A North East social entrepreneur is embarking on a mission to make worry-free short breaks and wellbeing activities accessible to people with physical disabilities.
Tara Johnson of Whitburn, South Tyneside, has launched the Tailored Leisure Company – a social enterprise focused on breaking down the barriers that prevent disabled people from taking part in activities many of us take for granted, such as exercise classes, relaxing at a spa, swimming or going on holiday with family.
Tara was inspired to set up the business because of her own experiences living with cerebral palsy and her professional background in health and social care engagement work within her local community. She has enlisted the support of a team of people who work in the social care sector to help drive her ambition to give people in the North East better access to independent leisure opportunities that are tailored to their needs.
Tara said: “As a busy working mother of two young children who uses a large powered wheelchair, I know only too well how hard it is to find a holiday or a simple activity I can do independently that’s fun for all the family and doesn’t require a car full of equipment.
“That’s why I have founded Tailored Leisure – to provide people with physical disabilities with truly accessible opportunities to get fit, have fun and feel relaxed and rested with as little stress as possible.”
The ultimate aim of Tailored Leisure is to create a series of accessible short break holiday cottages, with all of the equipment, facilities and services needed to ensure the whole family can enjoy a worry-free break with all the comforts of home plus some added little luxuries and experiences.
Tara and her team are now working with families in the North East to find out exactly what would make their stay perfect so they can build a service that truly listens to its customers. They are appealing to people to get involved by completing a quick survey on the company’s Facebook page which will shape plans for the new development.
In the meantime, the company has been working behind the scenes to develop a range of unique services including a new spa therapy service featuring an accessible hot tub and changing area for individual or family sessions and pool parties. The service will launch later this year as COVID-19 guidance allows.
Keen to provide support to customers during the pandemic, Tailored Leisure also developed its first exercise programme, Sit to be Fit at Home, after securing funding from the National Lottery Community Fund. The free online programme launched this week and aims to give customers the chance to meet new people, have fun and feel better while isolating at home during these challenging times.
Tara’s plans were also boosted recently when she secured a place as an entrepreneur on Innovate for Good, a business incubator launched by the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) to support social enterprises. She also received a startup grant from UNLTD and a place on its Move Me On programme.
Tara added: “It’s an incredibly exciting time to be working on a project that is so close to my heart and to see us develop things that we hope are unique and make a difference to people’s lives.
“We live in a world where leisure and short breaks are so important for everyone’s wellbeing, but it’s not as easy when you have a disability or a family member that needs some extra support. There are so many things to think about instead of the most important thing which is having fun and making memories. I hope our service and the organisations we work with will begin to change that.”