Paul's Latest Blog - Access to Work
iCAN experiences founder Paul Nicol embarks on his own personal blog, taking the readers on his journey from diagnosis of a sight losing disease through to the present day as he makes iCAN experiences a success in the midst of tough economic times.
Hello and welcome to another Monday! Here's wishing you a good week and I do hope that you have enjoyed the Paralympics, I have to say it's been an incredible event and it was great to see how much support it received from the Great British public!
A quick recap on where we are. So far in my business start-up, I have contacted 3 experience operators, incorporated iCAN experiences LTd, setup a business bank account, signed up an accountant and set the wheels in motion for the website development.
These were the foundations for the business, there was still plenty to do, but this was the bread and butter. When I signed up my Web Developer, we had set a go live date as the 31st May, on hindsight, this wasn't the best date to pick as in the run up to this date, I had booked a family holiday! As a result, the launch did in fact get delayed by 2 weeks, it was worth waiting for and taking that little longer to ensure that the site was absolutely right!
Over the next 2 months, I had a number of tasks to complete, I had to identify, contact, meet and write up my target of 25 activities. This was going to be the starting point for iCAN experiences, I knew that there were so many experiences and locations that I wanted to get onboard, but as with any business, you can't enter the market as a fully fledged gift experience provider, you have to start as we did, with a targeted number of experiences in a specific geographical location and then build on this over time.
I included as part of the business plan a growth target and the aim is to offer 40 experiences nationwide by the end of our 2nd year of trading. It's a tall order, but one I think is achievable if we continue at the current rate adding a new location or new experience every other week!
As someone with a disability, I have access to a government scheme called "Access to work". The scheme is designed to help businesses with the additional costs that they may be subjected to should they employ someone with a disability. In my case, I need screen reading software to use a computer, this costs around £750. In addition to this, I need a scanner and some software so that I can scan and read printed text such as letters or printed documents. Finally, if your place of work is not located somewhere accessible via public transport, there may be a need for a taxi. Now, some employers may be happy to swallow the costs for this, but equally, some may not. The idea is that the scheme puts me as someone with a disability on an equal playing field as someone without a disability, thus reducing the possibility of potential employers thinking that it is going to cost them more money to employ me given my disability as opposed to someone without a disability.
So, as I was starting my own business, I was having to travel to various locations around the country, meeting operators and viewing locations. It was clear that to do this, I was going to need to use a mixture of taxi's and public transport. I reasoned that if I wasn't blind that I would simply hop in a car and drive to said location, on that basis, my disability was leaving me at a disadvantage, I was having to pay for public transport and then a taxi to get me to my final destination. This was far more expensive than driving a car!
I got in touch with Access to work, "sorry, we don't help with business start-up costs" was their initial response. I spent about an hour on the phone to the consultant, making my point, this wasn't a "Start-up cost" per say, my point was that if I owned my own car, I would fully expect to have to pay for my fuel, tax, insurance etc in order to fulfil these meetings. It took a little persuasion, but eventually we agreed that I would cover the cost of the public transport and 25p for every mile travelled in a taxi, Access to work would then cover the remaining cost of the taxi journeys.
This was fantastic news, Access to work didn't seem to keen initially as the business wasn't bringing in any money and nor did we have any contracts committing to purchase anything from us, as such, they were reticent to funding my travel. The moral of this story is that Access to Work can and will provide funding if your claim is genuine and your point is valid.
Once I had this funding in place, I was able to start contacting other experience operators to arrange meetings etc. I applied the same logic as per my original 3 operators, I was tackling the next 3 smallest continuing to learn, but able to talk knowledgably about my business and the industry.
As part of signing up these experience operators, I have been incredibly lucky, I have taken part in a number of different experiences myself including an Aerobatic Flight in a PITTS Biplane with Alan Cassidy, a 160ft Bungee Jump, a High Speed ride in a Ferrari, White Water Rafting and probably most memorably, riding pillion on the back of a superbike with Ron Haslam taking me around Silverstone! I'll tell you more about The superbike journey next week!
All of this sounds like fun and if I’m honest, it was! My wife has been incredibly supportive, as she goes off to work everyday and I’m off gallivanting around the country side! However, it's not all fun, fun, fun, I have to work incredibly long hours, and most evenings are spent working on my computer and I often have to visit operators at the weekends. One thing is for sure, I love my job, its great being your own boss and it's even better knowing that iCAN experiences is helping others to enjoy their life no matter what!
Please do share this with your friends, family and whomever else you think may be interested. Remember to follow us on Twitter @icanexperiences and become a fan on facebook at www.facebook.com/icanexperiences.
Finally, please browse around the site, if you like what you see buy it, if you don't see anything you like, tell us! We welcome feedback, be it good or bad, we think we are excellent at what we do, but can only continue if you tell us what’s good and what’s not!
All the Best,
Founder - iCAN experiences
Where possibility can become reality!