If We Can You Can: Cygnet North East Limited

Kelly Oliver Dougall

If We Can You Can: Cygnet North East Limited

Kelly Oliver Dougall is the entrepreneur behind Cygnet North East Ltd, a company which helps clients with employment support and counselling. She talks to BQ about what inspired her to set up her business, and why she has entered it into this year's If we Can You Can challenge.

What did you do before setting up your business?

I worked in the voluntary sector and had a range of jobs due to redundancy and short term contracts. I was unable to progress past frontline worker and knew I had so much more to give. I was also the target of bullies in several of my roles and the final role I had it was so bad I decided that I had to set up for myself otherwise I would keep on being in toxic situations.

What inspired you to set up your business?

As above. I am passionate about working at a high standard and getting the very best possible outcomes for my clients – and inspiring them to do what they can for themselves. I wasn’t always able to do this within employment.

What makes this business different?

I have a huge vision with many different services all interlinking to enable clients to reach their full potential. Most other services say they are person centred, the way I work is solution focussed and person centred. I want to inspire people to follow their passion or they won’t be truly happy.

What inspired you to enter the If We Can You Can Challenge?

I’ve heard of it in previous years but didn’t feel like I was achieving what I needed to have a chance of winning, or even feeling confident to put myself forward. Now I have my vision and I am working towards it – I have found my passion and I wanted to enter so that I could showcase my company and spread the word. I think the challenge can help me get even more out of my comfort zone and one of the ways I need to do this is to speak more in public. The challenge will give me a supportive environment to do this.

Where do you see your business in three years’ time?

I see the business with home care and specialist brain injury services (particularly vocational rehab service) – this will involve employing staff. I think I will have at least 20 staff by then

What has been the most rewarding part of your journey so far?

Winning the LA7 contract with just Cygnet as lead (I am currently delivering round 2 in partnership with another company and this has had huge challenges) All success is the best drug out there! I am inspired by my clients too. When I can help them move forward that is very rewarding.

What has been your biggest challenge?

The reoccurring challenges have always been around working with other organisations – the same patterns that I had in employment have reoccurred – people shouting at me / not valuing my input.

The other challenge I have had is overcoming my mindset which limited me – this was interlinked with working with people who were not a good fit for me, the business and the values that we have at Cygnet.

Who/what gave you support or advice?

I have sought advice from as many different sources as I could find. Some of this has been invaluable and others not so much. If you don’t access the support though, you don’t know which is right for you and what your needs are now. 

What advice would you give to someone looking to set up their own business?

My biggest challenge was me. Overcoming my limiting beliefs has been the biggest challenge and I wish I had been able to seek help for this earlier. The other advice is to think big. Don’t focus on the negative people who will tell you how many businesses fail in the first three years! Focus on what you can do to achieve success as you get what you focus on.  I think fear comes into it a great deal too and you have to be able to let go of the fear (or feel the fear and do it anyway!) and get on with it.