A Warwickshire woman who has twice been forced to change her career due to significant health problems is stepping in the right direction after receiving a grant from Warwickshire County Council to help with her business’s post-Covid recovery.
Julia Mitchell was advised by doctors in 2000 to re-consider her career in IT – which involved a great deal of driving or sitting at a desk for hours – after being diagnosed with a form of rheumatoid arthritis which was causing her spine to fuse into a curve.
She retrained at Warwickshire College while still working full-time and in 2004 launched a successful floristry business which included working with Warwick Castle, Le Manoir in Oxfordshire and Blenheim Palace. Despite easing her back problems, she encountered further medical problems due to standing up for long periods of time – and needed a full knee replacement.
Julia started attending Tai Chi classes and it left her feeling so invigorated and calm, she decided to undergo an instructor training course and in 2019 launched classes in Warwickshire at Wren Hall in Wroxall and Shrewley Village Hall, Shrewley Common, as well as securing a number of corporate clients including Birmingham Business Park.
In 2020 and 2021, she also completed IAFPD Certificate in Coaching and IAFPD Primary Certificate in Health & Wellbeing Cognitive Behavioural Coaching from the Centre for Coaching in London.
During the pandemic, Julia invested in a new laptop to hold webinars and Zoom classes for her business, Healthy Steps by Julia Mitchell. She also completed her instructor training course with British Nordic Walking, adding an outdoor wellbeing activity to the services that she offers.
Through the Socially Shared Women’s Business Support Network, Julia contacted the CWLEP Growth Hub who put her in touch with Warwickshire County Council to apply for its Survive, Sustain and Grow programme.
Julia self-financed her rebranding which was completed by Rebecca Jones of Glory Design, Coventry.
After receiving a £3,500 grant, Rebecca also supplied Julia’s e-commerce website with help from Anita Dinnes, Julia’s assigned business mentor.
Julia said: “This has given me the image I wanted. It has video content, people can make enquiries or make bookings and there is information about Nordic Walking, Tai Chi, Well Being and the Corporate Experiences that I offer.
“I feel so well now compared to the pain I was in, and the amount of medication I was taking in my 30s and 40s, this led me to set-up this business. I wanted to share that knowledge with people working in a corporate environment. There are so many ways that we can take really small steps every day to improve health and wellbeing.
“I have never previously received a penny in grants for my business but when I was contacted by Adam from the Growth Hub, who was fantastic, he suggested the Survive, Sustain and Grow programme as a way forward to take the business to the next level.
“The grant has been a massive help and I can’t thank Warwickshire County Council enough because without them, I wouldn’t have been able to afford the new e-commerce website.
“It has also enabled me to outsource some of my marketing and administration while I deliver the sessions which is another fantastic outcome.”
Adam Plumb, CWLEP account manager, said Healthy Steps by Julia Mitchell has a new focus and a new look after receiving financial assistant from the Survive, Sustain and Grow initiative.
“Julia was steadily building up business after launching a year before the pandemic and despite flexing to providing online classes, she wanted to rebrand her business and improve her website to bring all the different elements together but needed financial assistance,” he added.
“At the Growth Hub we are here to make businesses of all sizes aware of the grants that are available and Julia’s business is now in a position to secure new business in the corporate market to help its growth.”
Cllr Kam Kaur, Warwickshire County Council’s portfolio holder for economy and place, added: “The Survive, Sustain and Grow grants were put in place not only to help small businesses through the incredibly difficult period of lockdowns but also to make sure that they had the means to put in place future-proof improvements.
“This is a brilliant example of what we hoped the grants would achieve. Now that Julia has the online presence, she can grow the business and look to create employment opportunities for others with a sustainable business model that we hope will thrive in the coming years.”