Elisa Riutta used to work for a global company as a business consultant in learning and skills development, managing projects which equipped her with a wide range of business skills, as well as many challenges and opportunities in her career. Whilst this life was great while she was young and carefree, the available time to think when she took maternity leave for her two sons made her realise that she wanted to do something more meaningful on a personal level.
Elisa had practised mindfulness herself for a number of years and wanted to bring the benefits that it brought to others to help their wellbeing and provide them with more balance and peace in their daily lives.
Mindfulness is well known all over the Western world and well recognised for its health benefits. In order to prepare herself for setting up a business to enable people to embrace mindfulness in their lives, Elisa trained and qualified as a teacher in a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme which is one of the most established and researched mindfulness programmes in the world to deal with stress, anxiety and a range of challenges.
Once qualified, Elisa decided to set up her business in August 2018 and she states, “Things have come together slowly, bit by bit. I offered one course to a few friends, which gave me an opportunity to practice my skills and confirm to myself this was a right thing for me. I began building contacts, and actively thinking about how to reach a wider audience. It required thinking creatively, looking for and being open to opportunities through networks, and part of it, pure luck and being in the right place at the right time.”
“I knew I wanted to offer a format of mindfulness that is strongly grounded in science, and therefore has the most potential to make a difference.” She continues, “I also wanted to expand the offering so that people would have something to continue with after the course.”
She set up regular meditation groups in a hired space around Portsmouth to offer classes, teaming up with a couple of local wellbeing services which was key to becoming more established. She then researched places in the local area where there might be demand for her services and trialled sessions.
“It is extremely important to me that my classes are supportive, and that people can feel at ease when they join, especially if they have never meditated before. Mindfulness is a personal experience which can make a big difference in one’s life. Positive experiences shared between people mean a lot as they encourage others to join too.”
Then COVID-19 hit and put the country into lockdown. “ In the very beginning, last March, when the world turned upside down and many people were suddenly in a great need of support, I started offering free guided meditation online twice a week. Now I still offer a meditation group, now based on donations, to make it accessible for as many people as possible. She was able to carry out face to face meetings when allowed but essentially had to pivot her business and think about it in a whole new way. “I was initially concerned about how teaching online would work out but also saw it as an opportunity.” says Elisa,
Elisa heard about AWE through social media and booked onto the Introduction to Self-employment workshop series with Rachel & Jayde. “It helped to give me focus for what direction the business was going in,” Elisa comments. “I liked the fact that the workshops were not pressurised, were supportive and provided me with really useful tools to use in my business planning.”
She continues, “The workshops helped me to think about who I want to be – my mission and values as a business, which was really motivating. Realising that I was a bona fide business owner made me feel very proud, as sometimes you are too focused on just getting the work done to appreciate your achievements. AWE helped me to feel in control and it was uplifting to share my experience with other female entrepreneurs and know that they faced many of the same challenges.”
Elisa feels that, particularly at the moment, but also looking forward, learning mindfulness can help a great deal in managing stress and relieving the anxiety that stems from the uncertain circumstances. She states, “The world will start opening at some point, but it won’t remove the importance of looking after our emotional and physical health. Stress will still be part of life and we will still get caught up by our thinking patterns and daily worries, it will just be about different things. Growing resilience and finding peace that is independent from any external circumstance, is what makes the difference for people in day-to-day life.” She believes that we need to equip ourselves with the tools that help us to deal with anything that comes along with greater calm and balance
Elisa feels that particularly at the moment, mindfulness can help people to manage their stress and provide them with an awareness and acceptance of what is realistic to achieve in their daily lives. She has realised the potential of an online provision, as it allowed her to reach a wider audience and she plans to continue using Zoom in the future alongside actual meetings with people, when they are possible.
Elisa focused on the areas of the business where she felt less confident, which included attending the time management and marketing workshops being delivered by AWE. She found that the workshops helped her not only manage being a mum to two, running a home and a business with all the pressures that this can bring, especially when home-schooling is required.
“The workshops helped me to think about things from the client’s perspective when considering what marketing channels to use,” says Elisa. They also helped her to consider her pricing structure and being more confident “not to sell herself short,” she adds. She is now looking to deepen her knowledge of finance and more marketing.
“One of the biggest challenges of being self-employed is that you are responsible for every part of the business, but on the positive side, it does give you the freedom and flexibility to decide what to do,” says Elisa.
“I would recommend the AWE to any woman, even if your business has been established for a little while or even before you set up your business,” says Elisa. Her advice to any woman thinking about setting up a business is to acknowledge that you may not know everything at the start, but if you feel a strong pull to do something, just do it. “Make sure you have things in place financially but don’t feel that you have to have everything sorted,” she advises.
She advises people to learn to prioritise and how to balance responsibilities, “Concentrate on what is most important for your business and don’t aim for perfection.” She uses lists to help her collect her thoughts and break tasks down into chunks to prevent feeling overwhelmed.
At the moment, her business is steady, and Elisa is busy thinking about ways to extend her offer for example by providing mindfulness to companies and charities, which she has trialled successfully. She feels that as people return to workplaces, it will be long-awaited for many but there will be a period of adjustment which some may feel stressful. She is also looking forward to offering meditation days again face-to-face, to complement the online classes, once we are allowed to all meet again.