East Durham Business feature: Nicola Jayne Little, MINT Business Club

Mar 21, 2022 | Business

In this issue’s My Working Day feature, we chat to former teacher Nicola Jayne Little, who launched MINT Business Club in 2019 after years of building up a network of small business owners who were crying out for more than just business support.

EDB: You launched MINT Business Club four years ago, can you tell us more about your role in the business? NJL: I’m a business owner who runs a club for business owners! I couldn’t run MINT if I didn’t have so much in common with the members and experience all of the ups and downs that they also experience.

I work operationally to deliver training and oversee our schedule of events and training, love using social media to raise the profile of the Club and its members and manage the MINT team including our wonderful Kickstarter Holly, and alongside my co-director Paul Smissen, keep the vision and growth for the business at the forefront of our minds.

EDB: What does a typical working day look like for you? NJL: I get up early, start early and need to be busy all the time! There are certain days where my mornings are pre-planned, like on a Monday I do a live broadcast on Facebook to our MINT community to get us motivated for the rest of the week.Tuesday mornings are always event mornings, where members meet either face to face or online for things like business training sessions, intention setting and big group get-togethers when possible to do so.

On those mornings, I usually psyche myself up for whatever is coming up, as I don’t like to plan too much in advance and can often write the content of a morning’s training session while everyone else is having breakfast and doing school runs.

I usually have a number of meetings in the diary, which can be one-to-ones with members, team meetings, training planning meetings or calls with our sponsors and funders.
Other than that, no two days are the same and I like to give myself enough time to engage with members via our various online platforms, commenting on and sharing their social media posts and generally chatting to members in our private Facebook group.

EDB: How have the past two years of pandemic restrictions affected your business and your role in particular? NJL: Instantly, overnight, in March 2020 our business changed. We had to cancel a face to face taster event and all in-person training and move everything online. I was literally forced to deliver online learning and mentorship after more than ten years of training and teaching in person where I’d get to bounce around and be energetic and feed off the people in the room.

That was a culture shock! It’s so much more difficult to deliver training online, for me anyway, and I’ll never prefer it to being in the room with people.

One of the major ways MINT changed was that we started to look outside of the membership for revenue opportunities, launching two funded training programmes and become an approved Gateway provider for the government’s Kickstart programme, for which we have placed 100 young people into paid work placements.

EDB: Did you find your members needed more support during uncertain times? NJL: Absolutely. And we needed their support just as much in return. We delivered training every single day in the early days of lockdowns. Many of our members had nowhere else to go, no business and no income.

Rather than lose members and have everyone feel stranded and alone, we offered a 3-month payment break if they needed it. We became each other’s team and had countless members deliver training as well as attend it every day. That’s when I started ‘Monday Motivation’, which was a daily live video broadcast, on Facebook, for the first few months of lockdown.

EDB: You also recently launched a new Social Enterprise, can you tell us about that? NJL: I was diagnosed with ADHD late in 2020 and it changed my life. Whilst nothing had physically changed for me, seeking my diagnosis started the process of making sense of my life, the difficulties in relationships and employment, destructive behaviour patterns and the relentless, exhausting speed of thoughts and decisions. I wanted to shout about my diagnosis from the rooftops as it made me understand and celebrate me a bit more, and from that I launched Celebrate Difference. It’s a Social Enterprise, a business for good, that serves the ADHD community by empowering them to embrace their ADHD as a strength rather than living in a deficit based world.

EDB: How did your ADHD diagnosis impact your working life? NJL: Everything changed because I started to see myself differently. At first it was a real struggle, but the more I came to terms with it, the more it helped me realise why I do some of the things I do in the way that I do them – ways that often don’t make sense to other people and that I had struggled to process myself. Suddenly I understood why I like to work from my car or why I can never shut down and my own balance comes from being constantly busy, even when I’m in my caravan or in Barcelona – my favourite place in the world!

EDB: How do you manage to juggle the various businesses and divisions within each business on a daily basis? NJL: I work fast and adore what I do. The joy I get from my work is immense.

But, I could not do any of it without the great team around me, and a membership club of inspiring business owners. They all inspire me, which helps with overwhelm and underwhelm and it gives me the absolute perfect pool of talent to lean on for support whenever we launch a new programme within MINT or when it comes to launching completely new ventures like Celebrate Difference. People are MINT, I’m very lucky indeed!