Jennifer told me, “At Awaken Potential Tutoring I offer 1 to 1 and group sessions for children from 4 to 12 years old. I specialise in English, Maths, Reading, AQE and GL Preparation covering Carrickfergus, Larne, Whitehead, Newtownabbey and surrounding areas.”
Aged 44, Jennifer was born in Carrickfergus. Even though she lived in Portugal for 3 years, has traveled extensively and went to university in Liverpool, she still keeps being drawn back to Carrickfergus which is where she is now living.
She has a son called Sam who is 13 and going into year 10 at Belfast High School, and one fur-baby called Riley who thinks he is human and not a dog.
Jennifer told me, “Teaching and working with children has always been my passion. I left Belfast Royal Academy in 1992 and headed straight into my teaching degree. On completion I worked in school nurseries, special needs schools and in Primary 1 to Primary 7 classes to get as broad an experience as possible. Even when I wasn’t teaching, I was working with children in some capacity or another from being a Girlguide Leader to working as a children’s holiday club leader in Portugal and the Canaries to running bath bomb making workshops for children.
This is my first business venture on my own.“
I asked Jennifer what inspired her to be a tutor and she explained to me,” I was a content child and I had a very happy childhood. I have lots of good memories. Everything was great except for one thing – I was a worrier and was very anxious when it came to school especially to exams, tests and situations I wasn’t used to. I remember sitting in my 11 plus exam crying because I felt unable to cope with the pressure. This continued into Grammar School and into GCSE and A Levels. At times this ended up with my dad driving me around in the car trying to calm me down. My parents used what they had available to them at the time to help me – something which I will be forever grateful for.
So, you may be asking yourself what is the point to this story? Well, it’s this…. every child deserves to be equipped with the strategies to be able to cope and deal with stress, anxiety and worry. And, this in turn is where my ‘why’ comes from. When people ask me why I do what I do my answer is always the same – to give the children I tutor the strategies both academically and emotionally to gain the confidence to awaken the best version of themselves.”
I asked Jennifer how her experience shaped her vision of her business and how it makes her service unique to her alone, and she said, “I absolutely love the Wayne Dyer book ‘I can see Clearly now’. In it he looks back at things that happened throughout his life that he had questioned at the time because they made no sense and then describes now how he is able to see why these things happened and how they fitted into the grander scheme of things. Hence the title of his book. Looking back I can now relate to this, why I grew up full of worry and anxiety and why more recently in 2014 I suffered badly once again with anxiety and panic attacks and wasn’t able to function properly for months. I went searching for something to help and came across Mindfulness and Meditation which eventually resulted in me completing the MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) course and my diploma in mindfulness for children along with my own daily practices. I now use these techniques within my tutoring to help children who may feel anxious or lack confidence as I know first hand what they are going through.”
Everyone struggles with their business and Jennifer said that her biggest struggle was trying not to worry about what other people think of her and her business. She said, “I learnt very quickly that I wouldn’t be able to please everyone no matter how hard I tried and in order to get my business ‘out there’ I had to just go for it and step outside of my comfort zone.”
Her advice for anyone wanting to start a business is to find something that you are passionate about, that makes you get up in the morning and that you feel excited about. Know ‘why’ you are doing it. Its things like these that keep Jennifer going when the going is tough and she feels like giving up. Her tip is, “I have a board with pictures of my reasons for doing what I’m doing and every time I feel a bit disheartened, I look at this board and it helps me to focus again.”
In her spare time, she loves to spend time with her family, travel, see new places, read, meditate/be mindful and be outdoors as much as possible.
Jennifer’s 5 tips for success would be:
- Set Goals – whether that be weekly, monthly, yearly etc. If you have a goal then you know what you are working towards and can write down the steps of how you are going to achieve it.
- Ask Questions – no question is a silly question as it is probably the one a lot of people are too afraid to ask
- Know your worth – be happy with what you are charging for your product or service. Don’t let other people talk you down and don’t think you have to justify your price to anyone unless you feel you want to.
- Be yourself – show people who you are as a person, build up trust and let them get to know you. its been said many times before but people buy people not a service or a product which is what sets you apart from your competitors
- finally, and this has been a big one for me very recently, Don’t let your competitors bully you. Be the better person and block or ignore them. I had to take advice on this one as it came as a shock when someone did it to me and i had no idea how to handle it. Being a part of the Mums at Work group has proved invaluable to me for the advice and support I’ve received on this. Some competitors are very helpful, will give you advice and support and then there are others who feel threatened that you are there. In my opinion competition is good as it keeps you focused, keeps you on your toes so I am always trying to think outside of the box as to what i can do next to improve my tutoring and the service I offer.
I would encourage anyone who is not yet a member of the Mums at Work group or even those that are, who haven’t signed up yet as a VIP member to consider it. The support, advice and variety of networking events means there is something for everyone. I have found a group of like-minded mums who offer encouragement and inspire me to keep on doing what I’m doing.