Sylvia Douglas, MsMissMrs

douglas_150430_0024Knickers play a big part in Sylvia Douglas’s ongoing business adventure, but there’s much more to this passionate empowerment entrepreneur than pants.

Started officially in July 2013, Sylvia’s north Glasgow community interest company MsMissMrs is a shining example of entrepreneurial flair and ethical enterprise. By providing a 21 hour learning programme designed specifically to build esteem and self-belief in women who have experienced abuse, violence, neglect or deprivation, Sylvia offers not just heart and soul, but hope and new ways of thinking.

With MsMissMrs, Sylvia works with women and girls of all ages in schools, women’s services and community organisations. The company’s programme of learning is based around cognitive behavioural and group therapies, using processes which begin to rebuild broken and badly bruised lives.

Sylvia stresses that MsMissMrs has no typical client, but all of the women on her empowerment programmes will go through a recovery and rebuilding process, and will learn how to take small steps towards developing their own self-care plan. Working in groups of 10, the women go on a self-awareness journey which covers all parts of their lives – everything from understanding physical and emotional well-being to setting boundaries and establishing positive relationships.

Of course, money’s too tight to mention for the majority of women who might benefit most from Sylvia’s self-esteem programme, and that’s where the pants play their part. To be able to offer fully funded places on the MsMissMrs programme to everyone who needs one, Sylvia also designs, manufactures and sells women’s Empowerment Pants. Cash made from sales of the colourful and high quality knickers is ploughed straight back into the programme, to support new beginnings.

Sylvia’s journey to the start of MsMissMrs was far from direct, but is rooted firmly in her own life experience. As a teenager she lived in a variety of residential care homes after a history of family abuse, but left care as soon as she could. She became a mum at 15, and had no real education, she was not even able to read and write well. But Sylvia was resourceful and tenacious even back then, and eventually she got back into education at the age of 19, starting from scratch and working her way up to graduation in 2002.

Sylvia says that the success of MsMissMrs is because she’s been able to put her own experience and education to the best possible use. Her own commercial eduction was supported and developed thanks to a Leadership Course at the Social Enterprise Academy, and she won a place on the highly sought-after business course at the School of Social Enterprise. But Sylvia’s quick to assert that the business is much bigger than she is, it’s a collective, community affair.

Back at the beginning, MsMissMrs was helped to get going thanks to a loan to produce the first pile of pants, and a start-up grant from Firstport. Now, under Sylvia’s inspirational leadership and entrepreneurial flair, and the guidance of its board of directors, MsMissMrs is financially sustainable thanks to sales of Empowerment Pants and ever-increasing numbers of programme bookings.

The next step is growth, and that means more money, more staff and an even greater commitment from Sylvia to go to the next level of risk and responsibility. But this is a woman with real passion, drive and ambition to give something back. Negotiations are underway to develop a new community business hub in north Glasgow, and with a MsMissMrs programme licence expansion being planned, the business is bound to get bigger, and better.

With major investment applications in the pipeline and plans in place to increase the staff count to 6, superheroine Sylvia aims to provide even more jobs and profit from MsMissMrs in a part of the country where it matters, a lot. And there’s nothing pants about that.

Follow Sylvia @msmissmrs1 or visit http://www.msmissmrs.co.uk/

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