Before taking part in the Accelerating Women’s Enterprise (AWE) programme, Rosa’s life was very different. She was working part-time in a social enterprise community café, having just moved to Devon from London. In London she had been running a charity that she co-founded, after a ten year career in the Arts. “My life changed when I had an emotional break down, or ‘burn out’ – with severe anxiety and depression. It was a very difficult time.” Rosa stated, “Choosing to move out of London and then work in the café after all my experiences became very healing and humbling for me. Working in the café helped to alleviate my depression and I felt more like myself again. But a big part of me still felt like a failure, felt stuck.”
After some time, Rosa decided that she really wanted to use her other skills again, as she wasn’t feeling fulfilled or challenged enough. Then one day when she was in the launderette and met a lovely woman who told me all about the AWE programme and she decided to apply. “I felt very encouraged that it was inclusive and open to women from all walks of life and that the application process wasn’t intimidating. It was perfect timing for me and I was thrilled to get a place on the programme,” said Rosa.
“I have loved every minute of being on the AWE programme, it was excellent. Max Hope was a brilliant leader of the programme – sensitive, direct, kind and clever,” explained Rosa. However, her dad became much more ill in February and she had to help care for him, which made it harder to attend. Rosa continues “That being said, it was such a supportive environment, I established some great friendships – the group helped me through a tough time, when my dad was in and out of hospital. In the group, I was able to open up about my depression whilst exploring my enterprise ideas, it was transformational.”
Rosa says that she felt empowered during the process because she was able to ‘reframe’ her life – especially in terms of how she perceived herself, her abilities, her ‘failures’ and what she had to offer. “AWE made such a huge difference to my confidence. Later, my mentor, Mel Ross, also became a great source of support and inspiration – she really encouraged me to focus on what I was most passionate about and to always make informed decisions. I’d started out with the idea of offering an accessible ‘business plan writing’ service to help people wanting to set up social enterprises and charities.”
Taking part in the AWE programme, and then experiencing lockdown whilst being a carer, helped Rosa to realise that she really wanted to focus on work that is nourishing, rather than tiring for her. She had always loved painting but held herself back. She states, “I realised it was time to do what I love, it’s never too late. I came up with the idea of turning my paintings of animals into prints and cards and creating an eco-conscious art brand called RiverSongHeart. This way I could work even when I was caring for my dad.”
Now Rosa is selling directly to individuals, also via Words and Pictures Art Gallery in Teignmouth and Paperworks shop in Totnes. Next year she has been invited to feature in The Art Edit of House & Garden Magazine and she plans to expand her product line in 2021 (always plastic free). She explains that she feels grateful that she has even made a small profit after launching 7 weeks ago. She is also proud to be partnering with a global tree charity called ‘TreeSisters’, where with every art print sold, a tree gets planted by them (Rosa donates the cost of 40p per tree). Rosa states, “My message to anyone struggling to take the first step towards a dream is to go for it, there is only one you. If you can, do apply to take part in the AWE programme and you will soon realise that success is possible, even if you have faced barriers in the past.”