After our own difficulties and finding ourselves penniless and having to start again on the dole in middle age, we spent five years from 2005 -2010 living without money. We were fortunate we grew up with mothers who knew how to make things stretch, I was one of six born on a council estate in the 1950s. So we didn't moan, we decided no credit, if we couldn't pay we couldn't have.
During this time we worked for free, surviving on no money, helping the homeless and inspiring women to swap clothes and recycle. Having been successful and being used to shopping for what we wanted this new way of living with just the purpose of being useful for comfort was a big change. ITV and BBC followed our story and as a consequence of this we were offered guest appearances as common sense life coaches on Trisha. We then created and performed a live swapping and styling on a budget show for a year at Butlins. Getting paid to delight our audiences by giving away lovely clothes we had rescued from car boots and charity shops and given a new lease of life was pure joy.
Touching and meeting pretty much the whole of the country and seeing how recession and poverty had zapped the life out of everyone, leaving them miserable broke and broken, we felt compelled to do something on a mass scale to help. With the help of a Leicester based Angel Investor we set up an International financial headhunting firm Wilson Purviss in October 2010 and began thinking of ways to get new clients on board and offer something sustainable and ethical to do with their recruitment spend. We set up a social enterprise.
Once Wilson Purviss, our headhunting company was set up, the social enterprise had to be web based, free to the user, non-profit and valuable information from personal experience that would help people take some personal responsibility for their own choices. The country has a growing obesity problem and having spent a lot of time meeting and trying to style the nation at Butlins we got massive insight into what was needed to stop the epidemic getting worse, the truth.
VenusCow.com was the idea, a free common sense, brutal truth life coaching website, with an online private journal for the user to begin facing some of their own truths. Through word search in the content and life coaching common sense tuition Venus Cow, the virtual life coach, helps guide and keep the user on track to achieve their goal. i.e. Lose weight, give up drinking, get a job etc.
It was important for us to make this a real social enterprise, getting people on board with the necessary skills to offer their expertise for free in order to help and give back in the bigger picture. Also we had no money to pay anyone. We approached our local university, De Montfort, Leicester, told the dean about our exciting free life coaching site idea as a social enterprise that once up and running companies using the head hunting service with their recruitment spend would go towards the massive task of marketing it to the nation. The university agreed to participate and assigned a student as part of their degree course to give us a working website with a journal that we could add to and create with our content. It turned out the recruitment business was not our passion or purpose. Later we found a new way to fund the free life coaching work. Shirley created The PBL. She was extremely passionate about the decline of Leicester's fashion manufacturing and reviving British manufacturing,
However we had proved it is possible without money to build a purposeful social enterprise supported by big business and those with skills and a conscience. (the big society idea)
Updated 20th July, 2020
In 2012 Shirley went to the City of London and raised finance to launch the Venus Cow Collection, made in Leicester using only the finest local textiles. Her goal to revive British manufacturing and begin to tackle the long standing problems within leicester factories and the UK garment industry by being completely transparent about her supply chain and ensuring equality and fair wages.
In Aug, 2019 The Mind Detective was published, part memoir, part psychology 101, part self help book for anyone interested in how you make a comeback from the gutter without money.
Photo by: Austrian National Library Unsplash