Posted by: ayrshirehealth | June 3, 2015

Enterprising minds by @lynn_helen

Talking that can make a difference

It’s funny what can happen when you talk to people…..Enterprising Minds

Should you always be careful who you talk to? I spoke to Derek Barron (@dtbarron) today and he asked me to write a blog!

There may be dangers talking to people who ask you to write blogs but the synergetic reaction that can occur when relatively random people meet, sparking a chain reaction which results in something breath-taking such as Hansel’s Enterprising Minds Project is talking that can make a difference.


Coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of Hansel, Roddy Wright (@RoddyJW), the exuberant Operations Director at Hansel, spoke to the equally captivating Angela Catley from Community Catalysts following a presentation she gave. Community CatalystsThey discussed finding entrepreneurs, but not any old entrepreneurs, no, entrepreneurs who also had a learning disability or those on the autism spectrum who are, if you haven’t noticed, rarer than a run of hot sunny days in Ayrshire.

HanselRoddy energised people, as only Roddy can do, and Hansel keen to mark their 50th anniversary funded the project. NA Council

North Ayrshire Council and Community Catalysts came on board as key partners. Roddy easily persuaded me and some others to become Community Connectors which was in effect the project steering group. His best catch however was the magnificent Alyson Miller who was appointed the Coordinator of Enterprising Minds. Alyson became pivotal in the success story that began to unfold over the coming year.

In the beginning

An Enterprising Minds launch event was held in June 2014 which told stories about people with learning disabilities and people with autism who had successfully achieved their dreams in other parts of the UK. Enterprising Minds - Hansel

At the launch event people from North Ayrshire had the opportunity to discuss their own ideas and dreams.

Forever being told of all the things they couldn’t do because of their disabilities – Alyson was there that day, and as the year progressed, to listen to what they could do, what they loved to do and to help them connect to others who would help them achieve their dreams.

At the heart of Enterprising Minds was the belief that people with a learning disability or autism can contribute to society in small, medium and large ways and as Dr Waiyin Hatton reminded everyone at the showcase event a year later, in potentially international ways.


Enterprising Minds focused on finding small enterprise leaders who wanted to start their own small business and make money, entrepreneurial volunteers who wanted to start their own enterprise but not make money from it and community innovators who wanted to do something in and for their community. As the project developed people who needed support to contribute to their communities or develop connections were also identified.

So over the course of the year Alyson heard from Ashley who had a passion for baking biscuits. Cut to 12 months later and Ashley is now the Director of Ashley’s Bow Wow Biccies and is about to sell her dog biscuits via local vets, groomers etc. This did not happen overnight and there were numerous obstacles to overcome but from a starting point of baking biscuits to where she is now has been a phenomenal success.Entreprise

Take Sapphire who had a passion for taking photographs. She has turned these photographs into greeting cards and is now selling them in a couple of bespoke boutiques including Seamill Hydro Gift Shop. Visit Scotland has also used one of her stunning photographs on their site. She has also established a facebook page to help her get established as a photographer:

Take Mark who had a talent for arts and crafts. He now uses his skills and his patience to help people with Dementia in Arran View Nursing Home to knit and make pompoms amongst other things. He offers a teaching class once a week and the staff and residents alike look forward to his sessions. He does this for free but what he gets in return is priceless; a sense of being valued. That he has a role in society delivering a skill to others who need help. Exactly how many of us want to feel when we go to work.

Take Tom who was great at making things out of Hama Beads. He thought he could perhaps sell his creations. He made samples of Hama Bead key rings, coasters and fridge magnets and visited a number of gift shops to see if they would sell them for him. A local shop in Kilbirnie now sells them from a basket at the front of the shop.

There are so many stories to tell; 26 people asked for support from Enterprising Minds and you can read about some of them in the link below as the space in this blog cannot do their stories justice.

Showcase Event

On the 26th of May we came together at Gailes Hotel to showcase the outputs from Enterprising Minds. John Goodwin, North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership, Gerry Lindsay, Managing Director of Hansel and Carol Montgomery, Operations Manager at Hansel have all been central to the project and spoke passionately about the success of Enterprising Minds. Sadly Roddy was unable to make the day because the poor man was recovering from back surgery but Angela said a few well chosen words before Alyson took the floor. She introduced a well crafted film highlighting some of the success stories and many of the entrepreneurs were there to talk about what it meant to them. Goods were displayed, some for sale. People from the business world were part of the audience.

Waiyin HattonDr Waiyin Hatton, President of Ayrshire Chamber Of Commerce and Industry, captured the essence of Enterprising Minds in her key note address when she talked about legacy; an important legacy being a shift in how the business community might think about people with a learning disability from now on. Ayrshire Chamber

More importantly the legacy might be how people with a learning disability and those on the autism spectrum change their view permanently about themselves as courageous net contributors within society. If you can dream it then you can do it someone said.

The lexicon might have already shifted on its axis.

This week’s blog was by @lynn_helen (Helen Lynn), Clinical Director, Learning Disability Services, NHS Ayrshire & Arran

P.S Get well soon Roddy.

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