The long-term impact of targeted support from Community Catalysts
Carita Smith was one of the very first entrepreneurs that Community Catalysts had the privilege to support. We love what she does and it has been a delight to see Funky Fitness and Fun progress from a tiny community micro-enterprise employing just one person (Carita) to a fully-fledged Community Interest Company with more than 10 staff and 50 members. Many of the community micro-enterprises that we work with want to stay small, but there are a growing number of entrepreneurs like Carita who have successfully expanded their service without losing the values and approach that made it so special.
They show that it is possible to grow without losing your heart
Carita established Funky Fitness and Fun (now constituted as a Community Interest Company) in 2008 running different sessions based around wellbeing for adults with a learning disability. We were there at the start, helping Carita turn her idea into reality and make her enterprise sustainable. On 1st February 2018 Carita and the team celebrated their 10-year anniversary, an amazing achievement and one we were so pleased to have played a small part in.
Now based in a community venue in Saddleworth, Oldham, Funky Fitness and Fun work alongside local groups, health professionals and care providers and aim to:
‘promote independence; encourage members to work as part of a team whilst promoting mindfulness and awareness of others; increase self-confidence and esteem; develop new skills and build on existing ones’
The team now consists of 4 fitness and dance instructors, 2 chefs, 4 holistic therapists and other staff ranging from artists to teachers. 50 members now use the service throughout the week. During sessions, members learn about the importance of good nutrition; how to cook healthy meals and how certain foods can benefit specific parts of the body. Members have different health needs and abilities so all sessions are personalised.
Funky Fitness and Fun have assisted the rehabilitation of many members following medical procedures by working with health care professionals to aid recovery and to implement appropriate fitness regimes. In addition they also provide therapeutic workshops in music, dance and the performing arts; woodwork; gardening; outdoor pursuits; signalong; arts and craft; meditation and much more.
Through their performing arts workshops, the team have put together many shows and performed them at community venues and residential homes. This has enabled them to raise much needed funds whilst developing the confidence of members and created real and lasting community connections.
Carita has recently set up IMPACT – Inspiring More Parents and Carers Together, a networking group for parents and carers to share knowledge and ask questions whilst also creating friendships and reducing isolation. This amazing work has been recognised by POINT (Parents of Oldham in Touch, a well established local forum) who awarded her the “Passion For Parents” award .
The people who have benefited from our activities so far have been aged between 18 to 96 years. They have had diverse needs and have been from different cultures and backgrounds. By encouraging members to interact within the community, we have removed barriers; united people of different age groups and cultures with varying needs and inspired communication. We have built positive friendships and encouraged the interaction of various groups who may not have met in usual circumstances……reducing isolation, encouraging new skills, improving confidence and an enthusiasm to learn and be active, contributing to a sense of ‘a real feel good energy’ all round. Carita Smith
Carita is keen to capitalise on the assets and talents of members with a learning disability and has developed the Fitness Team, consisting of members and staff, who work together to deliver healthy fitness and fun sessions for people in their local community. The fitness sessions are themed to motivate, activate, educate, appreciate and create many moments where members exceed their own expectations. Currently the Funky Fitness team are training members as dance leaders in partnership with local enterprise DanceSyndrome with the aim of providing dance classes in schools and residential areas in the near future.
The Community Catalysts Small Community Services project in Oldham supported me at the beginning of my venture. I was aware that day services were closing in the area in 2008 and I had an idea to offer an alternative for people who had an interest in exercise and well–being, but I didn’t really know where to start. Helen Allen helped me to take that idea and turn it into reality – from the simple things (persuading me not to call it Funky Friday as I may expand past Fridays – which I certainly have done!!) to ensuring that I delivered a safe and effective service. I needed help to understand if the service would need to register with the Care Quality Commission which it didn’t. I then needed a framework to work to – there is nothing out there to guide you around best practice if you are not a regulated service. Thanks to Community Catalysts and their advice framework, I was supported to develop appropriate processes and relevant forms for all aspects of running a busy service: from taking referrals, gaining information on customer needs, putting in agreements for support, reviewing customer needs and getting regular feedback, understanding the world of personal budgets and how to get paid through the various new systems. I have appropriate policies and procedures in place for all aspects of this service.
Helen helped me to get a DBS check and then volunteers and staff, signposted me to where I could get appropriate insurance, identified a route to training from Oldham Council and connected me with other entrepreneurs at network meetings which was fantastic. As a small enterprise at the start of my journey I was invisible – Helen helped to connect all the entrepreneurs with social workers, members and families through two big marketplace events and a smaller event at the offices where social workers were based.
I developed Funky Fitness and Fun to be the best it could be and that has stood me in good stead and ensured the sustainability of the enterprise. We have just celebrated our 10th anniversary and most importantly can see the difference our support has on the lives of our members. I have a good reputation for running a safe, reliable service which I couldn’t have done without that initial mentoring (and handholding) from Community Catalysts. I am a member of Small Good Stuff and value the fact that I can still pose the odd question to Community Catalysts that pops up as I continue on my enterprising journey.
Carita Smith, Director of Funky Fitness and Fun