This week as part of my Mums in Business series I am delighted to be featuring Rachel who created Spinsonic Circus, a business where Rachel teaches adults and children a variety of circus skills, which she set up because of her love of hula hooping. The business is now Rachel’s main focus and she loves to help people in the community improve their self confidence and body positivity.
Having interviewed Rachel I think that she’s a little like me, where she loves a good proper paper list to stay organised and on top of things. So read on to see how Rachel juggles the business, school runs, assemblies, and the dreaded admin pile.
Tell me a little bit about you, your background and Spinsonic Circus?
I’m Rachel Conlisk, a single mum to a 9 year old and CEO of Spinsonic Circus. I started the company in 2014, teaching hula hooping, performing, and selling hula hoops online while while working full time as a data analyst. I began teaching classes for adults and children with physical and learning disabilites, and had to reduce my full time hours to be able to fit my hula hoop classes in.
At the same time I was able to explore other circus skills through the circus world that I worked with, and I knew that ground circus skills would be able to reach and engage more people, particularly the vulnerable groups that I worked with. A recent addition to my business is bubble workshops and giant bubble shows, which I found to be a perfect complement to my sensory circus sessions. The sensory, interactive bubble workshops are popular with all ages and abilities, but particularly children on the autistic spectrum.
We now offer packages centering around developing life skills, promoting wellbeing, personal development, improving motor skills, physical fitness, social interaction and mental stimulation. We have delivered sessions for MENCAP, the Alzeimers Society, Birmingham MIND, the Deaf Cultural Association, BBC Children in Need, Channel 5, Beacon Centre for the Blind, Birmingham Disability Sport, Sandwell and Birmingham Adult Social Care, care homes for the elderly, along with many schools, Guides, Brownies, youth clubs, and festivals and community events across the country.
What were your drivers and motivations for setting up Spinsonic Circus?
I set the business up initially in response to demand. People who had seen me hula hooping asked me to teach hula hooping and perform, and being so passionate about it, that was all the incentive I needed, helping me get over the initial feelings of ‘I can’t do that!’. I found that I loved the challenges involved with getting a small business off the ground, the marketing, venue finding, class planning, budgeting, even the admin -although that has changed now! The classes became more and more popular.
I thrived on seeing people improve their fitness, learn new skills, and enjoy increased self confidence and body positivity through hula hooping. I was driven to take this out to sectors of the community who might have barriers to accessing my classes, for example new arrivals to the country, people with physical and learning disabilities,and people with mental health problems.
As I learned more circus arts, I knew that these would help reach more people and reinforce development of motor skills, resilience, mental agility and allow for more opportunities for social interaction.
I am passionate about improving mental and physical health through circus. We have recently taken on a work experience student, through the Youth Promise Plus Programme, which provides bespoke support for young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities aged 15-29 years old aiming to secure entry into education, employment or training. I am delighted to be able to support this programme, and our first placement student displayed a real positive change since starting with us. Feedback from the tutor emphasised his increased self confidence and self belief, and he has realised his own potential and the positive contribution he has to offer to the workplace.
How do you balance the business around family and childcare?
Balancing the demands of a small business and being a single parent feels like I’m constantly juggling – luckily, juggling is one of my favourite circus skills! I’m fortunate in that my business is extremely child friendly, and my son is able to come with me and work alongside me at many of the events I run. I have also taken on an assistant to work alongside me and to deliver the workshops when I can’t be there, and have a team of instructors who work on an ad hoc basis.
It is a struggle balancing the school runs, merit assemblies, sports days, parenting in general with the demands of my business – the constant emails and paperwork, the accounting, the marketing, website updates, branding, finding new clients – and delivering sessions. I am also on the Board of Active Black Country.
With so many conflicting priorities I have to factor in time for self care to avoid burnout, whether it be time to read a book quietly in the evening before bed, a soak in the bath, time to write, knit or practice the guitar. Although I must admit, hula hooping, juggling, diabolo, plate spinning, and practicing new bubble magic are some of my favourite forms of relaxation.
Much of the admin takes place in the evening, once my son is in bed. I work much more effectively in the morning, so I am hoping to make some changes to my routine to allow this to happen more often! I try not to stay up too late, I would rather get up earlier than stay up late at night. I try to answer email and direct message queries on the go, rather than let them build up into a huge inbox pile in the evening. I am an Apple fan, and my phone and watch enable me to deal with so much on the go they are a fantastic time saver.
I make a LOT of lists! And make a lot of use of the reminders function on my phone that I can speak into on the go. I have a TERRIBLE memory. With out the reminders function I’d be lost.
I also love a traditional pen and paper diary to keep track of where I’m supposed to be, what’s happening in my son’s school and what else is going on in my life. I feel much more organised with it all down on paper.
Since setting up the business what’s been your biggest success to date?
There have been a few successes that I’m proud of so far. I was thrilled this year to be accepted onto the Unltd Award programme , who mentor social enterprises. And I was honoured to be a finalist in the Natwest Great British Entrepreneur of the Year awards last year. And as one of the Small Biz 100, I visited No 10 Downing Street for a reception as one of the top 100 small businesses of the year. That was a fantastic experience that I’ll never forget!
What’s your top tip for Mums who are thinking about setting up their own business?
My top top tip for anyone thinking of setting up their own small business is not be afraid to ask for help. It’s bloody hard starting up a small business but there is a wealth of support and information out there. Use the small business support at your local Chamber of Commerce, local councils, and local business networks. It only takes that one idea to get started, and you never know where that could take you.
My idea was hula hooping classes, and it has evolved into a package centering around developing life skills, promoting wellbeing, personal development, improving motor skills, physical fitness, social interaction and mental stimulation, and I have been able to deliver this to hundred of people. I feel truly lucky to be able to do something that I love that has a real positive social impact..
If you would like what you’re reading and would love to be part of my Mums in Business series then just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in the series: Thumbsie, Katie Colella Social, and Halia Rose.