"You only get one chance to live the life you want to, so if you are not already doing so – look at ways in which you can create the life you wish to lead"
Founder, The Mind Tribe UK
CEO Jacquline Winstanely caught up with Katie Matthews to find out what makes her an inspiring and Inclusive Entrepreneur. Katie is a member of the Inclusive Entrepreneur community
Katie, you are An Inclusive Entrepreneur, a member of our Inclusive Entrepreneurship Community. It would really help me if you could set the scene so our visitors understand not only the concept but the person behind your brand.
"I am a 30 year old, Multi-Award-Winning, Disabled Entrepreneur, Trauma-Informed Practitioner, Global Mental Health & Wellbeing Trainer, Speaker, Mentor, and Growth Mindset Educator, with 13 years lived experience with mental illness. I am the Founder of two businesses, Co-Founder of two start-ups, Founder of two voluntary organisations, I'm the Northern Ireland National Director for the Global Entrepreneurship Network, and UK Director for Global Entrepreneurship Week. My main business, The Mind Tribe UK, provides mental health, growth mindset and wellbeing training courses, workshops and consultancy services across the globe. I deliver lived experience talks and workshops on youth leadership and entrepreneurship. I live with mental illness as well as a chronic, auto-immune condition which can cause extreme pain flares, fatigue, mobility issues and a myriad of other symptoms."
What led you to Entrepreneurship?
"Living with mental illness, after graduation from university I tried to work in a conventional job, working the 9-5 role, but was so unhappy and my mental health continued to decline, to the point where I was having panic attacks every day, and it was becoming unfeasible for me to continue. I was signed off work for 6 months with mental illness, for the first time in my life, and it was during this time I realised I needed to work for myself. This allowed me to have a sense of control over my time, I could work on the things I was actually passionate about and realise the full potential I knew I had inside of me."
How did you embark on the Entrepreneurial journey?
"Despite battling with mental illness for the last 13 years, I established Excel In Education Tutoring School in 2015 aged 23, to support N.I’s future generations, providing quality, academic tuition and educational support. Excel was Northern Ireland’s first professionally registered tuition service with The Tutors’ Association, and the first tuition provider in the UK to achieve the Bronze, Silver and Gold Accreditation with the Children’s Activities Association.
The Mind Tribe UK (TMT) was established in April 2019, aged 27, the month after receiving diagnosis of a chronic auto-immune condition. I started both my businesses with just £50 and have now trained over 8000 people across the globe in the last 3 years, and are Northern Ireland’s first and only dedicated Growth Mindset Course providers."
Did you feel that this was tougher for you than for people without disabilities?
"In some respects, yes, as there was no financial security and some days it would be difficult to keep going, but I tried to use these as the reasons for me to keep going and doing what I can, when I can. I’ve just had to learn to work in a different way, that suits my needs and lifestyle."
Why this particular business and brand?
"I believe that as an entrepreneur, it’s important to also be a leader and role model in the wider business community. In December 2020, at just 28 years old, I was appointed as the Northern Ireland National Director for the Global Entrepreneurship Network, and after just 14 months in the organisation, aged 29, was appointed UK Director for Global Entrepreneurship Week. The Mind Tribe UK has grown significantly in the last 3 years and has trained over 8000 people across the globe to date. We are also NI’s only course providers of “Creating a Growth Mindset Workplace Culture” demonstrating my creativity and innovative nature. In the last three years, as well as running my businesses, founding two new start-ups and running two voluntary organisations, I have completed 300 Hours of Pro-Bono work and 150 Hours Volunteer work, am Vice-Chair of the Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon Area Policing Community Safety Partnership, was a regional judge and panel chair for The Diana Award 2020 & 2021 and have completed the British Council Future Leaders Programme."
What successes have you had along the way that you are particularly proud of?
- Young Entrepreneur of the Year | Finalist | FSB NI Awards
- #ialso UK Top 100 female entrepreneurs | Small Business Britain
- NI 30 Under 30 List
- Appointed UK Director | Global Entrepreneurship Week UK | GEN UK
- NI Young Business Person | Winner | Belfast Telegraph
- Member: All-Party Parliamentary Group for Inclusive Entrepreneurship
- UK BBRS SME Liaison Panel Member
- Appointed Northern Ireland National Director | Global Entrepreneurship Network UK (GEN UK)
- NI 40 Under 40 List
- Young Entrepreneur of the Year | FSB Northern Ireland
Mention some of the obstacles you had to face and overcome to get to where you are today.
"Too many to go into detail as there are daily challenges as an entrepreneur, especially as an entrepreneur with a disability, but the main challenges I have faced are living with mental illness, physical limitations of the auto-immune condition, finance and starting businesses with very minimal budgets, trauma and PTSD that was holding me back and was able to go to specialised trauma-counselling for this which enabled me to move forward, and also bankruptcy when I was only 26! So there has been a plethora of obstacles and mistakes, but they have all been part of my entrepreneurial journey and are all part of the learning process. I am proud of overcoming these obstacles and learning from the mistakes, to ensure that I grow into a more rounded, capable and reputable entrepreneur and leader."
What assistance have you had along the way, and how has that helped you get where you are today?
"My entrepreneurial journey started at Queen’s University Belfast, where I completed the InnovateHer female entrepreneurship programme as well as the Future Leaders Programme through the William J Clinton institute. That sparked my interest in entrepreneurship, as previously I had not considered this an option that would be feasible for me. Also, role models and networking have been crucial, in building a supportive network around me that is prepared to work with me, nurture me, and also act as a critical friend, that allows me to continually improve. There have been so many incredible people along the way that have helped me in many ways, and I am grateful to them for their support and guidance."
As an entrepreneur, what would you advise other disabled people who are also considering embarking on a similar journey?
"You only get one chance to live the life you want to, so if you are not already doing so – look at ways in which you can create the life you wish to lead. We can only spend so long doing things that do not make us happy, do not fulfil us and do not spark a passion within us. I would say to consider the life you wish to lead, what it looks like, what support you would need, and what actions you need to take to make it a possibility. Ask for help when you need it, don’t be afraid of embracing change and remember that we all fail, we all make mistakes, and we are always learning. Plan your steps, plan for the worst-case scenarios so that you have back up plans in place, e.g. financially etc but also consider the best case scenarios and remember why you wanted to do it in the first place. Don’t focus on what you can’t do, look at what you can do and how any barriers can be overcome."