After 18 years of working as an air hostess for British Airways, Gemma West was made redundant during the lockdown. While looking for new jobs, Gemma decided that going back into employment isn’t something she wants to do. Instead, she chose to pursue her dreams and started her own business – First Living.
First Living is independent living with a helping hand. Gemma provides adults and elderly care in the community offering a wide variety of services including housekeeping, companionship, shopping, dog walking, gardening and more.
How the business idea was born
Gemma has always been involved with the community helping the elderly and those experiencing abuse. Also, being very close to her grandparents made Gemma realise that they rely on her more and more as they get older.
She’s always had this business idea in the back of her mind, however, working long weeks away from home meant she couldn’t turn it into reality.
“I’d worked for a long time and I’d worked abroad. Covid gave me the time to be at home with my family and have that time to re-evaluate what was important to me,” Gemma said. “I just can’t see myself going back to doing six days away from family and things like that.”
When thinking about the next steps, Gemma spotted a gap in the market that helped her make this decision to start a business:
“I realised, due to the pandemic, there was a huge gap in the market because of the struggles that the NHS had and the struggles that the care sector has,” she said. “I just thought this is my chance now and if I don’t do it now, then I’m never ever going to do it.”
Another person that encouraged Gemma to go into self-employment was the work coach at the Job Centre:
“I was temporarily in a position where I was on benefits. I was looking for different jobs and things like that but there was always this little niggle of the business idea and she [the work coach] said you should try it out and put me on to EMS.”
Starting a business
After working with many different communities and cultures all over the world, Gemma believed she could bring the wealth of experience from her previous job into her new business. However, having no business experience meant she didn’t know where to start.
Since getting in touch with EMS, Gemma has worked with business advisor Daniel Mearns and found it very useful:
“Setting up a business can be quite a lonely and daunting place sometimes and to know that you can book an appointment with a business advisor and get that support and that different perspective on things, it’s just so helpful.”
Gemma revealed that “without EMS, this wouldn’t have happened. I wouldn’t have done this. But it is with the support of Daniel and EMS that I have got to this stage where I am now.”
Apart from one to one support with the business advisor, Gemma has also attended workshops and networking events. The later ones she found especially beneficial:
“You’re able to link up with other businesses, talk to people about what their concerns are and don’t feel as isolated. You realise that you’re not the only one that’s setting up the business and you’re not the only one that has a reservation about this or the other.”
When asked about the best bit of advice that she has received throughout her journey with EMS, Gemma said it’s that it takes time to build things.
“It drives me mental sometimes, but I have to have that person on the outside that says to me – you’re not failing, you’re not doing bad, these things take time and you’ve got to keep going.”
How the business is doing right now
Gemma is pleased with how the business is doing now and being able to make a difference in people’s lives:
“It’s going really well. I have clients that I see every week and they’re lovely. It’s just so nice to be making a difference in the community and to see this vision that I had is now becoming real. People are becoming less isolated because of my business.”
From the other perspective, people are already contacting Gemma to come and work for her.
“I must be doing something right with my branding. People have seen my website, my leaflets and my little presence on social media. Three or four people contacted me to come work for me. In the future, that’s definitely where I’ll be focusing.”
Experience with EMS
When asked about her experience with EMS, Gemma said she still can’t believe that she has received all this support without having to pay anything herself.
“I feel like there’s going to be someone that pops out and goes – you owe £1000 pounds,” she said. “I can’t believe that all of these amazing services are available to us and people are there to support you and believe in you and your business.”
Advice to those who want to start their own business
To anyone who is thinking of starting their own business, Gemma would like to say:
“Go for it. But get support. If you want to make a strong business and you want this to have longevity, you need to have support like EMS in place that can help you and support you with each next step. Because if you don’t you can easily make mistakes and your business can easily fail.”
Do you want to start a business?
Do you feel inspired by Gemma’s story and would like to start your own business? Whether you don’t know where to start or only need a little bit of advice, we’re always here for you! We don’t care about your experience in the business. We want to see your passion and help you with your journey!