“I was chatting to my freelance colleague Jade about wanting to set up my own business, and she recommended The Prince’s Trust as her friend had been helped on the Enterprise course. I graduated from my masters degree in July 2019 and was looking for jobs within fashion, but I had a realisation that I wanted to make my designs my own job. It seemed crazy but I studied to refine my craft so I wanted to make it my business.”

Before joining the course, Valentina says she was finding things tough, as she had interviews every week but she just wasn’t sure what she wanted. She asked employers for a part-time, four day a week, position, so she could work on her business, and felt the employers thought she wasn’t one hundred per cent sure about the role.

“I didn’t realise my passion was so pressing. My last interview was in December, and then in January 2020 I just decided it was a new start and I was going to focus on my business. It was a time of self-discovery where I realised what I really wanted”.

Valentina completed the four day Explore Enterprise Course in May, and had to complete the course virtually during lockdown. She then got paired with a fantastic business mentor called Scott, who she speaks to constantly and has been a great support.

“He is so supportive. He doesn’t have to do this, he’s a volunteer! He is hyping me up, his skills are complementary to mine – it’s amazing. He has experience in sales and marketing, big business, tech start ups, and he’s been a big support all the time.”

Valentina has continued to work on her business with Scott’s support, and has attended monthly business growth workshops with The Prince’s Trust, where she has met other Prince’s Trust entrepreneurs who she has connected with.

Just today I was asking another Prince’s Trust entrepreneur about their Instagram strategy. As small businesses we have to stick together. The course has created a community for me. Usually being self-employed is a lonely job, and I have no collaborators at the moment. Having these people to talk to is so helpful.

“My favourite part of the programme was learning about marketing. It was something I hadn’t done before, and I hadn’t studied. I felt apprehensive about making sales, but on the course they were able to change that negative idea I had of sales people as pushy. It made me more confident. Just this morning, I was emailing companies I want to collaborate with. A few months ago, I would have been so apprehensive. But now I know it’s worth it. I also love cashflow now, and Excel sheets. It makes me feel more at ease, because I can predict cashflow.”

Valentina says that if she hadn’t started her business with The Prince’s Trust, she would probably be pursuing a PhD, but that it would have felt like her second choice. She said The Prince’s Trust was there to support her in a moment where she wasn’t sure what was next.

The course gave me focus. I didn’t know what the next step was. I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know how to get there. The support of the mentor, the course, everyone who helped, gave me a way to get to my end goal. I had no experience of running a business, but the course taught me the pros and cons. There are a lot of cons, but the pros outweigh them!

Valentina had a very productive lockdown and launched her business officially on 1st October 2020. She creates environmentally friendly, handcrafted interior products such as bowls, vases and coasters. She uses wood waste that she gets from Medway Council and mushroom mycelium (the ‘root’ of mushrooms) so her products are ethical, sustainable and local. She has also been shortlisted for a UN Young Champions of the Earth award – one of only five businesses in Europe to make the shortlist.

“The course gave me structure during lockdown, and so much purpose. In the future, I hope we can do pop-ups and physical markets, and scale up and be able to make more products. I want to spend time building my brand and securing funding to ensure we can the products more accessible.”

“None of my family in Italy can believe that I have got the support from The Prince’s Trust for free. You have to have the will to make it work, but The Prince’s Trust support you with all the things about business that you don’t understand. I would not have had the funds to pay for a business coach, so getting a mentor for free was amazing. You’ve got nothing to lose – it’s so exciting to run your own business and the support that The Prince’s Trust offers is amazing.”