Jodie Larsen and Grace Beard Support People Finding Their Purpose with Paws and Pause

April 22, 2021 | | 0 Comments

Paws and Pause
Paws and Pause

Jodie Larsen and Grace Beards spoke about their work with Paws and Pause, a social enterprise doggy daycare center providing opportunities for the unemployed recovering from mental health and addiction. The pair first started working together when running a project for St. Mungo’s, a homelessness organization in London. This is where they first began incorporating dogs in their work, which would lead to launching Paws and Pause in 2019.

At St. Mungo’s, Jodies and Grace were able to learn about the stages of transitioning to a more sustained life of people experiencing homelessness. People in the programs expressed a need to return to activities that allow people to have fun and rebuild soft skills. Activities could be a day trip to a theme park or walking park; people only need space to regain confidence in daily life. With this same principle, Paws and Pause allows participants to relearn what it feels like to interact with others and have fun. Grace described it as a “slight sense of normality, a slight escapism from maybe the kind of overwhelming challenges that they might be facing at that time.”

Recovering depends on each person’s individual journey for what they need to be supported, and avoid entering  a cycle of coming reentering the program. Some participants may need to be placed in a job soon after joining, so they can have a sense of purpose or fulfillment. Another group of participants may need to wait longer, so they feel more equipped to restart employment. If people are not supported to a point where they are willing to take a leap, they will go in unprepared and perhaps relapse into what they are trying to grow away from.

Jodie and Grace explained the relationship Paws and Pause built with the customers. Overall, the customers view the initiative positively, since the initiative supports social impact while providing a quality service. It also doesn’t hurt that the dogs receive more cuddles and playtime. Paws and Pause did focus on promoting the service more than the social element in the early stages. The initiative was mindful about the stigma around “addiction” and “mental illness” that could cause customers to be wary of sending their dogs to this doggy daycare. Mindfulness and learning along the way is part of the journey for Jodie and Grace starting Paws and Pause as their first business experience.

In their first experience, the major lessons the pit learned include interacting with people. They break down one misconception many social entrepreneurs have around sharing ideas. Then, they touch on what will help social entrepreneurs when considering how to delegate tasks. A huge lesson came from organically speaking with people in similar organizations, where the support would increase based on networking within the community.

Moving forward, Paws and Pause pains to diversify the pet industry and open other locations. Through their work, Paws and Pause is continuing to help people explore what they want to do.

If you’d like to learn more you can check them out on their website, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Read Full Transcript

Adam: [00:00:00] Welcome to People Helping People, the podcast to inspire greater social change and give you ideas on how to take action. I'm your host, Adam Morris.

And I'm super excited to have Jody and grace from Paws and Pause on our podcast as a guest today. Not only because I love dogs, but my own volunteering with the Samaritans in London gave me insight into how much our mental health can impact our ability to thrive. Jodie and Grace started Paws and Pause in 2019 as a social enterprise doggy daycare center, providing opportunities for the unemployed recovering from mental health and addiction.

So let's dive in and explore what this means. Grace and Jodie, welcome on the podcast.

Jodie: [00:00:40] Hi, thanks for having us.

Adam: [00:00:42] Can we start off, can you just tell us a little bit about what Paws and Pause is?

Grace: [00:00:47] So Paws and Pause is a dog daycare. So we look after people's dogs during the day, a bit like a nursery, like for children, but for dogs. And then alongside that, we provide employment training programs. So people in recovery from mental health and substance addiction. So that's where the Paws and Pause kind of intertwines.

The dogs are a motivator for people to attend and the dogs get extra cuddles from the extra people that are around.

Adam: [00:01:19] I love that. Now, how did the two of you get started?

Jodie: [00:01:23] We met a few years ago working together for St. Mungo's which is a homeless organization in London. So we ran a project together, working with people in recovery, from substance use to make decisions and think about the next steps in their lives. So it was during that time when we started to bring dogs into work with us through the Borrow My Doggy Scheme. I saw the impact that had on people.

And they wanted lots of people who worked with, wanted to volunteer with animals. And there was just wasn't any opportunities. So after trying it out, I think about a few different ideas. We came up with Paws and just started it.

Adam: [00:02:05] And you started that in 2019.

Grace: [00:02:07] Yeah. So for ages, we were going back and forward with different ideas. We knew we wanted to combine dogs and animals with mental illness and recovery, but we weren't quite sure what we were going to do. So we spent about a year and a half, like going backwards and forwards. Thinking of different ideas and how we could do it going with really big ideas and then bringing it down to a smaller kind of concept.

And then we finally decided on a dog daycare. We really wanted a business that would fund itself. So then we found our venue in April and then we started in August.

Adam: [00:02:46] So you had about six months of running before COVID hit.

Grace: [00:02:50] Yeah, exactly.

We closed for like about three months. And then when the restrictions started to lift in England, we reopened. And then everybody got a dog in lockdown. I think the latest figure from one of the British newspapers was the UK has like 2.9 extra million dogs. So we were in quite a lucky industry and we bounced back quite quickly.

Adam: [00:03:15] Oh, that's super cool. I'd love to go back a little bit to the volunteering you were doing at St. Mungo's. I'd just love to hear, like what you heard from working with people who are homeless or experiencing mental health and some of the struggles that they were facing.

Jodie: [00:03:30] Yeah. So we worked project together. So the people we were directly supporting were referred to us through substance use teams. So the high majority of those people experienced homelessness in some form. In the UK, we think about street homelessness initially, actually, it encompasses a huge other kind of group of people that are affected by this and people that are put in, temporary housing, sofa surfing and living in the BnBs that the local authorities and then and it's and people in that situation there, the thought of doing anything steady, like work or employment is is near impossible. The people that we generally work on that project were largely thinking about what kind of a next step work genuinely moving into more stable accommodation. And so now thinking about, okay, what's next. And actually, a lot of people that was so daunting because they haven't worked for, if not decades and just have no idea what they wanted to do. So we were employed to really focused on the employment elements for people, but actually, a lot of the work we focused on was around the kind of social skills how to interact in a group, how to figure out what people enjoy.

We really how do we focus on people need to have fun and do something else that isn't thinking about them into their illness or their addictions. So we go on day trips and go-karting and Thorpe park, theme parks, because actually, that was a huge thing for people to have some kind of normalcy and just start living a bit. And then we could get to the soft skills build up. There was confidence and then think about the next steps. And that's something we've really tried to bring in to Paws and Pause.

Adam: [00:05:23] How do you bring that into Paws and Pause?

Grace: [00:05:25] Yeah. I guess we really try and bring in as much fun as possible at Paws and Pause. It's super important to us that our dogs have a really fun day and they playing all day and therefore that kind of transfers to our trainees as well, who is really important for us, that they have a fun day when they're in, when they're in our center, playing with the dogs, interacting with the dogs, which kind of just gives us an, a slight sense of normality, slight escapism from maybe the kind of overwhelming challenges that they might be facing at that time. And just actually just have a break for a minute, cuddle the dog, play with the dog.

Let's de wind a little bit before we start looking at all of that.

Adam: [00:06:09] What does the training program look like?

Jodie: [00:06:12] We recruit trainees through a number of different channels in the community. People come in for an initial meeting, see if they like being around the environment. And then people stay with us like one day, a week for six months. So they get involved with walking the dogs in the morning, looking after them paying games, feeding. But then also people develop like little projects on their own. So someone might be interested in working with animals and then they can develop an enrichment project for them, or get involved in some of the more kind of how to do basic health checks or someone's thinking more about going into something that requires like admin skills or social media, they can reall y get involved in that kind of business side with us and different skills in those areas.

And then the idea is that during the six months trainees really feel employable and feel like they've got the confidence and the skills to make decisions about the next steps of work. And also one of the things we try and work with people is around how they're gonna manage their mental health when they do get back into the workplace.

So it's sustained rather than so many employment projects just match people with a job and, that's an outcome and off you go. Actually really want to make people feel like they've got the tools to make decisions themselves going forward and make decisions that are going to improve their wellbeing and be like long term decisions that they make.

Adam: [00:07:42] That sounds like a very important point that, whatever mental health experiences you have, they don't disappear overnight. And so you need some long-term strategy for here's how I'm going to be successful in the long term. And it's not just, here's a job that you can go to, but you mentioned the confidence multiple times that you're building confidence in your own skills so that you'll be successful in the future. Can you talk a little bit about why that confidence is so important?

Jodie: [00:08:11] Yeah, I think having the confidence to, have ambition and have the confidence to think, actually this is this, that X, Y Z is something that I really want. And so often people felt like they can't do that or that they don't see a way to get there, and actually if people have achieved something and have completed something and feel like they've got the tools to move forward with it and got the tools to be a bit more resilient. So actually, you know what, it might not, it might be hard to get there but actually, people are feeling like we'll let you know there are going to be setbacks, but I will be able to apply for the next thing and it's going to be okay.

And, eventually I will get there. It's so important to be able to move forward and develop and also have the confidence to then, speak to the right people. If you're not being treated fairly in the workplace, that kind of thing.

Adam: [00:09:04] For somebody who's coming out of addiction. How long does it typically take to really get their feedback on the ground?

Grace: [00:09:11] I'm not sure that there is the right amount of time for anybody. I think everybody is on their own individual journey and that's going to look completely different for each person. If somebody has maybe been in addiction for, five, 10, 15, 20 years. It's going to take a long time to rebuild their lives and find out who they are without that substance.

Which is really kind of part of what was really important to us is actually you are so much more than this thing that you'll feel having trouble with at the moment. You're all these other wonderful components. And that's a real once you're coming off that substance its a real-time to explore all of that and which you might have not had the opportunity to do. It's how long this piece of string is, it's completely different for each person and what each person needs. Sometimes getting into an employment quite swiftly can be really key for someone's recovery because it becomes part of their identity. It's something that proud of.

And it keeps on that momentum, but for others, it's going to be much, much longer than that. And I think it's really important to each individual to be on their own journey and supported and empowered to understand what they need. Rather than programs, which are right. Okay.

You, off that substance back into a job, and you often see a kind of merry-go-round effect where people are just not ready and not supported enough. And they come background into treatment again having lapsed. But having, probably being put into a position which they just were not ready.

Adam: [00:10:41] What are some of the things that can help prepare people for going back into the workforce?

Grace: [00:10:47] Where we start when we work with someone is yeah, How do you know where to start when you don't know where to start? What do you do? You've you've got to this point and it can feel a bit overwhelming. You've got all these opportunities. You've also got no opportunities, like literally, where do you start?

Kind of just breaking it down, looking at what are you good at? What do you enjoy? What kind of excites you? And that might have been at school. If someone has not really explored that since then, or it could be just like trying new things now and finding out what is it that you like?

We also do like harder skills, like CVs and interviews and applying for jobs and that's all great, but really what is about finding out what someone wants to do, what makes them tick, what's going to work for them. In their life and what's going to be sustainable. And Jodie has mentioned managing your mental health in the workplace.

So how, when you get back into work, how are you going to keep yourself safe? How'd, you know, what your rights are at work? What can you ask for? Can you feel empowered to have those conversations as well?

Adam: [00:11:47] That's interesting. What you say about knowing about your rights at work? Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Jodie: [00:11:52] Here if you have a recognized disability , you have the right to have, things put in place so that you can do that job. And that includes mental health as well as people's physical health.

Things like we call the reasonable adjustments over here. So if people, people need things put into place adjusted start times or a different way that the manager might communicate with them to not make them feel overwhelmed. So many different things actually employers can do to make people feel more supported.

Over here, it's that workplaces are getting better. They are recognizing that they need to support people in these ways, but it's still got a really long way to go. Managers are slowly in certain companies and things to getting up to speed with these things because ultimately, keeping employees and safe at work is, It also in their interest you have a huge number of people who leave jobs because of that mental health.

When, if it was a physical health problem would have been given the right support to manage in their job and give it appropriate time off. Whereas we just don't see that with people just as much stigma around mental health in particular substance use that people often will quit or leave a job rather than seek for support within the workplace that that they need.

And actually, the more conversations people have around the stigma can hopefully, make things better for employees and employers. as well.

Adam: [00:13:26] That makes a lot of sense. I've always noticed that mental health is one of those. Things that's difficult to talk about. Because it's awkward for people or people really don't understand it. So it's easier to avoid things that you don't understand than to actually have those conversations.

When at the end of the day, it's sometimes like just that curiosity and being able to talk about it can change how somebody recovers, just if they're in a place that feels welcoming where they can be themselves and it's okay.

Jodie: [00:13:58] Yeah, absolutely. We spend the majority of our working life as adults in a workplace. And, you've got more time than probably anywhere else. It just feels it should be the place that it's like safe and supportive and that you can actually like thrive in and grow in and have employers that, can enable that for you.

Adam: [00:14:18] How have the customers of Paws and Pause reacted towards your mission in your social enterprise?

Grace: [00:14:25] Yeah they love it. There's not really any other dog daycares or dog businesses that have a social mission as well. So I think they like the fact that their dog is going off to a place that's also doing good. And by default, they are also doing good by supporting Paws and Pause.

It means also the dogs get like loads of extra cuddles, loads of extra attention. So I think our dog parents love that as well. Yeah, and I think they just liked the idea of investing in their community as well. And giving back in some way .

We've had really positive feedback. Initially, we didn't know what was going to happen. So when we first started Paws and Pause, we toned down the marketing of the social element a little bit, because we thought from some of our initial research that people would be a bit wary, a bit hesitant.

The words, addiction and mental illness still have a huge amount of stigma. Actually, since we started, we found that hasn't been the case and that our customers have chosen us because of what we do. And so we've been able to share a lot more about that kind of make that the forefront of the way that we talk about Paws and Pause which is really great.

And it was a kind of breaks down stigma, twofold because people can see that our trainees are just like you and me, they just let themselves, they've just had a different journey recently. And that, they're a really important part of it is breaking down that stigma as well as thinking like actually people there's no visible difference to people.

And people have so much to give and so many skills and so much talent and it just this just the lack of opportunities. Yeah. People have been really supportive. It's just been great.

Adam: [00:16:08] That's awesome. Was this the first business that you started?

Grace: [00:16:14] We have not run a business before, so it's been a lot of learning, a lot of DIY. A lot of DIY in the building, a lot of DIY in every aspect of the business which has been a lot of fun, sometimes a bit stressful, but yeah, it's been quite a journey if it feels like it's been a really long time that we've been running Paws and Pause I think just because of all of the new skills that we've learned.

When we first died, we did a lot of like courses to do with starting a business, any workshop that was going, we signed up for it, which was really helpful. And we also signed up for like loads and loads of mentors, which has helped us massively as well, just to have someone to like soundboard with.

And then also just having the support of each other has been huge I kind of reassuring each other along the way about always doing the right thing. So yeah, it's been a huge learning journey.

Adam: [00:17:11] Oh, that's cool. I love it when people are able to just dive right in and build something up and learn as you go. What are some of the big things that you had to learn in order to be successful?

Jodie: [00:17:21] I guess just that. Recently that recently things like, now we've got paid staff. So being HR, also being the accounts person and marketing whilst running all the day-to-day stuff. Yeah. Just suddenly realize all the other things that you need to do.

Which I guess we always knew, but actually then doing it, everything's progressed so quickly since we came back off the first lockdown, but it's just been a constant, like learning a new thing, learning a new thing. Like, It's just the stuff that we do, like how to make decisions better and more quickly and, stuff like that. I think that without having a business partner. It would be really lonely and really quite difficult to take a lot of the steps that you've had to take. It'd be, yeah, actually, we've got someone else to give you that confidence to go.

Yeah, no, we're great. We're going to do this and we're going to have confidence in it.

Adam: [00:18:17] It sounds like there's just so many different parts to running a business and it gets a lot more complicated when you start hiring employees and building that up.

Grace: [00:18:26] I think we've if we're ever getting a bit overwhelmed or a bit stressed, we do try and focus on why we started Paws and Pause. Cause it can be easy to get distracted in the day-to-day running of things and just doing all of that and then actually remembering why we're doing it.

Speaking to the people that are benefiting from it and all of that really rejuvenates us, which has been, like a real motivator, I think without that, I don't think we have started the daycare without that element. So yeah, that's been really important.

Adam: [00:18:56] Cool. Do you have any advice for other social entrepreneurs who are just getting off the ground and just launching?

Grace: [00:19:04] A real misconception is when people think that they can't talk about their idea. One of the best pieces of advice we got really early on is to tell everybody you meet about what you're doing. Because the more times you say out loud and the more people that you speak to, the more you confirm the idea, and it will change massively along the way.

And that's absolutely fine. But if you're the best person to do it, you will do it. And nobody's going to steal your idea or anything like that. I think it's just really good to just get as much input from as many people as you can. Whilst also sticking to what you want to do. The other thing is, you can't be an expert at everything, so be good at what you're really good at and get help with the stuff that you're not good at.

And normally like for us, that was accounts, but

Adam: [00:19:48] You can't have the dogs do the accounting?

Grace: [00:19:52] Not, yeah. Hopefully, soon we'll have them trained up.

Jodie: [00:19:56] I think the other thing, that's what it's like Grace said, we got so much support and help from we're based in London. So the like programs in London and the help and the people that we've met along the way was incredible.

What I've given us a huge amount of support like just reach out to people and reach out to networks. And actually, it was to lots of the support we got. Wasn't like advertised support. It just came from a person away we're talking to in this organization somewhere else. And yeah, it just really kept us focused and really helps us.

Adam: [00:20:31] I love that. I love how much they, the community helps each other out in London. It's a really cool city for that. And it sounds like you're growing. What are your plans for 2021?

Grace: [00:20:43] So two of our most exciting plans are one of them is we're working with an organization called Black Thrive which are a London based organization that support black people with health conditions who are unemployed. So we have received funding from them to deliver 10 traineeships for black people within Lamberth, which is our burro, which we're super excited about because there is a massive lack of diversity in the pet industry in the UK is pretty much all white. So we've launched this program this year and we're starting to recruit our trainees now, which is really exciting. And we're really proud to be involved in that and hopefully, start building up more diversity within the industry.

So that's one of the main projects that we're focusing on. And then from another side, we are also looking for our second premises. So we've got a very long waiting list at the moment of about five months for the dogs. So we are hoping to open up a second venue in London and therefore be able to increase the opportunities that we're providing as well for people which will be really good.

And we're super, super excited about that.

Adam: [00:21:51] That's great. Especially as you expand in, you're able to work with more people. I think that's fantastic. My next question, what drew you to this work initially?

Jodie: [00:22:00] So I studied assess development, politics, uni and then worked in a few different organizations in London and a refugee organization. And I've always wanted to like to do development base work, and then ended up working for a different homelessness organization.

An opportunity came up. Actually really, I enjoyed supporting people with employment and goal settings to move forward. Just met people from every kind of walk of life and backgrounds.

Adam: [00:22:33] Grace, what about you?

Grace: [00:22:35] Yeah, I think for me, very similar story to Jodie in the, I didn't expect, that I would be where I'm at now. And I didn't expect it, so I would love working with people as much as I do. I think I have struggled with my own mental health and been on a real journey with that. And I think only when I was in working, supporting people, did I really understand more about me and this through the people that I was working with and who were kind and so understanding and had so much insight into themselves and into other people that I really learnt so much. And I think from then, I couldn't really imagine doing anything else.

We are providing these opportunities for people and we are offering support, but these people are the most incredible people who have the most incredible skills and, amazing insight into things. And it's just about providing those opportunities. So yeah.

Adam: [00:23:33] Always am curious about that. I feel like I've spent 20 years trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. And one thing that you mentioned at the beginning was that you're helping the people that you employ to figure out what they want to do with their life. And I'm thinking that's really hard to do.

That's always just curious to see how people land up, where they do finding work that they enjoy.

Jodie: [00:23:55] Also both of us really have. Love the jobs do lights and things. That should be the part of working for ourselves, and being our own bosses in this process was a huge driver as well. And that we can grow the projects we wanted with it and develop our own skills in that and grow a business was really exciting.

Adam: [00:24:15] Do you have any stories of those that you've employed that have gone through your program that you could share?

Jodie: [00:24:21] One of the first trainings we had we actually took on as an employee in September. She came to us thinking that she really loved animals and once she was with Us, Really started to think about actually, what I really liked doing is supporting other people and supporting kind of trainee programs, volunteer programs. So we took her on as paid staff actually to help us develop the training side of the program which has been amazing to have her insight after going through the program when it started.

So now managing that program. Yeah, she's incredible. She is absolutely just thrived in this role and is doing an amazing job and not afraid to challenge us with our ideas and her ideas. And we hope for her that she can go from just part type of thing, but she's here.

Full-time and actually can have the opportunity to see if this is something that she really wants to move forward with. It's a really good example of, like you're saying, people, are not sure what they want to do. And trying different things out is really the way to see if it's something you want to do.

Yeah. All day, every day. I feel super proud and lucky actually she's our colleague and yeah, that's amazing.

Grace: [00:25:35] We also heard, one of our recent trainees, who's just been with us a few weeks. They really touched us the other day because she came to us and she said that she feels like she's achieved more in the last couple of weeks coming to Paws and Pause than she has in the last five years. And that she actually feels really happy.

And then she takes photos of the dogs and she looks at them throughout the week to cheer her up before she comes back again. And it just really touched us because I think it was just reassurance for us as well that we actually are delivering what we hoped we would deliver.

And yeah, just makes all the kind of late nights, no holidays. And like working incredibly hard, worth it. When you get that kind of feedback.

Adam: [00:26:16] And it sounds like you have a lot of experience from everybody who's there of having gone through issues in your own life that, that you can share and understand what people are experiencing at a much deeper level. We're always growing and figuring out our own life but when we can share that with others, I think there's this powerful effect of everybody growing from that.

And learning from that. So that's super cool.

Grace: [00:26:38] The learning and the growing like works both ways. And if you realize that, then how can you not like, love your job because every day is like I exciting you're learning.

Adam: [00:26:49] So what's your vision for a Paws and Pause?

Grace: [00:26:56] want to expand across London. And if we were to like dream big, we would love to franchise across the UK. We really believe in what we're doing and we think it combines loads, of great stuff. So yeah, at the moment we're aiming big.

Adam: [00:27:13] I think world domination would be perfect because if dogs were running this planet, I think would be just so much better off, we'd be much happier, more at peace if we all know how to sit down and just be quiet. That's super exciting that you've got a second location that's coming up in 2021. And I just love all the things that you're doing. What's the best way for people to find out about you?

Grace: [00:27:36] Follow us on Instagram. At Paws and Pause so Paws as in dog Paws and Pause as in still. So that is on our Instagram. There was loads of cute dog content and the kind of social stuff we're doing as well.

Adam: [00:27:51] Yeah. I should have spelt that out earlier because it's PAWS and PAUSE if anyone has been confused who is just listening to it or not reading it but. Just a fantastic organization. Thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. It's fun to hear your story. I lived in London for nine years and so I just always love new things that are happening and going on especially where they involve dogs.

Grace: [00:28:14] Thank you so much for having us.

Jodie: [00:28:15] Yeah.

Adam: [00:28:21] Fantastic.

Thank you so much for joining me.

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