After years scraping by in temp jobs, and battling on-off unemployment, debt and depression, Winsome Duncan has become an author and award winning businesswoman on a mission to help unemployed people and those struggling to make ends meet.
Q How did you come to set up a business on your own?
A I worked part-time in my first business, The Healing Factory, from 2006 and never had the courage to go full-time. I was also temping as a Learning Support Assistant and was let go four days before Easter, which is one of the dangers of temporary work. I was devastated and frightened about not having enough money to live on.
In that moment I vowed that I would never put myself in a position where a manager would tell me when I could have my holidays or say ‘we no longer need your services’ again. Through a networking event I found a corporate Business Mentor Lorna Stewart and through the stress and tears I started to build my second business MPLOYME.
Q What was life like before?
A To be honest I had more month than money. I lived from pay cheque to pay cheque and continually struggled to pay bills on time. I used to get loads of red letters and threats to be taken to court.
I was in a constant state of paranoia, depression and was budgeting on a weekly basis. I had a poor quality of life and could only afford to buy junk food because it was so cheap. My life was a constant debt headache.
Q How has it changed since?
A My life has done a complete 360 degree turn around. I used the job centre New Enterprise Allowance scheme and their £1,000 loan to set up MPLOYME. It is a social enterprise and I was able to win support from funders UnLtd, United St Saviour’s Charity and Awards For All Big Lottery.
I have hired several staff to spread the message of hope. I pay my bills on time and I am now driving after not being able to afford the luxury of a car for eight years. I believe if you find your passion, you will never have to work another day in your life. I wake up every morning looking forward to going to work.
Q You now help unemployed people think about working for themselves, what is the most important message you give them?
A We offer business start-up advice and business templates to the long term unemployed,
low income earners and ex offenders. Each candidate must know that there is greatness within them. They do not need to be a product of their environment. Change your mind, change your mind-set.
Q You have also written a book on saving money, what do you think is the number one piece of advice in there?
A If you are in fuel poverty and have 10 per cent or more of your earnings being spent
on energy bills, you can get financial support. Contact your supplier’s charitable trust and ask for an application form. EDF Trust helped to pay my quarterly winter bill when I was
unemployed. I owed over £350. Knowledge is power.
Q What do you hope the future holds for you?
A We would like to roll out our Proactive Employment Workshops nationally and assist more jobseekers. Winning more awards and becoming a household brand would be fantastic.