Fiona Jones is a talented jewellery designer living and working in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Her business, Sunago Unique Creations, specialises in gemstone jewellery and she works with silver, copper coated and fine silver metals. She has overcome many obstacles to get to where she is today, and is happy to share her journey through ME and a career change into the business world.
What did you do before you went into business?
I was a specialist occupational therapist, working in the community with people with learning disabilities in Gloucestershire. I trained to be able to use my creative skills to help others and to aid them to fulfill their potential in life, especially after a life crisis. I was an active member of my church and I enjoyed being creative at home and being active generally, doing DIY, gardening, card making and making gifts for people.
What made you make the leap into business?
I developed a chronic condition. It is known as ME (Myalgic Encephalopathy), CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), PVFS (Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome), CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome)and now SEID (systemic exertion intolerance disease). It meant that working at a high level on a day in, day out basis, was out for me. It affects every system including temperature and breathing, not just muscle pain or tiredness, so it is really annoying!
I lost my job and ended up on benefits, trying to live in a house with a mortgage and no way to be able to prevent it being repossessed in the (nearer and nearer) future. For a few years I could only do a small amount each day and needed to rest both morning and afternoon after doing a bit. Gradually, as my energy increased I was able to match it with my desire to return to the working world and the need to find money to pay off my mortgage and so not lose my home. I looked at what I was able to do and chose to use my creative skills. I put part of my redundancy pay into buying gemstones and silver so I can make higher class jewellery, rather than wood or glass, as I did when I was a student or a child. Then I practiced selling around to friends and then beyond.“I want my business to provide me with my home, where I can enjoy living, knowing it is safe, warm and welcoming to others again and be able to use my business to bless others.” Tweet This!
Tell us about one of your scariest business moments.
A scary moment was informing the DWP I was starting the business. Under the rules of the ESA (Employment Support Allowance), I can work a set number of hours a week for a maximum income for a set period of time. The first time I did this I didn’t earn enough and dropped back down to the lower level. I have tried it again.
My scariest business moment is now. I am now coming off the ESA in order to give myself great potential to do and to build my business, but need to make sure the business pays, or the bills won’t be! I am now able to teach and do half day workshops and so am setting up to do these and advertising for people to attend. Using my facilitating and teaching skills learned in occupational therapy and passing on the jewellery making skills I have something I am looking forward to doing. Currently these happen in and around the Cheltenham area, but I am willing to travel, if there are a group of people who would like to learn and enjoy themselves.
Tell us about your greatest success and failure on your journey so far.
Wow, tough question. I think my greatest success is to actually still be here! There are many obstacles to setting up a business anyway, but especially when there are limitation places all around by health, environment, finance and government. My determination (also called motivation and pig- headedness) to not give up is to ensure that I am able to pay my way in life, rather than give up and live on benefits (which I am entitled to do and could make my life smaller, but simpler).
I suppose failure is the first time of my building up, where I had to drop back down again. At the time I was trying to do everything myself and didn’t know where to turn. I knew nothing about networking, never mind have a network around. I had no website, no Facebook page, no knowing where to go or who to link up to. I suppose part of that is because I hadn’t met Angela then, who introduced me to Women’s Business Club and also on to other networking groups around. That has given me more links and support.
What are your biggest challenges?
Trying to balance between running a business and not having a relapse. Prolonged stress or activity is something I pay for for days after and that has an adverse affect on my business as well as my health. I want to be able to get my jewellery into a number of places, which takes more networking links and to be able to teach skills to inspire others to believe they have potential and that creativity does not have to end when we leave school, it has no age limit.
What are your dreams for the future of your business?
I want to be able to create jewellery for people to enjoy wearing, to expand my skills and abilities to create statement pieces. I have a design I am processing to patent, the “Sunago Swirl” and want to be able to take that to the next level for others to use it in their designs and pay me for that. I want to inspire others to explore their own creativity, to provide creative spaces where people can enjoy themselves and being with others (through workshops and jewellery making parties). I make some “make it yourself” kits for sale and was asked at the weekend about doing this more, possibly with themes to tie with school homework, to help parents out. I want my business to provide me with my home, where I can enjoy living, knowing it is safe, warm and welcoming to others again and be able to use my business to bless others.
Sunago Unique Creations
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