PEOPLE go into business for themselves for a variety of reasons, be it realising a lifelong dream or simply wanting more control over their own future.
For one Larne woman, the overriding reason was flexibility - the opportunity to achieve the perfect balance of work and family life, and still have enough spare time left over to pursue her interests.
During her 20 years of teaching experience in the primary, secondary, special needs and advisory teacher sectors, Mandy Thompson came to the conclusion that many children were not getting diagnosed with conditions such as dyslexia as quickly as they could have been.
She also felt that parents were not getting the support they needed once their child’s condition had been identified, and were left with few places to turn.
Mandy told the Larne Times: “For every 100 pupils, a school gets just one visit per year from a specialist teacher who carrys out assessments, and so there are a lot of kids who slip through the net.”
The mum-of-two noticed a huge gap in the market in East Antrim and in February 2011, she finally took the leap and set up her own business after completing the Go For It programme, a free scheme funded by Invest NI and delivered locally by LEDCOM, which aimed to help local entrepreneurs get their fledgling businesses off the ground.
Mandy now uses her vast wealth of knowledge to help children who may be experiencing difficulties at school. Working from her home at 12 Hanna’s Road in Larne, Mandy carries out one-to-one assessments with young people to quickly get to the root of the problem, and then provides a diagnosis to parents.
She treats everyone as an individual and uses an extensive portfolio of tests to screen for conditions such as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder and autistic spectrum disorders.
Mandy also gives recommendations to parents and schools about how they can help the child to progress and reach his or her full potential.
The business, which is known as Harvue House, also provides a mentoring and advice service for parents, as well as short training courses designed to give them the skills they need to support and develop their child.
But Mandy doesn’t just cater to school children, and offers her services to people of all ages from pre-school to adults.
Since going her own way, Mandy has learned a great deal about herself and discovered talents she never knew she had.
“Being my own boss has given me the freedom to explore other projects that I would otherwise not have had time to pursue,” she added.
“I am currently writing my own mystery novel which I hope to get published in print and online. I have always had these ideas in my head, but never thought I would get the chance to do anything about them.
“The feedback I have had from people who have read some chapters in my book has been very positive, and has allowed me to discover strengths I didn’t know about myself.
“I do miss the relationships that I formed with children when I was working at schools such as Ulidia College in Carrickfergus, but overall I know that I made the right choice for myself by becoming self employed.
“It has given me just the right balance between working and spending time with my husband and two teenage boys, yet I also have the opportunity to pursue my passion for writing.”
And thanks to the Go For It programme, Mandy has picked up the skills she needs to manage her business effectively.
“I found the course very beneficial, especially the financial side of things.
“I was also given a business mentor, who was extremely helpful and really pushed me to do better.
“It also showed me how to promote myself effectively. Thankfully I have always been very creative, and so I enjoy designing various marketing materials, such as information leaflets and setting up my own website - with the help of my teenage sons of course,” she concluded.
Anyone who would like to contact Mandy can call her on 07733 100612 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information about the business, visit the website www.harvuehouse.com