mother and felt that early sensory development of babies was an area that needed a big shake up; I knew I could offer something more modern, engaging and exciting than was currently available.
How did you (and how do you now) overcome any self-limiting beliefs? Can you give us an example?
My dad fought and beat throat cancer just over 3 years ago. He is a living legend and lives by a simple mantra; 'onwards and upwards'. It helps to think of him and remind myself of his spirit whenever I'm feeling the twinge of self doubt, which is regularly. My two boys are also an inspiration, I love the fearless nature of their 5 and 3 years on this earth and try to embrace their zest and approach to life. I'm currently battling with the self limiting demon that says 'you can't expand this... you don't know how to' and switching it around to 'in order to expand you need to up skill and improve your knowledge about business growth.' It's hard and it's time consuming but I love it! I feel like I've created this whole new area of my brain that is being exercised and I love that. It's not that I can't do it, it's just that I don't quite know how to... yet! But I will do and when I do, it'll be amazing!!
Onwards and Upwards!
Looking back with the knowledge and experience you have now, what advice would you have given to yourself?
About 3 months into my journey of small business ownership and development I was feeling incredibly out of control; I was struggling with the new found freedom I had, having been indoctrinated into a teaching system for 15 years. I was stressing over generating income and I was struggling to maintain a balance on everything. Looking back I would say to myself; 'be kind and have patience!' By month 4 word of mouth had spread and I was suddenly and quite unexpectantly very busy; a trend which continues to build and build. There's a difference between having high goals and expectations for yourself and simply putting undue pressure on for no justified reason. I would definitely tell myself to relax, be kind and give it time.
How do you maintain your Creative Confidence (your ability to have ideas, think creatively and do things differently)?
This an easy one for me as my business thrives on creativity. I'm constantly looking for inspiration and I'm always looking at resources and materials and thinking about how I could use them to enhance my provision. I also read lots of blogs and articles on creative approaches to multi sensory learning; there are a lot of talented people out there!
What advice would you give to another women who's considering making a change in her working life?
I would say 'if you're already considering it at the very least, make steps to make some kind of small change. Life is too precious to waste on being miserable and unfulfilled. Change is scary but it's also exciting and liberating. Be prepared to work hard and don't expect success overnight but if you're passionate, skilled and knowledgeable about what you are trying to achieve then seize the day!!
We only have one life, we need to live it!
Best piece of advice for looking after yourself physically and mentally?
Find your tribe and stick with them; that might be your family, a new business network, close friends, an online community etc. Find them, and use them to help alleviate the mental stresses of start up business ownership. In terms of looking after yourself physically; get out, get in the fresh air and clear your head.
Having pivoted (created a change in your work life), what are you most proud of?
I'm proud of taking control and doing something different. Different is good and I am sooooo proud to be different!
An intention for 2018?
Create a realistic and achievable expansion plan... and do it!
Helen is offering a free session to anyone who books a block of Spark Sensory sessions, starting in September. Please use the code '100WOMEN' when contacting Helen.