WoW (‘World of Work’) Project
North Wales business which inspires young learners into the world of work sees rapid growth
Operating in North Wales and Cheshire, the WoW Project was launched by careers expert Sue Prior. The business aims to introduce children and young people to the ‘World of Work’ using a range of bespoke, fun and interactive programmes.
- Successfully started in 2015 with Business Wales’ start-up support
- Jobs creation
- Business Wales help to explore opportunities for dealing with growing demand
With a wealth of experience working with children and young adults from all walks of life, Sue Prior decided to take the leap and start her own business. Set up in 2015 in Flintshire, the WoW Project provides a bespoke service to both primary and secondary schools, offering careers education to children and young adults through fun and interactive group sessions.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I had been a Careers Adviser for around 20 years, working with children and young people in mainstream schools, in pupil referral units, as well as home-educated children, children in care and those in special schools. I was then fortunate enough to get a secondment into Flintshire Youth Justice Service (YJS) as their full-time Careers Adviser. I spent 6 years working with young people who had offending behaviours and multiple barriers to progression. It was my role to motivate, encourage and support them into a more positive lifestyle, i.e. employment, training or education.
As every young person I worked with had additional needs, whether that be social, learning, emotional or behavioural, plus it was at a time in their lives when they needed the confidence to make well informed decisions and grab opportunities while they were stressed about subjects, exams and future plans, I started to think that maybe careers education should be taught from an earlier age.
At this time, careers service provision was in a period of change and I started to consider self-employment. Having previously enjoyed my work experience in a primary school, I spent time researching my ideas, promoting these ideas to schools, children, parents, carers and organisations. I also approached a local primary school headteacher to ask if I was able to pilot the project in her school.
Following a successful application for voluntary release, I left full-time employment in March 2015 and still get very excited when I think about the day that I was accepted for it!
What challenges did you face?
Working long hours was tough initially. Especially when those hours involved researching or networking which didn’t provide any income. Or driving long journeys for meetings with only just enough fuel in the car! Every step of the journey was a huge learning experience but as it was all new to me, it took a lot of time.
I find making decisions quite tricky because I want to do the right thing and want to do it right. Every decision has an impact on my family, so I do sometimes feel the pressure that a bad decision could have a detrimental effect on them.
Cash flow! Even though I had lots of work booked in, I think I spent the first 2 years in my overdraft. Once I accepted that was my baseline, I was a bit more relaxed about it, but it is very upsetting when you are working so hard, providing a fantastic service which is having a really positive impact on people's lives, but at the same time you are tired and in your overdraft. Fortunately, things improved in the last 12 months, so I am happier. I think a lot of the issue was buying so many resources for the business and I did this without getting a business loan.
Business Wales support
The Welsh Government’s Business Wales service has been supporting Sue from the start of her self-employment journey. Following start-up guidance with research and business planning, she attended several workshops and benefitted from advisory support from Business Wales Growth Adviser Carol Williams.
More recently, Carol has been working with Sue to help her move forward and further develop the WoW Project through exploring opportunities for licensing and franchising due to a rapidly growing demand.
My adviser Carol has been amazing. She has been with me every step of the way and has been a fantastic ally. From the initial business plan to piloting the business, training to networking, bookkeeping to HR, Carol has been ready with information and advice. I like the way that she asks questions which actually make me question myself, which, in turn, leads to amendments in my next steps. If there is ever anything that Carol isn't sure about, she goes away, finds out and emails information. She has referred me onto Grow Your Business Training (which was actually the best course I have been on), Superfast Business Wales (the one-to-one overview of my business was brilliant), and also the Business Wales Mentoring service, where I am now being matched with a business mentor with franchise experience. I feel very lucky to have the benefit of so much support and it really has been a team effort.
Future plans and ambitions
Currently sessions are delivered by a team of freelancers who have been trained in WoW Project by me. They cover the 6 North Wales counties and sessions are delivered bilingually with resources being differentiated so that the project is accessible to all.
WoW will be working on new projects to develop the content further. This will involve local, regional and national stakeholders. We will be expanding the business geographically to cope with the growing demand in North Wales and the whole of the UK.