Meet the Enterprise Superstars: Jo Douglas, Allied Health Professionals Suffolk

In the latest in an occasional series of profiles on the Eastern Enterprise Hub’s “Enterprise Superstars”, business leaders who have agreed to act as ambassadors to encourage more people around the region to consider running a business of their own, the focus falls on Jo Douglas of Eye-based Allied Health Professionals Suffolk.

When you were a child, what did you want to be?

I wanted to be a teacher, like my mum, or a farmer’s wife – I never thought that girl’s could be farmers! Oh if only I had known maybe that would have been my career, rather than my hobby.

What is your greatest business success, the thing you are most proud of achieving?

My greatest business success so far is forming Allied Health Professionals Suffolk CIC. My greatest future success will be to build it into a truly sustainable company, providing opportunities for our staff team, and benefiting our communities.

What is the most important business lesson you have learnt?

Just get on and do it; procrastination is indeed a thief of opportunity. The next most important is ask for help and advice and sometimes act on it.

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Who is your greatest inspiration and why?

My Mum. She is an incredible woman who left school and went to work in a bank. She was the first female cashier in the banks in Norwich but always wanted to teach, so when my sister and I were at school she went to college and trained. She was also the one who persuaded me not to be a teacher; she felt there was no future in the profession and working in the health service was a better option.

Why have you become an enterprise superstar?

To give back some of the support I have received over the past year from the Eastern Enterprise Hub at the School for Social Entrepreneurs Suffolk, to encourage others to take the big step forward in enterprise and to continue to learn with those who I am lucky enough to work alongside.

What single piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in business?

Be really clear about your own motivation to create your business. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but if you don’t know where you are going and why you are going there, you won’t know when you’ve arrived – and that would be a bit of a shame.

What piece of music do you listen to when you need some motivation?

Bittersweet Symphony, The Verve, and The Weekend Starts Here, Fat Boy Slim, depending on if I need building up or calming down!

What keeps you awake at night?

Cockerels in our garden - they don’t know how to tell the time.

If you were Prime Minister for

a day, what would you do?

Make university free for those who would benefit from it the most.

What was the last book you really enjoyed and why?

This book was given to me by a close friend who thought I would see some synergies with the life of the main female character and my own out-of-work life. The book is The Egg and I, written by an American woman, Betty MacDonald, published in 1945, and describing her journey in married life and farming, in the most challenging conditions. I think when I was a child I dreamt of being a farmer and thought this was how it might be. At the time it seemed quite romantic; now I think it must have been such a struggle. The writing is peppered with little stories of episode that brightened the day, and they have the power to brighten mine too.

What is the best thing about doing business in Suffolk?

The willingness of the rest of the business community to welcome in new members. We are a little isolated here too and that creates a resilience that wouldn’t need to be there otherwise.

When you’re not at work how do you relax?

We live an a tiny smallholding and so looking after that with my partner and children, keeps me out of trouble. We keep goats, pigs and turkeys intermittently and grow our own veg and fruit. I also love making things, food mainly, but I also make felt jewellery and bags, from wool grown just 100 metres down the road.

If you were in the Den, what new idea would you pitch to the dragons?

I have always thought it would be really handy to have a light that came on automatically when you opened your handbag, so you could find things more easily. I am sure I can’t be the only person in the world to think this, and so I am completely stumped as to why no-one has done this. It could be developed on for laptop bags, briefcases, and so on – the opportunities are endless! It might on the other hand be like my idea for prescription glass in my car windscreen so I didn’t need to wear my glasses. I thought this through for quite some time until I dared share it with my partner. He was quick to point out the difficulty that would cause my passengers, but as most people have their eyes closed in the car with me I still reckon there could be some mileage in it...