Wednesday, 21 April 2021

‘Redundancy was best thing to happen to me’

‘Redundancy was best thing to happen to me’

A WOMAN has started her own garden design business after being made redundant from her job selling software.

Selina Craig, of Gravel Hill, Henley, says that following her passion for gardening has made her happier and calmer.

The 50-year-old had worked for software companies for more than 30 years after graduating from Hull University with a degree in computing and business.

In May last year, she was made redundant from her job at an American firm due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Then in August, she decided to start her own business and enrolled in a level 2 diploma course in practical horticulture run by the Berkshire College of Agriculture near Maidenhead.

Miss Craig, 50, said that, with hindsight, redundancy had been the best thing to have happened to her.

She said: “It was upsetting but the writing was on the wall really. I was doing really well but I had only been there for nine months, so it was a last in, first out situation.”

Without a job, she filled her time by volunteering with the Henley Mutual Aid group while also having interviews for software jobs.

Then she came up with her idea for an alternative career.

Miss Craig said: “I’ve been a passionate gardener for a long time and I was in my garden in the summer when I thought, ‘Why am I stressing about software when I could do something that I enjoy?’ Giving myself that time to think about it was good and a luxury I could afford at the age of 50.

“The old job was quite stressful — I was great at it but I’m also autistic and doing that level of work was hard, especially when I was managing 75 people.

“With hindsight, the redundancy is the best thing that has happened to me.”

Since starting her business, Miss Craig has completed a number of gardens jobs pro bono for friends and family to build up her portfolio.

She is working with local wholesalers, who provide her with plants, and local landscapers.

She has been helped to get the business going by her partner Chris Tapp, who owns his own architecture business and used to be chairman of trustees at the Kenton Theatre.

Miss Craig said: “Designing is my favourite aspect of the job as well as applying science botany and interpreting my customers’ needs.”

Science botany is part of her course as well as learning about surveying, disease, pests, different soils and the Latin names for plants.

“I go to college online two days of the week and garden for the rest of my time,” she explained.

“Being online, the course is a challenge but hopefully it’ll just be a few months. There are 20 other people on the course in the same position as me.”

Miss Craig has been able to carry on with her business throughout the national lockdown as she is working outside.

She said: “You couldn’t get a more lockdown-friendly job — people have grown more passionate about their gardens since the three lockdowns as they have been spending more time in them.

“Larger garden design companies usually just redo the whole garden in one but I do it more as a garden evolution.

“I come in and help customers improve the garden on a monthly basis over a long period of time depending on what their budget allows. That means we can see how different seasons affect things. I do it as a partnership with them.”

Miss Craig has named her company Dicentra Designs after her favourite plant. “I liked that it sounds technological, which also reflects my past,” she said.

To contact her, email 

Events and social media marketing manager Cherry Letsome (main picture) is trying to find work after being made redundant in March.

She used to work for a car dealership in Littlewick Green, near Maidenhead, before the pandemic hit.

She said being let go was devastating but she is taking a positive approach and offering her skills pro bono to company start-ups and others who may need her expert advice.

Miss Letsome, 31, who lives in Gainsborough Road, Henley, with her daughter Amelia, two, and fiancée James Rodgers, 42, said: “I loved my job so losing it was a kick in the teeth and it has been a very trying time.

“It’s difficult trying to find another role — it has been almost an entire year and I haven’t managed to find a full-time job.”

In order to “work”, she has been offering her skills for nothing and has helped TutorToo, an online tutoring company, and Back in Line, a chiropractor in Henley, as well as friends with businesses.

She said: “It’s just trying to set them up online and creating a social media presence. I figure out what I can do to help them, such as when to post and what to post. I let them know what is current and what their customers are looking for.”

Before working in social media, Miss Letsome worked in London for 10 years organising musical theatre productions.

She said: “I would like to stay working in social media as it’s something I really enjoy.

“At the moment I’m happily helping other companies or people who don’t have an idea about social media or the virtual world.”

To contact her, call 07775 441057.

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