Hello! I'm Joanna, and I run Busy Life. Our flagship range is Diversity Designs™. The global COVID-19 pandemic has created a very uncertain landscape for millions of British small businesses including mine. Before I ask you to help keep me afloat until after this crisis has ended, I'll tell you about me and how Busy Life was born.
At the tender age of 50, I found myself with lots of qualifications and 30 years of work experience. My first career, as an Environmental Scientist, had been rewarding. I had tried to forge a career in teaching special needs in Higher Education. I nearly made it, but luck was not on my side. I am a worker bee, always have been, always will be. I needed to do something!
So, I began to think about what made me tick. I have always had a conscience in terms of challenging social oppression. I believe that communities have the power to act together to facilitate positive changes in society. I think that we need to think, speak, and act in the best interests of others, who may not be as fortunate as ourselves. In doing so, we can all make the world a better place for us to live today and for our children tomorrow. Personally, I can't sit back and wait for someone else to do something that I care about! Mostly, I think, all we need to do is be kind to ourselves and each other.
I have two passions in life. Firstly, I'm a keen amateur runner. I am not fast but I always reach the finish line! I also believe passionately in a positive view of disABILITY. We are all human, everyone is of equal value, and should have the opportunity to live the life they want to live. I have a few labels of my own, a son with Asperger Syndrome and a Doctorate in Special Needs Education. For me, it's all about a range of possibilities across being human.
After completing my Doctorate, I was unable to find a job teaching Special Needs in Higher Education. So, I decided that if I couldn't find a niche I would carve one out for myself, and Busy Life was born.
At the beginning of 2019, I built a website and opened my gift shop. I also committed to donating to a different charity every month. I found I really enjoyed this; I've found my niche! Since then I've added several product ranges, that have grown organically, and are a reflection of me and my values. I love to write and champion inclusion; I value kindness, smiling, and giving.
Busy Life is an e-commerce business that uses the collective purchasing power of society to do good. I am always thinking about new ideas to add to my portfolio! The rest is recent history, and as described throughout my website. Have a look and see!
My flagship and multi-award-winning, Diversity Designs™ range, bridges the divide between my two passions, a positive view of disABILITY and my love of running. I'll now explain how Diversity Designs™ was born.
Type in ‘disABILITY’ into a search engine and frequently you see variations of the wheelchair sign and walking sticks. Of course, I don’t have a problem with that. Both may be needed by anyone who has difficulty moving around unaided. What I do have a problem with is the lack of inspiring and empowering images of disABLED people.
DisABLED people makeup one in five of the population and are twice as likely to be inactive as someone without a disABILITY. However, 4 out of five disABLED people say they would like to be more active.
Parasport has shown that someone with an impairment can achieve at the highest level. So, why are the images of them doing so rarely seen? For me, it’s because disABILITY isn’t fully understood nor embraced by the majority of the non-disABLED population. It’s also a little bit scary. This is not a criticism, but my reflection as to where society is at present as to how it views impairment. What we need is a more inclusive society that welcomes the diversity of the human in all its infinite forms.
To achieve the aim of a society that truly values diversity and is inclusive, inspiring and empowering imagery of disABILITY needs to become part of mainstream culture. Increasing the imagery of parathletes that people see every-day can make a significant contribution to this aim and to overcoming the social barriers that persons with disABILITIES encounter so they can be more active. You see it, register it (maybe subconsciously), and the imagery just becomes part of the daily landscape (just as it should be!)
When I started my business in March 2019, I really wanted to create products that championed my two passions, disABILITY and running. I thought there must be other businesses that do this but it soon became clear there was not. Despite extensive searches of the Internet, I was unable to find any inclusive clothing or merchandise range that focused on disABILITY. (Inclusion is generally associated today with sexuality and body shape and that, for me, does not reflect the meaning of this concept in its entirety). My findings strengthened my resolve to create my own range and Diversity Designs™ was born. This video says it all!
Diversity Designs™ is currently made up of:
The "Run, girl, run" and "Run, boy, run!" collections:
- Curvy Runners (me!)
- Slim Runners
- Blade Runners
- Young Runners
- Physically Impaired Runners (amputees and wheelchair users)
- Visually Impaired Runners
and two "Basketball Player" collections, one for girls and one for boys.
At present, I have two print on demand stores that I sell my Diversity Designs™ range through. Here are some of my favourite products at the moment:
The feedback from the running, parasport, disABILITY and retail communities is overwhelmingly positive. For example, I have had a collaboration with Parasports World. Parasportsworld.com covers news in the paralympic sports, entertainment, and disability sports community. I am also supported by US Paralympian and medal-winner Kym Crosby. Kym is a visually impaired athlete. Stuart and Kirsty Bloor are also supporting me. They are both GB elite para wheelchair athletes. I am honoured that they have chosen to wear my Diversity Designs™ T-Shirts. Most recently I have added two "Basketball Player" collections; one for girls and the other for boys. The clothing and merchandise on offer mirror that of my running collections and of course use inspiring and empowering designs. I believe everyone can play sport and Diversity Designs™ aims to reflect that ethos. My range is unique and a world first. I'm very proud of my Diversity Designs™ range.
In the press, I've had articles published in leading disABILITY lifestyle magazines such as Able Magazine & Disability Horizons. Diversity Designs™ has also been featured by UKrunchat, the UK's leading facilitator of chat for all things running.
As well as winning numerous small business awards on Twitter, (I'm very proud of all of these) I won Highly Commended at the Disability-Smart Awards 2019. I came second only to Microsoft! This year, I'm delighted to be one of the f:Entrepreneur #ialso100 2020. This campaign is a celebration of inspirational businesses led by women in the UK. My Diversity Designs™ range is shortlisted in two categories for at "The Running Awards" this year. I also have two nominations for the National Diversity Awards 2020 and three in the Think Global Awards 2020. It's very exciting times for Busy Life!
Is to spread the word that running is for everyone, however, you run by creating a Diversity Designs™ Technical T-Shirt.
Wearing a Diversity Designs™ Technical T-Shirt will show you support inclusion in the running community. It will also be a great conversation starter with other runners who share your passion for this wonderful sport. Most importantly, the T-Shirt will help to overcome social barriers so everyone feels they can run, regardless of ability.
Thank you for reading. I really hope you will support me in championing inclusion so that running is something everyone can enjoy, just as they should be able to. Best wishes, Joanna #thinkINC