College has really helped me on my journey

Rachael graduated from Henshaws College in July 2014. She now runs her own business from home selling arts and crafts products including “Happiness Kits” which she creates herself. She also attends a personalised work-based learning programme at Blueberry Academy in York three days a week. In our latest blog post, Rachael explains what life is like for her now and how Henshaws supported her to achieve her goals.

Rachael displaying some of her products including happiness kits, decoupaged flowerpots and table mats

“Since I left College I’ve been getting my support sorted. I’ve employed Amy who is my new Personal Assistant. She helps me to do what I want to do. I was involved in the interview process and we came up with a traffic light training system which we use to make sure I’m happy with how things are going. Amy had her first appraisal recently so I wrote a report and comments about her. Getting your care package sorted is just as important as sorting out your work experience. I can feel free now and I feel a lot of weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

Now three days a week I go to Blueberry Academy in the centre of York. I do my own work-based learning programme based around my interest in arts and crafts. We make products which are sold in their gift shop called Mermaid and Miller. They have supported me to work on my products and business ideas. I started by breaking down the details of everything that’s inside my box and working out costings and timings. They’ve helped me to think of different ideas.

I started making my Happiness Kits while I was at College. I saw someone else was selling kits on a stall at a market and I said to my mum, “ I can do that, do you think I could improve on them?” So I did! I used the skills I’d learnt in my enterprise sessions at College, where I was managing director and then marketing manager for our Young Enterprise company. I decorated the box for each kit with ribbon and inside I wrapped up lots of little things with tissue paper and added a poem.

Rachael's happiness kits laid out on a table with trinkets inside

I’ve been working on some new Happiness Kit lines recently for Christmas, Mother’s Day and thank you kits. I’m hoping to create some as wedding favours too. We sell the kits at £2 each but the feedback I’ve had from customers is that they could sell for more so I might look at increasing the price.

I’ve also started making other products including upcycled placemats and coasters using wallpaper samples, painted wooden pots and flowerpots. It’s important to have the chance to try out different ideas, show them to other people and get their feedback. I wanted to try making a product with cork so I asked at York Racecourse and they donated me loads of champagne corks which I used to make a frame. I really enjoy thinking of new ideas so I can expand and try new things.

I’ve come up with a business name, Crafty Rach. To make sure people know about my products, I put photos on Facebook and next year I’m hoping to set up my own business page. I have a stall at local craft fairs and markets when I can. I tell people about my products. Before I left in July, College helped me do my own business cards so I can give them out to any potential customers.

My advice to anyone leaving College is, before you move onto the next stage in your life, the word I would use is PLAN. If you don’t have goals, you don’t know where to go. You need something to focus on so that you don’t get frustrated. You know where you want to be, just focus on it and you can do it. Be confident. But don’t be scared to ask for help when you need it. People are there to help you.

College has really helped me on my journey by giving me practical skills and increasing my confidence. The more confident I got, the more I could use that confidence to help me get where I am today. My mum can see the difference in me every day.”

For more information on our learning programmes for young people with a wide range of disabilities, please visit the College pages.

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