“I have pursued my dream!” – Gemma’s story

“After struggling with depression, anxiety and bipolar for over 15 years now, following a massive breakdown at the age of 18, I began toying with the idea of starting up a small business.

“I had quite a few skills and some experience with crafts and always loved being creative so had started putting my skills towards fashion accessories and jewellery – making beautiful bespoke beaded bracelets, along with a few ideas gradually coming together with earrings.

“When I was in my early 20s I went along to a jewellery workshop which was held at a well-being group I was going to at the time. I suffer with mental health issues – and in my case – Bipolar Affective Disorder, as well as recurring anxiety. I also have a keenness towards mental health advocacy due to all of this too.

“I really enjoyed these sessions and got a lot out of them so as soon as I got back home I was thinking very seriously about the idea of getting my own beads and wire to create my own designs. At the time we were quite lucky in this area as we had a couple of beading shops which sourced exactly what I needed so I seized this opportunity very quickly and determinedly, and then got cracking in my spare time making myself some lovely bracelets.

“I then bumped into a friend of mine, who noticed me wearing some of my designs and asked where I got them from – this was very humbling for me to think that someone had taken an interest and thought that they could have been bought from a shop. As soon as I explained it was my own work, she wanted me to make some as Christmas presents for her nieces, and she also insisted on paying me something for them, the rest is history!

“It has often been a struggle trying to find permanent jobs which would consider my mental health situation or flexibility on times as I do find it hard to commit to certain hours. Especially starting early in the mornings because I must think about medication leaving me very drowsy, or the added pressures of certain deadlines etc. Even interviews leave me feeling stressed and fearful, so I started thinking of other options for the security of my future.

“I was lucky enough to be put in contact with someone who was running an enterprise course. And through a little extra mentoring afterwards too, from our coach Dan Newsome, I started to get my feet on the ground.

“Dan felt that I had acquired the necessary skills and experience needed to continue progressing things on my own. I even made a friend on the course provided for us, who has now also become one of my much loyal customers.

“I did feel though, as the year went on, that perhaps I needed a little more guidance to get things done in a more formal and solid way to make the foundations of my new start-up business more effective and long lasting.

“And this is where Positive People came in…

“I found out about Positive People through a gardening project I work with, and even had the chance to host a jewellery making workshop at one of the community centres they were working alongside. This was very rewarding for me, and I decided to sign up with Positive People straight away, so they could help support me to a greater level, which they have done so to great lengths.

“I went on a Self-Employment course, and was also able to get a little counselling, all very helpful, especially as I felt in the past perhaps a couple of my own issues/concerns needed to be addressed properly still. And counselling also gave me the opportunity to discuss any challenges which may arise during my progression and keeping my small business sustained.

“Through Positive People I have been given the extra confidence to get properly established and set up with the essentials I needed to keep my feet firmly on the ground, just as those early stages of development enabled me to do so at the very beginning.

“And had it not been for Positive People, I think I may still be procrastinating a little over doing independent workshops of my own, with fears of it not working properly or could I get a venue to be able to host them.

“I have had an idea that further down the line I could host some workshops, but fear has set in before about how they would work, would they be successful etc. but with the help of Positive People, I have now hosted a jewellery making workshop table at two events, one being quite a big organised Christmas event, as well as the smaller one at a local Community Centre which I was involved with and went along to the sessions of courses run there too.

“This one gave me a little more feeling of how I could run workshops like this in the future, and it was enjoyed by all – I had a good response from it. But then, when I took part in the Christmas event, this took things to a whole new level. 

“First, there was about 8 people sat at my table, so taking a demonstrative approach, this was working well. Even when a new group came along I felt quite comfortable setting about things in this manner again, whilst my partner (who was helping to assist me that day) continued to help others finish off, but in the end it was quite difficult to keep up as more and more people pulled up chairs, so we just had to do our best to keep up with everyone and help where we could.

“By the end of the session there was about 20 to 30 people surrounding the table, which although could have been a little overwhelming, was good to see so much interest, and it was great for my own self-esteem and to see that I was still coping with the added pressure.

“It has taken any other fear away from me now, about progressing with my own small independent workshops. I would take bookings of about 8 so it’s more personal and I could spend more time helping and getting to know my students, and then book other slots as I gain further interest, but to know how much I was able to manage a larger staggered group at the Christmas event only reassures me of how successful my work could become.

“If anyone were thinking of signing up with Positive People, I would have no hesitation in recommending them. Positive People have helped me to gain more confidence to pursue a dream of mine, and make continuous positive steps towards a happier, more fulfilled and worthwhile life, giving me more meaning to my part in society”.