Spotlight on Laura Kennard: joint-owner of Reviatlise U Kent

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Laura Kennard is a qualified holistic therapist and joint-owner of Revitalise U Kent.

Revitalise U Kent was born in 2013 when Laura and her business partner Joanne Taylor realised there was a growing need for their services within local businesses in Kent and Medway.

As part of our conversation series for International Women’s Day, we spoke to Laura to discuss the motivations behind setting up a business, the qualities needed to be successful, and the hopes she has for future generations.

Can you tell me more about yourself, your work background and your business?

I’m Laura from Revitalise U Kent. We’re corporate wellbeing specialists covering Kent and Medway, as well as parts of London and Essex, but that was pre-lockdown. Since lockdown, we’ve changed our services to be online so we can help staff wherever they are up and down the country and around the world.

Pre-Covid we provided what we would term as hands-on therapy to staff in the workplace, so seated massages, Indian head massages and reflexology. We also provided display screen equipment assessments, or desk assessments, to make sure the staff were sitting at their desk correctly and comfortably, which is really important as it’s part of the health and safety regulations that companies need to provide for their staff. Also how your desk is set up can have a huge impact on our musculoskeletal system causing aches and pains and eye strain.

Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to work this way since Covid because staff aren’t in the offices and everyone is working from home, or they’ve unfortunately been furloughed, so we’ve taken some time off to cope with what life has thrown at us with Covid and had a period of reflection. We’ve worked on the business behind the scenes,  we’ve improved the website, we’ve worked on the documentation and policies and we now provide our services online, so whereas before we would do a face-to-face desk assessment, we can now do it via video call.

We offer online well-being workshops as well now, so if a company is interested in looking after their staff and their staff wellbeing then we’ve got a range of topics that we can present in our online wellbeing workshops. We also have practical classes so we can teach self-care tips, for example, how to perform a scalp massage to help relieve muscular headaches and tensions. We have one which focuses on using massage balls to help ease pain in the arms, hands, feet etc. and things like that. So that’s how we have changed the business around until we can hopefully get back to providing face-to-face services.

You set-up your business with your friend Jo Taylor Davis. How did the two of you meet and set-up your business?

The membership body that we both belong to, The Federation of Holistic Therapists, have networking sessions, and back in 2013, I went to one when Jo happened to be giving a talk. At the time she was on the committee for a cancer charity, so she came to give a talk about what the charity does and her work with them. We really clicked and went out for coffee afterwards, and we both realised we lived in the same village. That weekend, Jo was running a stall that provided treatments at a local village fete to raise money for the charity, so I told her I was free and that I could help provide some treatments as well. So, we did that, and our friendship grew from there and the business literally came from that and has grown since then!

What encouraged you to set-up your own business? Is this something you’ve always wanted to do?

I used to work in office administration, and then once I had my children and they started growing up, I realised I wanted to spend more time at home with my family and I wanted to try and find something that could work around my children. So, I had a complete career change and trained to be a holistic therapist. I had thought I would work on my own and then I realised that’s really hard work, especially in my field, and it’s really hard to do everything that comes with running your own business such as marketing, social media, websites etc. by yourself. So, Jo was also on her own running her business and we were both ticking along quite well, but when we came together, we realised that our values, what we believe in and the way we want to help people were so aligned, and our thought processes were very similar, so that’s when we decided to join forces and thought we would be better working together.

“I think if we could see and hear from more females in high ranking positions or female entrepreneurs running their own empires, it might help encourage more women to apply for high-level jobs or to start their own businesses. ”

What is the best part of having your own business, and what is the most challenging part?

I think the best thing is being able to work around the family as you have more flexibility which makes it easier to juggle things. I’m a business owner but also a mum, and my family are the most important thing to me, which is why I wanted a business that could work around them rather than the other way round.

I think the hardest part is being an expert in all fields because when you’re a small business you can’t afford to pay somebody to do your marketing or your website, you have to learn to do these things yourself, especially when you’re starting out. When we first started, we were literally starting from scratch and we taught ourselves as we went along, and that’s one of my proudest achievements as it’s so difficult to be able to do so many different skills.

What qualities do you think are needed to become a successful business owner?

The first one that comes to mind is resilience. You have to be resilient and keep getting back up every time you get knocked down. We worked really hard to get our first clients, and when we did, Jo and I went out to dinner with our families to celebrate because it felt like such a big achievement. So, don’t give up and keep believing.

Time management is another really good quality you need to have because otherwise running your own business can become all-consuming. If you’re not careful you won’t get that balance right or have the time to spend with your children, and they’re only young once and they grow up so fast, so you need to be good at time management to be able to make the most of it.

You have to have a lot of perseverance! You may need to learn how to do lots of different tasks such as marketing, social media, networking etc., and while you don’t have to be an expert in them, you do have to have some level of understanding and to do these tasks at a high enough standard to represent your business in the best way. Some of these things may not be easy and will take you time to learn and hone your skills. Whatever you put out there represents you and your brand, so you want to make sure you get it right.

What impact do you think the pandemic and lockdown will have on gender equality in society?

Some of the statistics that I’ve seen have shown that more women have been furloughed or made redundant than men, and it’s mainly the female population who have taken on the role of the caregiver with home-schooling and things like that. So, from what I’ve seen it has been quite an unfair split. Hopefully when we go back into normal life that can balance itself back out again, because I think as a woman in business it’s so hard to be treated fairly and equally to men.

Jo and I wanted to keep that ethos of working the business around our families, and hopefully when we come out of the pandemic people will realise that you can do that, you can still work on your business and have children. It has been hard having the children working from home for so many people, but hopefully, people will come out the other side of it and realise that they are stronger than they thought, and it doesn’t have to be all the women looking after the children.

“I want to be a role model to my children more than anything and show them that they can do anything they put their minds to.”

In your opinion, what do you think is the best way for society to challenge gender bias and inequality?

I think the media has a large part to play alongside employers. I think if we could see and hear from more females in high ranking positions or female entrepreneurs running their own empires, it might help encourage more women to apply for high-level jobs or to start their own businesses. We need to inspire the next female generation to aim high!

What’s your next big goal?

I’m currently half-way through training with the Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute. Hopefully, I’ll finish the formal face-to-face training at the end of May and then it’s down to me to see when I feel ready to take my two exams. So, hopefully, in the coming months, I will become a qualified Pilates instructor! I’ll then be able to offer that as a service to businesses which aligns with my current business really well, and also works well with the rehab of my clients. A lot of the people that we see have musculoskeletal aches and pains, so it’ll be really good to be able to give them some exercises to do that could help them in their everyday lives.

Who is your biggest female inspiration or role model?

I don’t think I necessarily have someone that I follow or aspire to be like. I think I strive to prove to myself, and my children, that I can do this. I want to be a role model to them more than anything and show them that they can do anything they put their minds to, particularly my daughter, as I think she’s going to face more challenges than perhaps my son will.

What is your biggest hope for your children’s generation?

I think there’s so much more that could be done to equal the playing field between men and women. The gap between the genders has got to change and the way that the different genders are treated has also got to change for the better. But for both sides! I would like to know that if my son has children, that it’s not going to be assumed that his partner will look after the children and that he will be the main breadwinner, so actually I think it works both ways. It would be nice if more employers could realise that from a father’s point of view, they also need to be there, and to take the children to school and things like that, so it should be a level playing field for both across everything.