Becky Lodge Founder of Little Kanga Ltd and StartUp Disruptors (a business club and community for start-ups and small business owners) interviews Claire Odd, the business owner of ‘Restoring Balance’ a wellness and rehabilitation specialist, who helps people when more ‘traditional’ approaches have failed for maintaining their health.This is the final article in our recent series exploring the impact of Covid-19 on local businesses and start-ups in Portsmouth.
Claire graduated with a Sports Science degree and worked in health and fitness for a big corporate company for a long time. Later in her career she studied for an MBA and was just finishing this up (with a view to starting a PHD in Organisational Psychology), when she had a severe life-changing mountain bike accident in the woods that changed her life forever.
Following her own rehabilitation and eventual return to full health – but with some notable changes and adjustments – Claire realised she had years of experience of working with people with complex needs, and decided to help people with their own wellness journey by providing her expertise to others, so that they could get the help and support they needed to return to balance and wellness.
Becky Lodge: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.
Claire Odd: When I was younger, I was always really ‘sporty’ and anything that involved catching a ball – I was there! I was super active and also loved the water and swimming, I was always on the move.
When I had my severe mountain bike accident a few years back, I had to learn to ‘learn’ again, including learning to speak again. I didn’t want to go back to corporate life as the hours and culture were very tough. I then considered being a therapist and trained in massage and scar work and a number of beneficial therapies for others.
In terms of my mental health, having the accident was very difficult as my corporate career was based on being an effective communicator and this disappeared overnight. I had to learn coping strategies, my memory wasn’t great and I was using ‘post its’ around my home to remember things as I had very little short term memory. I used to have a photographic memory and after the accident, it ceased to exist. I had gone from being a ‘high-flying’ speaker at conferences in corporate to not being able to drink a cup of tea unaided.
My accident was a gamechanger. I had to change my life.
I am married and my husband was my primary carer for the first 12 weeks of my rehabilitation, and it was worrying for him to leave me when he finally went back to work. I don’t recall a lot of what happened just after the accident and in the early days, but I am eternally grateful for his help and support on an ongoing basis to return me to full health.
What have been the challenges for you as a female business owner?
A lot of barriers are there as a small business owner. A few people have said to me ‘your husband must have a great job if you can afford to do that’, which I feel diminishes what I do as a practitioner in my own right, but I have learned to ignore these comments.
Everything that I have done has been self-funded and self-sustaining. This has been difficult at times, but it has worked really well for me as I have built this up from part-time hours.
The business is fairly unusual and quite niche in terms of the rehabilitation offer that I have to provide to people. I tend to end up with customers at my door that need more balance with things, from those needing help with perhaps dietary and hormone changes, or sports injuries that haven’t responded to other methods and practices.
How did you feel about the COVID 19 pandemic?
We moved to our new home the day before lockdown in March. We had relocated away from Barnham (West Sussex) after 20 years of being resident there to an amazing place in Hayling Island.
We simply found a house that we both fell in love with, but it’s still a building site and is having ongoing renovations so that I can set up my own practitioner studio for my work. At first we were trying to unpack and set up a new home but then I needed to understand how I would get the business up and running. This was put on hold due to the renovation work and then lockdown came along.
I was told during lockdown to stop working in my wellness and therapy business, so took my services online via Zoom. It’s a different style of therapy and results for my customers, but it was great to see how I had managed to pivot things for the business. I had to diversify and give the service offering in a different way. I then had some surgery on my face and needed to rest to get past this phase as well, so took some time to recover from this too.
At this time I ran some COVID ‘secure’ workshops with the skills that I had gained in corporate and it was great to hold people’s hands through this phase, helping them to make their own businesses COVID secure.
August 2020 was about building up my social media presence again and brand-building. COVID has been a ‘life pause’ for most people. The benefits are spending time at home and family but there are down sides of not being able to socialise in the office with others and I am sure that most people miss this.
What helped you as a small business during COVID lockdown?
Being able to reach out to other therapists was good during lockdown.
Internationally-renowned therapists were sharing their knowledge from the USA, such as a practitioner that works with elite athletes in baseball. I had a four-hour mentoring session on movement in the body with this professional on ‘how to use your hands to heal’. Having the access to international knowledge on technical therapy skills was awesome and I learned a lot from others during this time. I am a bit of a geek, but I love what I do and I am very lucky.
Lockdown was really my time for ongoing personal development and providing a listening ear for others that were struggling in my own industry.
What do you think will happen in the next 6 months with your business?
The business is still new and I am building local confidence in my brand and market offering. I am really looking forward to getting to know more people locally as I am still new to the Hayling Island and Portsmouth areas.
I understand that people are still nervous about ‘hands on’ body work, but I am still delivering my sessions online. I want to grow my social media following and connecting with other businesses is key to the next phase and this is what I want to concentrate on.
What’s the next move then both for you and the business?
Over the summer I have done a few things that I have wanted to do for a while, this has been developing the online support offering that I have. Word of mouth referral is very important for the growth of the business. More networking is on the cards for sure.
How have you found operating a business in Portsmouth and the wider Hampshire area?
I am new to Hampshire and it is a whole new way of life. Hampshire people love the outdoors and sea-based activities.
I started to look around for business support online and on Facebook found out about StartUp Disruptors, the business support community, and joined because I felt that the community was full of ‘my people’ and this was great. It provides valuable 1-2-1 connections and assistance and online sessions to help me build my business presence and connections in a safe and friendly way, with no pressure.
Most of my clients are online at the moment and I would love for more people to come to my studio in Hayling Island which is COVID safe, this is the work that I love the most, but the world is evolving.
Were there any periods in the last few years that were challenging for the business?
Over the summer I found it difficult to see how the business would survive and during lockdown it was very tough for me. Imposter syndrome started to creep in and there were times when I felt a little bit low, but I managed to get this under control using some of the techniques that I have used in the past as part of my own post-accident rehabilitation.
I do this by looking at the pros and cons of things and also grounding is a key technique for me. I regularly exercise through riding my mountain bike or swimming and I love to be on the move.
I think that people have to find what works for them to balance their lives more effectively.
For me, it is movement based and the beauty of my therapy offering is that I can help people to find peace and what’s right for them, as part of their rehabilitation with me on their own wellness journey.
You can find out more about StartUp Disruptors and how to join them, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn and you can follow Becky Lodge over at LinkedIn. You can also telephone: 0333 444 0364 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
S&C has been awarded funding from the European Journalism Centre Covid-19 Support Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on diverse communities and sectors in Portsmouth:
- voluntary sector, including charities, community groups and social enterprises
- small businesses and self-employed people
- POC communities
- people with disabilities
We have also been awarded funding from the Public Interest News Foundation Emergency Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on migrants, and asylum seekers and refugees.
All images courtesy of Claire Odd.