When Sylvia Douglas ran her first empowerment workshop for MsMissMrs, her social enterprise, only two women turned up. Three years down the line (and 265 women later!), she’s opening up a new “empowerment hub” in Glasgow’s Maryhill.
Adorned with feminine decor and inspiring quotes, the new home will open its doors on Friday January 27 to women of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
Facilitating activities which encourage the wellbeing of women, the opening of the space aims to provide a comfortable environment for women to implement self-care techniques.
Sylvia says: “It’s great to go on a course and go ‘right, I’m going to go away and try these things and create my own self-care plan’ but what I was really interested in was creating a space where we could support those actions.”
The course she is referring to is the 21-hour Get S.E.T (Self-Empowerment Tools) programme, which she created specifically to build self-esteem in women who have faced a difficult path in life.
These workshops explore physical and emotional wellbeing, creating positive relationships, as well as setting healthy boundaries, empowering women to enhance their self-care.
With MsMissMrs, a Community Interest Company, now having an established HQ, programme participants can take an action-based approach for putting these practices into their daily routines.
But although the empowerment hub is new, Sylvia’s mission is not. It’s been three years since that first workshop, but in that time the former mental health worker and her team have been busy.
From participating in community outreach programmes, having the programme accredited by the Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network (ASDAN), as well as designing, manufacturing and even selling out of their Empowerment Pants, they’ve not let a little thing like lack of space stop them on their way.
Speaking of Empowerment Pants, those are no ordinary knickers; in fact, these are essential in sustaining the enterprise. Not only are they both comfortable and fun, all profits from sales are ploughed into funding places on the programme, ensuring access for women who may benefit from the course the most.
The super-heroine theme was implemented by self-confessed “Marvel geek” Sylvia herself, who had noted the lack of strong female representation in the franchises. What to do when there’s no super-heroines to look up to? Become one, of course – all with the help of these pants.
“Underwear…it’s something that we wear, we know it’s there, they can give us that extra boost – ‘well, I’ve got my empowerment pants on today’!”
So not only are the pants helping women secure places on the course, they’re also a nod towards helping wearers feel that little bit more heroic –and who doesn’t need that, every now and then?
Talking about her work, Sylvia is full of infectious passion and enthusiasm, as well as boundless empathy. In fact, it’s easy to slip into deeper discussion about the turmoil which comes from simply being a girl. But Sylvia has faced a difficult life journey herself, having grown up in numerous children’s units and having her baby at 15.
Although the determined businesswoman managed to attain her university degree and build a successful career for herself, it was that turbulent beginning in life that inspired her life’s work today.
“There were never any spaces for women to actually get together and talk about self-esteem, empowerment, and what that looks like. It was to change situations for other young women, and that’s where the concept for MsMissMrs came from.”
In that endeavour, Sylvia has enjoyed success so far. An incredible impact has already been built by the work of Sylvia, her team and those who have taken part in the courses.
Around 90% of participants on the programme have stayed in touch after completing them, with some even going on to use it as a reference for enhancing their employability.
And what became of those two girls who showed up to that first ever empowerment workshop? They’ll be volunteering at the new MsMissMrs hub, along with other former participants.
Now, the social enterprise is firmly on course for further success in its goals to boost women’s wellbeing. Upcoming plans for MsMissMrs include partnering with two other women’s projects, getting the Empowerment Pants into stores in the lead-up to Christmas 2017, all while establishing the new hub as a welcoming community space for women to use.
“So…quite ambitious!” Sylvia laughs.
Maybe ambitious, but with an ethical entrepreneur like Sylvia at the helm of the project, it looks achievable. For this enterprise with a knack for empowering the inner super-heroine in every Ms, Miss and Mrs, the future looks anything but pants.
For more information on MsMssMrs (and their pants), go here