Reah Coo has worked in special educational needs (SEN) for over 13 years, holding senior positions in multiple settings across the UK, including mainstream and specialist provisions.
Despite seeing many occasions where the system has failed, her passion for inclusion and improving the outcomes of vulnerable children and young people has never wavered, and this gave her the motivation to start her SEND consultancy business Inspire 321.
She started EnterprisingYou following a year break after the birth of her first daughter as she was unsure how to kick start the business again. We caught up with her to find out how she has been getting on since the programme and how EnterprisingYou has supported her and her business.
Why did you want to start your own business?
As an SEN Leader within schools, I spoke to several parents on a daily basis struggling to get the support they need for their child. Their children were on long waiting lists and the lack of consistency at school would lead to exacerbated behaviour, lack of academic progress and permanent and fixed-term exclusions. No matter how much my teams and I put in, it was never enough to meet the demand and need. I also sat amongst many professionals who did not understand the impact of cultural differences and trauma on children and young people.
After seeing this cycle repeat itself and a continued battle around pay (another story for another time), I decided to take a step of faith and hand my notice in with no other work lined up.
What I did have was my drive to succeed and passion to see change in education systems, professional knowledge and understanding, and to make a positive impact on the lives of families, children and young people who don’t know where to turn when faced with challenges at school or at home.
I established Inspire 321 in July 2019 and started my first contact in September 2019.
What services does Inspire 321 provide?
There are three elements to our services:
- We provide special educational needs (SEN) consultancy, working alongside education providers, local authorities and children’s services to improve their SEN policy, provision and practice.
- We advocate, advise, support and equip parents/carers of children with SEND and/or challenging behaviour. Whether a child is experiencing challenges in their learning experience or at home, we journey with parents and carers to achieve the best possible outcome for their child and their future success.
- We work directly with young people with social, emotional, mental health difficulties. We provide therapeutic intervention and coaching to 8–16-year-olds that explore strategies and techniques to interrupt the behaviour on display and offer alternatives to that behaviour.
How has EnterprisingYou helped you and your business?
The programme has given me strong foundations to build upon. The workshops helped with my website copy and social media strategy. Tutors were always available to answer questions during the workshops and practically take me through tips and tools that would help improve my marketing strategy.
Working with other business owners and connecting with others on the same journey, helped build my confidence as an entrepreneur. Most importantly I was grateful for the encouragement from my business advisor and everyone on the team at EnterprisingYou.
Taking what I have learnt from this process, I have a website that appeals to all my clients. I have more confidence when pricing my offer. I completed my first exhibit and because of my change in mindset and confidence, I secured 3 contracts at 3 different education providers across the Northwest and West Midlands.
I have now doubled my monthly earnings from when I was working at my last full-time position as a special educational needs coordinator (SENDO) for a mainstream secondary school.
EnterprisingYou is an excellent opportunity to develop your skills as a business owner and entrepreneur, especially if you have no first-hand experience or you are the first in your family to walk this path. EnterprisingYou gives you the tools and if you implement them and utilise the support available it can help accelerate your progress.
How has your business advisor supported you?
My business advisor Simon was very thorough. He shared his knowledge and expertise throughout the process and anything he was unable to answer, he connected me with the right person in the Enterprising You team. He was very supportive as I was on the programme whilst pregnant with my second child. When we were coming closer to our due date, Simon paused the programme for me and continued with me once I was ready to return.
I believe Simon went above and beyond for me and my family to help me continue growing in my skills and knowledge so I could make a success of the business.
What’s next for your business?
My aim is to help 1000 families on their SEN journey by December 2024.
I will continue providing free content and value through my social platforms and continue to work with education providers to evaluate their SEN policy, provision and practice to ensure they are meeting the needs of children identified with SEND and improve overall outcomes.
I am also in the process of creating an online course, completing research on ‘The Black SEND Experience’ and conducting interviews with parents about the SEND journey to help equip, educate and support other parents on their journey.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting their own business?
Make a plan. Identify the steps to reaching your goal. Put in actionable steps with clear dates to work towards. Find an accountability partner and then GO FOR IT! It is a step of faith... one that comes with its highs and lows, but it is worth it.
I read this quote once and it stuck with me... 'A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.' Take the first step and see where it leads you.
Anything else you would like to add?
Since starting the business, we have had lockdown and I have given birth to 2 daughters (now aged 1 and 3 years), so I took some time out to evaluate the trajectory of the business. I relaunched in January 2023 and since then I have worked with 3 schools to improve their SEND provision and practice; personally helped, advocate for, advised and trained over 100 families; 5 young people have completed the Inspire Me intervention and coaching programme; and we continue to provide advice and guidance for hundreds of families through the Inspire 321 social platforms.
Additionally, since 2021, Inspire 321 works with one of the largest Foster Agencies in the UK as their SEN and Education advisor, equipping social workers and carers with the knowledge and skills they need to build lasting relationships with their foster child, and have the confidence to share their views in professional meetings.
Visit the Inspire 321 website to find out more about Reah and her business or follow her on social media: