The Phelps Journey to being Forever Savvy
Leicestershire business entrepreneurs and proud parents of three, Amanda and Robert Phelps have taken their ability to create successful and sustainable businesses to a new level with the launch of community project Forever Savvy.
This case study demonstrates how the family’s determination to provide an interesting and stimulating future for their son Jacob who has Down Syndrome, has fuelled the Forever Savvy vision to create outdoor education centres for adults with learning disabilities across the UK.
With limited employment and educational places available for adults with learning disabilities in the UK, and with 90% of Professional staff from Health & Adult Social Care* agreeing there is no adequate provision for this client group, this project became essential for the family to secure Jacob’s future.
The family opened its centre in Thurlaston, Leicestershire in 2011 and is proud to have received a Big Society grant from Leicestershire County Council. The project is supported by a number of volunteers, and is funded by regular local fundraising events and profits from Forever Living Ltd, their family business that distributes natural and organic products.
How it all began
College sweethearts, Amanda and Robert both graduated from university as computer programmers and became husband and wife in 1990. In 1996, they set up their first IT business called Specnet Ltd – little did they know the sale of this successful business in 2012 would help secure the future of Forever Savvy.
In 1992 Jacob, their first son, was born with Down Syndrome and a congenital heart condition that required lifesaving surgery. This was the year Amanda and Robert thought their world had ended but twenty years on it feels more like an amazing journey.
Then in 1994 Morgan, their second son, was born healthy, giving them the confidence that they could have a normal life and with their third healthy son Duncan arriving in 1999 – the family was complete!
In 2006 they formed their second business Leicester Jujitsu. The busy parents, both black belts and qualified martial arts instructors, were able to launch this business and participate in a sport all the family enjoyed.
Five years later their third business began to take off building a distribution network to show the health benefits of Forever Living natural products, which in turn gave them the confidence to form their fourth and as yet most challenging ‘not-for-profit’ business Forever Savvy.
Providing a fulfilling opportunity for their son
Amanda and Robert were disillusioned with the opportunities on offer for their eldest son Jacob when he left standard education aged 19 with predominantly part-time indoor college placements available.
So the challenge was to provide Jacob with a fulfilling and interesting job for life, where he could gain confidence and knowledge to help him with his transition into adulthood, and to ultimately live and improve his level of independence.
The family already owned two rescue horses, so decided to rent eight acres of land and create a purposeful job, challenging Jacob with responsibility and skills that would give him a reason to get out of bed each day.
Therefore the whole family including Grandparents, brothers, and close friends pulled their sleeves up and got the site ready for Jacob to begin his new job, which included making the paddock and surrounding grounds safe, creating storage and also an indoor work area.
Evolving into a Forever Savvy opportunity for others
As the project progressed over the last 2 years it became apparent that the job they had created for Jacob would also be suitable for other adults with a learning disability, so Forever Savvy created eight places which are available over two days the project is currently open.
Jacob and fellow attendees experience a healthy outdoor equine assisted learning programme which includes: land management, animal welfare, Parelli horse whispering techniques, gardening, basic catering and woodwork.
In 2012, to improve the facilities and offer even more life-long places to local people the Trustees decided to apply for additional funding from The Big Society Grant Fund back in 2012.
As part of the application process and to gauge the demand for further expansion of the Forever Savvy concept, the family carried out a survey of members of the Leicestershire Down Syndrome Support Group (254). The results revealed 99% of respondents would enrol their child if places were available, this was a huge boost to their confidence.
Commenting on the project, parent of a trainee at Forever Savvy Judy Warner said:
“As a parent with two young adults with Down Syndrome, Forever Savvy is a brilliant way of anyone with a learning difficulty to be involved with outdoor activities, working with other people and especially animals in their own environment.
“We are so pleased that the project received a Big Society Grant, as they need all of the help they can get to improve what is available already. I know Forever Savvy will become a very successful learning centre and an asset to the local community.”
The application was successful and funds of just over £8,000 were released earlier this year to make the improvements required and to begin an awareness campaign to promote the centre.
The synergy formed between the Forever Living Products and the Forever Savvy community project means the business now revolves around the home and family life, giving Amanda, Rob and their family a work-life balance that meets all their needs.
The short term plan is to fill the eight places available by the end of 2013 and to expand the Leicestershire business further during 2013/14 to accommodate 20 full-time attendees.
The project offers respite and relief for parents and carers and is an access point for the young adult to use their Personal Budget and improve their skill set.
The 20 attendees will ultimately look after their own chickens, grow extensive vegetable plots and open a tea room for visitors.
The long term vision of Forever Savvy as a Social Enterprise is to roll out the concept across the UK within 10 years.
*Source: 90% of Professional staff from Health & Adult Social Care agreeing there is no adequate provision for this client group http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GWC9D9M