Jess Widdowson tells unLTD how she defied her former teacher’s advice, and doubts over her business plan, to start her ‘blossoming’ arts schools and voice academies

I was inspired to start my business by…

Being passionate about the arts and wanting to provide a unique service which was inclusive and accessible to all! I wanted to offer young people fantastic opportunities to not only develop as a performer, but also to develop as a person in terms of confidence and team building. For me, these skills are necessary in any role whether you are a sales assistant in a store or the CEO of a multinational company.

My favourite thing about running my business is …

The people I work with. I work with ages 2-75 and every week I see huge improvements in my students. I see smiles every week. My job is incredibly rewarding.

The three words that best describe my business are…

Unique, Inclusive and Supportive.

Sheffield City Region is a great place to start a business because…

It’s where my own roots lie. Sheffield and the surrounding areas have fantastic theatrical scenes and I get to teach people from all age groups and backgrounds.

Sheffield City Region is a great place to grow a business because…

The scene is so fantastic and the local community are supportive and provide us with excellent facilities.

The best advice I ever got was…

‘Prove them wrong’. During university I was told that my business plan would never work. My A-Level teacher told me I would never be successful and the arts were a joke. I have met so many people that have been quick to knock me down or dampen my success and the best way to overcome that is to prove them wrong! Now I run two schools and four voice academies. I’m proud of my success and the success of my students and team.

The worst advice I ever got was…

‘If you don’t have the money, don’t bother trying’. I started my business with nothing. No flyers, no business cards, no website, no money. On our first day, we opened with 20 students and 20 private singing lesson students. If you want something enough, you’ll make it happen and that’s exactly what I did. Now we also support local charities and have raised almost £3,000 for different local charities including £2000 for the Children’s Hospital Charity.

The organisations that have supported me and my business include…

  • The Merlin Theatre
  • The Montgomery Theatre
  • Carly Turner MUA
  • S2 Pictures
  • Xenium Records
  • Bobby Dazzlers
  • Sheffield United ( Raffle Prizes)
  • Adams Bay (Raffle Prizes)
  • Beauty Rooms ( Raffle Prizes)
  • Doncaster Mayor
  • Powerhouse
  • TD Lighting
  • Edenthorpe Community Centre
  • Whittington Moor Methodist Church
  • Serendipity Casting

The main challenges facing my industry/sector are…

It’s highly competitive.

Prices can often be high and those with financial depravity can become excluded – something that we constantly try to combat and ensure that everyone has an equal chance to do what they are passionate about.

In 5 years’ time I expect my business to…

Blossom! We hope to have even more fantastic students, more opportunities for them and a fully completed marketing package. We aim to stand out and love to keep marketing fresh!

We really do aim for more of the same!

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