My Lockdown Story: “What’s the worst that could happen?”

When Rachael Ladd entered lockdown, she was employed and her boys were happily in school. By the end of March, she was furloughed and providing crisis schooling. But in order to remain sane, have time for herself, and ensure lockdown wasn’t a wash out professionally, she worked on improving her skills and knowledge, coming out of lockdown primed and ready to go with a new business idea and fresh CV.

What is your career background?

I studied Interior Architecture at Victoria University in Wellington NZ, after graduating university I worked for a few years in New Zealand and then left New Zealand and went and worked in a large architectural practice in Perth Western Australia. It was in Perth I developed a passion to explore and travel and this set me off on my worldwide travels and adventures.

What motivates you?

I love creating and designing things.

My family, especially my boys and husband! He not only tells me to calm down and that I can achieve anything, but also helps me to deal with the huge imposer syndrome and doubt that plays on my mind constantly.

What 3 attributes do you believe you have?

Hard Working, Creative, Drive.

Tell us your lockdown story

At the start of March I was put onto Furlough and used the opportunity to up-skill my role and gain qualifications in Business Fundamentals Project Management, COSHH Awareness and CDM 2015 Awareness and Supply Chains. This was to benefit the design team I was working in as there was a lack of these skills but now greatly benefits me in roles moving forward. I started looking at the issues that would arise once I came back to work, I then started researching and following closely is looking at different suppliers and supply chains that we could work with to help offices in the post COVID 19 environment get back up and running.

This time also allowed me to learn and put my time into a side business that had been ticking along in the sidelines but I didn’t have enough time to give it. I have learnt about website design, SEO development, social media marketing it really has been an interesting journey and I am really enjoying learning new things

I found that having things to concentrate on gave me purpose and a sense of motivation as the days started merging into one. At the end of July I got the call from my line manager to tell me that my position had been made redundant. I was thankful to have the time on furlough so that I didn’t have to juggle the boys and work. Both boys are young and needed my full attention to understand and process just what was going on.

How did you select the training courses?

These were chosen so I could feed my new skills back into the design team, and up skill the team from with in the company.

As well as a certificate, what did the courses provide for you?

I found with having the boys home 24/7 my day was consumed with the boys and keeping everyone entertain, doing online study in the evening gave me something to focus on and made me feel like I had a sense of achievement and something to focus on.

How are you moving forward with these skills?

Since up-skilling I have broaden my skills for my CV and this has allowed me to be a stronger candidate for jobs going forward.

With regard to your new venture, how did you move from the ‘idea’ to the actual business

Steph is a former Chief Petty Officer of the Royal Navy, she is a UK swim teacher and Autism Swim approved instructor.  I am originally from New Zealand and a designer whose husband is a sergeant within the Army.

We set up the business after looking at how best to support my eldest son in the pool and children like him in terms of equipment. Not being able to find what we needed we decided to go ahead and start creating our own products. Our first product launch is a kickboard cover. This will allow children who are adverse to the texture of a standard kickboard to use them and will allow the children who like to sensory seek and explore with their mouths to do so hygienically without the risk of choking.

We really want to raise the profile of everyone involved in the area of inclusive swimming, particularly in regards to children who have autism.  And we want to explore how we can support families and their children who may feel like their needs are not being met.

What have been your main highs and lows in your journey from lockdown to now?

In terms of my life, I have felt very isolated but connected at the same time, I have learnt that I need to slow down and look at things, replying to an email straight away sometimes isn’t the best thing. Allowing myself time to exercise, eat and drink water has really been highlighted. Pre lock down we were leaving at 7:30am in the morning and rushing, basically running the boys into nursery and then jumping in the car to make sure I clocked into work at 9am. I was always rushing and feeling exhausted always justifying myself and being late.

COVID-19 has definitely thrown a spanner in the works! Despite living very close to my business partner we have frustratingly not been able to sit beside each other and discuss and chat things through and so with all military life we have had to adapt and improvise.  This does mean that we have a flexible way of working set up between us that will work wherever we are posted to in the future.  COVID has led to many delays in obtaining fabrics for production but we have used the time to hone our knowledge, seek out materials with the lowest carbon footprint that we can and really think about what the core values of the business will be going forward.

Since being made redundant I have really looked at my plans and that life needs to change and allow more balance. I’m not afraid of hard work and actually when you work for yourself you don’t mind working all hours.

I am so lucky that during this period we have received so much support online, particularly through Milspo, Heropruenuers and Recruit for Spouses, These have been key to answering our questions, networking and having a virtual online chat.

What advice would you give fellow Military spouses who want to get back into work, retrain for a new career or start their own business

Top Tip to any other spouses would be if you have a good idea, run with it.  Have the courage to follow it though and park all the imposter syndrome. Research as much as possible and as part of this, reach out to people outside of your bubble; this could lead you to some very influential people that can help you on your journey.

Both Steph and I started by reaching out to some pretty big organisations and it was definitely worth it for the positive feedback that we received. Our motto all along is to do something every week that scares us, because actually what’s the worst that could happen?

To learn more about Rachael and Steph’s business click: SwirlGlobal