Independent Lives (Norfolk) Ltd

Business Name:  Independent Lives (Norfolk) Ltd

Support Received:  Start Up Loan and Start & Grow

Location:  Norfolk


With a passion for supporting those with disabilities, when Social Workers Graham Hope and Amanda Martin met for a coffee, conversation soon turned to an idea about setting up a new day service in Norfolk.

Their vision developed and, before they knew it, the wheels were in motion for a day service for people over the age of 18 with learning disabilities.  With support from enterprise agency, Nwes, the business took shape and Independent Lives (Norfolk) Ltd was founded in September 2016, with an ethos of ‘because independence is a right, not a choice.’

We spoke to Amanda and Graham about their new venture.

Tell us more about Independent Lives (Norfolk) Ltd

We offer plans that are tailored to meet the needs of each member.  Independent Lives provides a variety of activities, including opportunities to develop independent living skills. We also offer therapeutic learning, including art, drama and gardening, and community based activities, such as swimming, horse riding, and trips to the cinema.

We offer families flexibility.  Our core hours are 9am to 5pm, however we can accommodate our members between the hours of 8am and 6pm.  This gives families leeway when they are trying to fit services around their working day.

We are based at Lodge Farm Barns in Bawburgh, with both the countryside and the city on the doorstep.  We are already welcoming and seeing the benefits to members who use the service, and the feedback has been nothing but positive.

How did you feel when you welcomed your first member?

It has been a whirlwind of an experience; we have established the business, found our ideal premises, and have written our own policies and plans from scratch – all within six months, and while holding down other jobs.  However we wouldn’t change a thing.

There’s a real sense of achievement – a ‘wow we’ve done it’ moment!  Independent Lives (Norfolk) Ltd is everything we had hoped for, and more.

It’s a massive change for us, but it has been worth it.  We see happy faces every day.  Families are reassured, and we hear great reports about how much the members enjoy their time with us.

How valuable was the support of Nwes?

We wouldn’t be here now without Nwes.  Our Business Advisor, Paul Walmsley ‘gets us.’  He understands our vision and believes in us.  The contacts we have made as a result have been invaluable.

How did you use your Start Up Loan?

High on the priority list was finding somewhere to base the business.  After viewing a lot of properties, we instantly knew that Lodge Farm Barns was the ideal home for Independent Lives, and we set to work to make it fit for purpose.

Through Nwes, we were able to apply for a Start Up Loan, which allowed us to equip Lodge Farm Barns with exactly what we needed, including a kitchen, care room, and a sensory room.

Although the members take priority, the sensory room is also available for private hire – a fantastic resource to be able to offer other families in the community.

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“We never imagined being business owners five years ago!  It has been hard work, with only one day off since Christmas, but we are both working for a project we feel passionate about, and the pride we feel is immense.”

What are your plans for the future?

We already have plans to develop and grow.  We are hoping to gradually take on more units within the Lodge Farm Barn complex as we expand.  We were delighted to recently be accepted onto Norfolk County Council’s Approved Providers list, and we are thankful for the recognition and support of the local authority as we move forward.

We are currently a team of four, including Manager Sasha, who brings with her specialist knowledge of Autism.  We are already looking for recruit more staff to meet the needs of members who will be joining us in the near future.  We have also been approached regarding expanding the service further afield outside of the county, but for now we wish to concentrate on perfecting the service in Norfolk.

We will also continue to receive support from Nwes through the Start & Grow programme.

How has your start-up experience been?

We never imagined being business owners five years ago!  It has been hard work, with only one day off since Christmas, but we are both working for a project we feel passionate about, and the pride we feel is immense.

To others who are considering going it alone – don’t give up.  Stay focused – it’s hard work but you will find a way.

We were both so excited that we just kept going, and it’s been worth it.  We’re really glad we spoke to Nwes.  Paul has been supportive since day one, and continues to be so.

The absolute highlight has been achieving what we set out to do.


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