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Self employed stories- Alison's journey from prison to pool-side.

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by Startacus Admin

Self Employed StoryAs it’s a brand new year, we’ve decided to redouble our efforts to inspire you potential startup business folks by introducing a new weekly feature called ‘Self-Employed Stories’. We’ll focus on people who we feel have shown great determination and passion for their business idea in the face of considerable challenges. It’s Week number 1 and in true Startacus fashion we are kicking off with a splash… ‘From Prison to Poolside’.

 “I was sentenced to 63 Days…that’s when I decided I needed to combat the challenge, the rest of my life, everything from this day was about how to move my life forward.”

 It’s fair to say that Alison has had a colourful time of it recently…and she would be the first one to admit that. Just a few years ago she was a fairly unremarkable lady… she had a good job, good friends and on the whole a fairly run-of-the-mill life. Then things began to go into something of a downward spiral…an unhealthy relationship led to increasingly erratic behaviour and eventually a prison sentence for harassment…events which Alison freely admits were the lowest point in her life.

But this is not the story of Alison’s criminal past but rather the story of what came next… her drive, her passion, her determination and of course her business. We interviewed her about her journey and here’s what she had to say.

What was it particularly that made you want to set up your own business after coming out of prison?

After coming out of prison, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I found a job as a waitress very easily, but this was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I needed to do something. As a qualified teacher, although my convictions wouldn't have stopped me going into teaching, I did know that I would have to explain the whole situation to a future employer. I wasnt ready, I knew the chances were they would have rejected me and that I wasn't strong enough for this. I needed something that was going to pay a high wage and keep me occupied... so I looked at my skills and decided that I could do it.

What is your business exactly?

My Business is called AliLou Fitness, the name is made up from my first name Alison and my middle name Louise (I have been called ALiLou in the Self employed storypast). It is a fitness company where either I go round to peoples houses and give them PT sessions or I go to gyms and teach classes - mainly aqua aerobics and spin. After having a keen personal interest and the success of losing a lot of weight through fitness, I decided that this was something I could do for other people.

Obviously setting up a business is always going to be a challenging thing to do, but do you think that you have had a tougher time given your past?

I think that the hardest challenge I’ve had to deal with is that my friends were maybe not there for me. For example, I run an aqua aerobics class (which I know my friends would enjoy) but they don't come as they have distanced themselves from me.

In the job I do, I feel self conscious that people will recognise me and say ‘oooh she is the one from the paper’ and the clients will no longer employ me or that people may not want me in their houses if they found out i’ve been to prison. The reality is I think people actually only care about what I do for them - they don't go over the past like some others do.

I think that because I am strong and I made a minor mistake, I sit with my head up high and know that I am doing a good job now and I that I am going to make it work. With this in mind I think It keeps me focussed.

I was only in prison for 6 weeks - enough to cause havoc with my life but not enough to do anything useful. I did feel when I got out that I was left hanging, I’d never signed on in my life until this point... If anything I was annoyed that the government had nothing in place for people like me who are not at the point of not knowing how to write a CV. I was referred to In Training on the work program but I had found a job, and decided what I was doing before they could help. Nobody had given me any advice on people I could see for help, there are lots of charities, Elizabeth Finn, Women in action, Start Up etc, but I only found these at the last minute when I had done most of my work. I certainly feel there should have been more support prior to my release.

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Published on: 21st January 2014

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