I never dreamed that when I first picked up a hula hoop around 3 years or so ago, that it would take me to No. 10 Downing Street, the residence of the Prime Minister of Great Britain! I often tell my students in my Birmingham and the West Midlands hula hoop classes that hula hooping can change your life, and it really is true. Last Thursday I was thrilled and honoured to represent Spinsonic Entertainment and hula hooping in general at a reception at 10 Downing Street, to launch Small Business Saturday and celebrate small businesses across the UK. My hula hooping allowed me to set up a successful small business of my own, teaching hooping, performing, and selling handmade hula hoops online. It also allowed me make new friends in the hula hooping and small business communities who have encouraged and supported me constantly. I have even been inspired to set up a second small business, www.lovedoctoruk.com
I was invited to the Downing Street reception along with the 100 small businesses selected for the Small Biz 100 list in 2016. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Although not being able to take a hula hoop no doubt contributed to the strangeness, it’s not often you find me without my hoop!
Arriving at the tall black metal security gates, I showed my invitation and ID to the policemen on duty, nervously eyeing up the armed police and feeling instantly guilty for some reason, a feeling that intensified as my bag went thought the scanner. Fortunately I am on the ‘good’ list and I passed through security without a hitch.
Approaching the shiny black door of No. 10 was exciting as I scrabbled for my phone for the obligatory selfies, only to be told we had to go straight in and take photos later.
Walking into the opulent reception area was breathtaking. We had to hand in our phones (the horror) and gave our coats to the cloakroom attendant. We proceeded up the stairs (as seen on Love Actually) resisting the temptation to re-enact the famous scene from the film. The collection of photographs of all the Prime Ministers was interesting, particularly interesting was the omission of David Cameron! Hope you get your selfie up on the wall soon Dave.
Once upstairs we entered the rooms where the reception was being held. It was a fantastic experience. Around 100 small business owners had all come together to celebrate their hard work and dedication, and the passion and energy in the rooms was infectious. The range of businesses represented showed the diversity of enterprise in Britain, with businesses including chocolatiers, herbal teas, vintage clothing, organic skincare, murder mystery events, lampshade manufacturers, educational apps, and organic farm produce. And of course hula hoop fitness and handmade hula hoops!
We had plenty of time to take in our surroundings, from the opulent chandeliers and staggering art collection to the view from the window of Buckingham Palace, and more than enough time to meet the other business owners and discuss our stories, challenges and successes. The true test of any venue however, is the toilets, and I was amazed to find that they were definitely not up to standard! Downing Street, what's going on? They were pretty shabby and one didn't flush. Come on Downing Street, don't let yourselves down!
We heard a speech from Margot James, the Minister for Small Business, and then headed back downstairs for photos and more time to chat before heading home, exhausted and happy after an inspiring day.
Starting and running a small business is incredibly hard work and can be a lonely enterprise. Small Business Saturday is a wonderful initiative that supports and promotes small businesses, and helps a network of small businesses to find each other and connect.