Monthly Archives

September 2012

Paul Nicol standing next to the Mayor of Reading

Paul’s Blog – What a day!

By | Lifestyle, My story | No Comments

Hello blog readers. I am detracting from my usual blog spot this week, I wanted to share my day with you. Tuesday 18th September was pretty eventful for me and iCAN Experiences. You may recall me mentioning something about Reading Association for the Blind around 6 weeks ago.

Well after some postponing and rescheduling, I had been lined up to visit Reading Association for the Blind as a guest speaker on their open day. I set out on my journey at 08:45 catching a Taxi to the train station. The taxi was typically 5 minutes late, but we made it in good time for the train! At my change over point, I was informed that my connecting train had been delayed by 10 mins. “stay cool Rodney” I thought to myself. Thankfully the train was only 10 minutes late and I had planned in my usual 30 minutes of slack into a public transport journey, so no worries….much!

I arrived at Reading Association for the Blind at 10:30 and the Mayor of Reading along with Rob Wilson MP were due to turn up any minute in order to cut the tape on a brand spanking new Mini-
bus! I was given a cup of tea, made comfortable in an office whilst people hustled and bustled around me! I met a number of fantastic people from the Association, those that run it and members too. When I wasn’t talking to someone, I was running through my head what I was going to say as a guest speaker! Nervous? Me? Quite!

Then the ribbon on the bus was cut, pictures taken and I was guided into the main room where The Mayor of Reading made a short speech, then Rob Wilson MP. Then it was my turn, “Paul Nicol, founder of
iCAN Experiences and our guest speaker today”. I was handed the microphone and it was over to me! “Um, where do I start?” I asked “Stay cool Rodney!” It took me maybe 4-5 seconds to
actually engage brain and mouth at the same time and I began to talk! Of course, I had a rough idea of what I was going to say, but I had no notes, no way to read notes, so it was pretty much ad-lib!
On the whole, I kep the speech relatively quick, I had the Mayor of Reading at my side, so didn’t want to make her yawn, so I rattled through what I had to say. As I was nearing the end of my little talk, I completely lost my train of thought, not sure if it was excitement at coming to the end or nerves, but I stood there for 5 seconds looking blankly trying to recall what I was going to say! Then I stumbled for a few more seconds as I talked myself towards the end of my speech. I finished using the line “If life deals you Lemons, make Lemonade!”

It was over, the crowd chuckled and clapped as did the Mayor! Success! I then took the opportunity to talk to the Mayor before she was ushered off to talk to someone else. I then took the opportunity to talk to some of the members of Reading Association for the Blind. After about 30 mins of chatting and hob knobbing, I was on my way. It was 12:15 and I had a train to catch at 12:30 from Reading Station.

I was on a tight schedule to get to BBC Broadcasting house by 13:30! I got to Paddington station at 13:10 and was greeted by a member of staff with one of those beeping buggies that I personally hate, although the more I use them, the better they become! “Put your foot down drive, I’ve got to be at the BBC in 20 minutes!” I proffered. Give the man his due, he beeped the horn and I am sure we were going at top speed for the beeping buggy.

I hopped into a black cab, told the cabby where I needed to go along with the subtle hint “I need to be there by 13:30”, the driver proceeded to tell me that earlier that day it had taken 35 minutes! I had 15! I called the Beeb and told them I was on my way.

The driver got me there at around 13:32, fair play to black cab drivers, I shook the man’s hand and hopped out. I was greeted by a nice chap called James who got me signed in and it was his sole job to help people with disabilities within the BBC, I was impressed! The purpose of my visit was to appear on the BBC Radio 4 In Touch program which is a program covering topics and issues for visually impaired people.

I arrived and met Lee Kumutat, the producer of the show “How are you Paul? Feeling harassed?” “ever so slightly” was my response. I could breathe a sigh of relief that I had made it. We were straight into the studio and I was introduced to the other guests on the show, Steph Cutler and Wai-Man Leung. Steph is a personal development and training consultant who is visually impaired with a business called “Making Lemonade”, guess where I got my closing line for my Reading Association for the Blind speech. Wai-Man works for Action for Blind People and someone that had helped me in the early days of my Business Planning.

We recorded the show which would air in the evening at 20:40 and after taking a picture or 2, I was off in a Taxi to return home. I arrived home at just after 17:00 having not eaten anything but a Snickers. I was starving and pleased with the day’s work!

Please do share this with your friends, family and whomever else you think may be interested. Remember to follow us on Twitter @icanexperiences and become a fan on facebook at www.facebook.com/icanexperiences.

Run Forrest Run!!!!

By | Disability, Lifestyle | No Comments

Wow, where have i been!!!! Sorry guys, heres a long overdue update as to how ive been getting on.

Todays title comes from the various messages i have got from people and how much today reminded me of the film. It was basically me, minus the beard and possy of people in the background – dirty and wet!!

So started off training at the beginning of August and now have just a few weeks until race day! I have slowly clocked up the miles each week and did my longest ever run today – 12.1 miles (unless your a runner you wont understand how much that .1 of a mile is important).

I feel that i have got into my stride now and am enjoying running, and reaching the targets i set always makes me feel great.
As you all know, unless you didnt open your curtains today, is was pouring with ran. which was a new experience to say the least. Even though i invested in wearing a waterproof jacket, i got completely soaked all the way through – and it stopped raining within the last half a mile…..WTF!!

Some might think im mental for running in the pouring rain, but whats if its like that on race day? i hope its not lol as i would not like to repeat today, but at least i know its possible now. I also know that a least three drivers find it hil-arious to purposes drench runners while they drive past you through a massive puddle.

A lot of people have been supporting me, spesh mama and papa Newton 🙂 – and lots of others, including the nice ice-cream van driver who says he always sees me and the dog running together. Thank you to everyone who have taken an invested interest in what im doing and to everyone who has showed support.

I feel about 75%-80% ready for the race, so i stil got a bit of work to do – so please keep supporting me and visit my just giving page: http://www.justgiving.com/Catherine-Newton1

P.S – if you like my nike running status’ on facebook while im running i get a little chear through my headphones 😀

Paul Nicol at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro

Paul’s Blog – A small scuffle to get Access to Work!

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A quick recap on where we are. So far in my business start-up, I have contacted 3 experience operators, incorporated iCAN experiences LTd, setup a business bank account, signed up an accountant and set the wheels in motion for the website development.

These were the foundations for the business, there was still plenty to do, but this was the bread and butter. When I signed up my Web Developer, we had set a go live date as the 31st May, on hindsight, this wasn’t the best date to pick as in the run up to this date, I had booked a family holiday! As a result, the launch did in fact get delayed by 2 weeks, it was worth waiting for and taking that little longer to ensure that the site was absolutely right!

Over the next 2 months, I had a number of tasks to complete, I had to identify, contact, meet and write up my target of 25 activities. This was going to be the starting point for iCAN experiences, I knew that there were so many experiences and locations that I wanted to get onboard, but as with any business, you can’t enter the market as a fully fledged gift experience provider, you have to start as we did, with a targeted number of experiences in a specific geographical location and then build on this over time.

I included as part of the business plan a growth target and the aim is to offer 40 experiences nationwide by the end of our 2nd year of trading. It’s a tall order, but one I think is achievable if we continue at the current rate adding a new location or new experience every other week!

As someone with a disability, I have access to a government scheme called “Access to work”. The scheme is designed to help businesses with the additional costs that they may be subjected to should they employ someone with a disability. In my case, I need screen reading software to use a computer, this costs around £750. In addition to this, I need a scanner and some software so that I can scan and read printed text such as letters or printed documents. Finally, if your place of work is not located somewhere accessible via public transport, there may be a need for a taxi. Now, some employers may be happy to swallow the costs for this, but equally, some may not. The idea is that the scheme puts me as someone with a disability on an equal playing field as someone without a disability, thus reducing the possibility of potential employers thinking that it is going to cost them more money to employ me given my disability as opposed to some without a disability.

So, as I was starting my own business, I was having to travel to various locations around the country, meeting operators and viewing locations. It was clear that to do this, I was going to need to use a mixture of taxi’s and public transport. I reasoned that if I wasn’t blind that I would simply hop in a car and drive to said location, on that basis, my disability was leaving me at a disadvantage, I was having to pay for public transport and then a taxi to get me to my final destination. This was far more expensive than driving a car!

I got in touch with Access to work, “sorry, we don’t help with business start-up costs” was their initial response. I spent about an hour on the phone to the consultant, making my point, this wasn’t a “Start-up cost” per say, my point was that if I owned my own car, I would fully expect to have to pay for my fuel, tax, insurance etc in order to fulfil these meetings. It took a little persuasion, but eventually we agreed that I would cover the cost of the public transport and 25p for every mile travelled in a taxi, Access to work would then cover the remaining cost of the taxi journeys. This was fantastic news, Access to work didn’t seem to keen initially as the business wasn’t bringing in any money and nor did we have any contracts committing to purchase anything from us, as such, they were reticent to funding my travel. The moral of this story is that Access to Work can and will provide funding if your claim is genuine and your point is valid.

Once I had this funding in place, I was able to start contacting other experience operators to arrange meetings etc. I applied the same logic as per my original 3 operators, I was tackling the next 3 smallest continuing to learn, but able to talk knowledgably about my business and the
industry.

As part of signing up these experience operators, I have been incredibly lucky, I have taken part in a number of different experiences myself including an Aerobatic Flight in a PITTS Biplane with Alan Cassidy, a 160ft Bungee Jump, a High Speed ride in a Ferrari, White Water Rafting and probably most memorably, riding pillion on the back of a superbike with Ron Haslam taking me around Silverstone! I’ll tell you more about The superbike journey next week!

All of this sounds like fun and if I’m honest, it was! My wife has been incredibly supportive, as she goes off to work everyday and I’m off gallivanting around the country side! However, it’s not all fun, fun, fun, I have to work incredibly long hours, and most evenings are spent working on my computer and I often have to visit operators at the weekends. One thing is for sure, I love my job, its great being your own boss and it’s even better knowing that iCAN experiences is helping others to enjoy their life no matter what!

Please do share this with your friends, family and whomever else you think may be interested. Remember to follow us on Twitter @icanexperiences and become a fan on facebook at www.facebook.com/icanexperiences.

Paul Nicol Tandem Skydiving

Paul’s Blog – Part way there!

By | My story | No Comments

Hello Blog readers, if you are reading this, it is quite likely that you are enterting into my blog and story, half way through. Should you wish to read previous blogs of mine, please visit my blog on the iCAN experiences website at www.icanexperiences.co.uk/news.

Right, I had to look back at my blog posts to recall where exactly I left things some 3 weeks ago before I started blogging about my Mount Kilimanjaro climb. Before I embarked on the Kilimanjaro climb I had incorporated the business and was looking for experience operators to work with iCAN experiences. I did however forget to mention my Website Development saga….

Back in January 2012, I had done some research and made contact with a number of website developers to try and find a suitable provider for my project. I had put a lot of work into my website brief, being clear on exactly what I wanted, with a particular focus on usability, accessibility and a clean professional look. The accessibility was of particular importance for the “Back end” of the website to ensure that as a user of “JAWS” screen reader, I would be able to manage the content of the website on an ongoing basis. You’d be surprised how many “off the shelf” systems are not accessible to screen readers (Or maybe you wouldn’t!).

Anyhow, I was looking for a developer local to me that could give me what I needed within a budget that I could afford. After many discussions with many providers, I managed to find such a supplier. It was a small outfit and I had a number of meetings with them to get clarity on exactly what was required etc. Then about a week before I was due to leave for Kilimanjaro, it came to signing a contract so that the developer could get started on the work. I read through the contract and found that I had a number of queries on specific points that I felt were unclear or not acceptable to me. I had a conversation with my contact at the company and she informed me that she would need to discuss it with the developer before sending through any amendments, “Okay, no problem” was my response.

The next day I received an email from my contact pulling out of the project with no explanation, just a “We feel it’s best if we go our own separate ways” kind of message. I was astounded by this response! I tried to call and email on a number of occasions throughout the day to understand why, I suggested in voicemails and emails that we can talk and find a way forward, but absolutely no response. At the time, I was fuming, whilst it is absolutely understandable that someone may wish to pull out of a deal, to do so over an email with not even a sensible, adult conversation left me fuming! It was no way to do business, completely unprofessional! Needless to say, I got over it..

On my return from Kili, my priority was to find a new website developer! Now, I am very much a believer that “Everything happens for a reason”, I have had house sales fall through, despite having lost money, I look back on it and think “thank heavens that it did fall through”, I wouldn’t be living in the house I am now, in an area that I am pleased with and with some great neighbours!

So, when I look back at my developer falling through, I think thank heavens! The website development company I have on board now immediately knew what I was after, gave me complete confidence and assurance that everything I wanted could be done without any fuss. The price was right, all be it more expensive than the original developer, but the results I hope you agree are fantastic! I assure you that this is no plug that I write under duress, it is my own personal opinion, I couldn’t recommend Direct Media Design enough.

So, once I had my website developer secured, I was free to concentrate on all the other things. My approach to this was to create what originally seemed like a ridiculously long task list, it had nearly 100 items on it! I then began to prioritise these items and tackle them one at a time. The biggest issue I had was learning about how the industry worked, I had a vague idea of the basic principal, but didn’t know the finer details. So, I carefully selected my first 3 experience operators, looking for the smaller independent operators local to me that I thought would be most amenable to me and what I was trying to achieve.

I was amazed to find that the first three experience operators were all onboard with the idea of iCAN experiences and by the time I had met with all 3 of them, I had a good idea of how the industry worked. This stood me in good stead for any future discussions, I was able to talk to experience operators with confidence, this is an essential part of business, needing to be confident in your idea and the industry, after all, who wants to do business with someone that comes across
as not knowing what they’re talking about?

There were so many other things that I needed to do, creating a logo, seeking legal advice, finding an accountant etc. Next week I will tell you about my mini saga finding a suitable business bank, but I’ll leave you with the advice that my accountant gave me “Treat all banks like theives and you should be fine”, brilliant!

Please do share this with your friends, family and whomever else you think may be interested. Remember to follow us on Twitter @icanexperiences and become a fan on facebook at www.facebook.com/icanexperiences.

Finally, please browse around the site, if you like what you see buy it, if you don’t see anything you like, tell us! We welcome feedback, be it good or bad, we think we are excellent at what we do, but can only continue if you tell us what’s good and what’s not!

All the Best,

Paul
Founder – iCAN experiences
Where possibility can become reality!

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