Self-employment success thanks to Links to Work support

“No matter how big or small, nothing has been a problem. Jo from Links to Work has been a star and has been at the end of every email, text and phone call whenever I have needed her.”

Gemma Whittle – North East customer

Why Gemma joined the Links to Work programme

Gemma had plenty of experience working for a large well-respected organisation but had recently been made redundant. She’s got a daughter of school age she needs to support and the little savings she had soon dried up. After some reflection Gemma concluded that she did not want to be reliant upon someone else’s business succeeding to ensure an income for her.

Gemma mentioned to her jobcentre coach that she was interested in self-employment opportunities.

She attended a start-up session at her local business centre with a view to accessing the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA). A government scheme allowing people venturing into self-employment to access up to £1,274 funding in weekly instalments.

Gemma met up with our partners, Tedco – a North East based business start-up support organisation – who identified that Gemma would need a helping hand throughout the whole journey to self-employment, from ideas to trading and beyond to ensuring business growth. Tedco referred Gemma to our North East team so she could start accessing our support and secure her self-employment dreams.

How Links to Work helped

We teamed Gemma up with our North East based business adviser, Jo McLauchlin, who immediately got to work helping Gemma to come up with a proper business plan.

Gemma’s part of a tight-knit family and provides a lot of support to both sets of grandparents. She’s been visiting them in sheltered accommodation for years and witnessed first-hand their daily struggles. Gemma wanted to provide a social support service to the elderly whilst generating a modest income – ‘A Little Gem’ was born.  

Gemma and Jo devised a personalised action plan for Gemma’s business idea. The action plan included coming up with customer profiles, analysing competitors, thinking about unique selling points and other marketing strategies, doing some financial forecasting and researching legal obligations.

With Jo’s close support Gemma wrote a complete business plan including all the technical stuff like market research, pricing, cashflow forecasts and risks.

Jo also supported Gemma with the company branding using her close links to designers.

Of the support she received Gemma said: “Links to Work has helped me with everything. All questions, queries, concerns and anything else I have needed Jo has done her best to find out everything and help me.”

“At times when I have lacked confidence within myself or business plan Jo has been there pick me up and give me the boost I have needed.”

Launching the business

As you can see from the photo Gemma has successfully launched her business. She’s loving being able to provide support to the people who most need it. Whether it be accomanying elderly people to social events, helping them with their shopping, supporting with household chores – Gemma enjoys it all. 

Jo reports that Gemma is doing well: “Gemma is an extremely caring and passionate young lady who wanted to create an opportunity where she could get the right work/life balance for her and her little one and all through enhancing the life of others.”

“I am delighted Gemma is doing so well and has an almost-full diary of clients. I look forward to watching Gemma’s business go from strength to strength.”

Get regular updates on Gemma’s self-employment journey by following A Little Gem’s Facebook page.

If you're keen to get back into work but just need that bit of support – signup for our free employment service and we'll work with you to overcome your barriers and get you the job you want.