Work Skills project gives A Better Start for new record store owner

Published Friday, 17th November 2017

Amir girnary james townsend gillian austen nwes tutor and area manager

A Better Start Southend’s Work Skills project, delivered by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, teamed up with NWES for a business course that made a real difference to shop owner James Townsend.

The project, which helps parents in six Southend wards combine work with the needs of their young children, is one of a number on offer from the Big Lottery Funded programme. The NWES Intro2Enterprise course, which ran over four consecutive weeks in September is one of a number of events run by Work Skills.

The new business, Two Twelve Tens, named after the legendary Technics 1210 turntables, opened at the end of September at 89 Princes Street and was the brainchild of the Milton local, bringing the world of dance and electronic music to the heart of Southend.

Though his background was in music, James had been working in the RBS bank in Nestuda Way for over a decade [11 years], when in September 2016 he chose to take voluntary redundancy following a series of restructures across the UK. This was just 6 months after his son Antony (now 20 months old) had been born. Rather than see this as a setback, James saw this as a chance to spend more time with his young son whilst his partner, Debora [36], went back to work.

Then in March this year, James became seriously ill and was hospitalised with a diverticular tear requiring immediate surgery. During his recuperation, he had some time to think about his long term life ambitions and considered the possibility of pursuing his teenage dream of opening up a record shop.

At the start of September, Debora, met Amir Girnary, from the ABSS Work Skills programme at the Cambridge Road Stay and Play session with their son Antony. Amir explained about Work Skills and the ABSS Work Skills NWES Intro2Enterprise course at Centre Place in Kursaal, providing information like the basics of running a business, accessing finance, marketing, and gaining and retaining customers. Despite the fact it started the next day, and James still wasn’t aware of it, Debora signed him up there and then!

“Debora and I met 15 years ago at the University of Essex, Colchester during our degrees” James explains. “She has always been so supportive of my love of music and was keen to help me turn this ambition into a reality so seized the opportunity to secure me a place.”

James was happy to try the course out: “The fact that there was free child care, with the Better Start crèche staff, meant that I could bring Antony and know that he was being looked after. Without this, the logistics of attending would have been far more complicated.” he explains.

As he had never set up a business before, there were a million and one questions: “The course really helped plug any gaps in my knowledge about the things I needed to do to set up my own business and make it a success. It was invaluable.”

“The course covered a broad range of topics, and provided a fantastic insight into various aspects of setting up a business such as marketing, social media and financial planning so you felt you were gaining a good cross section of knowledge, with each session covering a different topic. There is so much to think about and this helped me focus on the key areas.”

“At the final session representatives from Southend Borough Council, and local businesses were on hand to answer any questions and are continuing to provide support now the course has ended to help me promote what I’m doing.”

“The shop opened at the end of September as part of a soft launch following the completion of the website and response to the business from the general public has been fantastic. Every customer seems to enjoy the experience and word is starting to get out about what we do.”

“The course really helped me to work out the plan whilst appreciating the importance of remaining adaptable to ensure I am meeting customer needs and expectations. Having the right work-life balance is so important to me and this means I can be with my family too.”

“I describe the business as an online vinyl store with a real front door! Though it’s only open on a Saturday at the moment, this can change to meet demand as the business grows. We specialise in dance & electronic music, as this is where my expertise lies and there was a bit of a gap in the market for something like this in Southend.”

Amir Girnary, Skills Project Officer for Southend-on-Sea Borough Council working on the Better Start Southend Work Skills project, says: “James’ story is a wonderful example of what Work Skills is all about, giving the chance for people to get back into employment, develop their skills and follow their aspirations, while supporting them to enjoy a life with their families too.”