As this week has seen the celebration of Women's Entrepreneurship Day, I thought it would be nice to celebrate someone I admire greatly, Sarah Clough, founder of Space Fitness & Wellbeing,
She gets up every day with the purpose of helping people enhance their lives, improve their physical strength, range of movement and flexibility as well as their overall wellbeing both mentally and physically. She teaches her Pilates and fitness classes with such experience and ease that you would be forgiven for thinking that this is what she has done all her life.
However, Sarah's path to where she is today has taken her in some fascinating directions - (and to different countries) before she had her 'eureka' moment and finally realised what she was destined to do with her life.
Tell us about the journey you have been on since you started your working career.
I studied fashion and knitwear and went on to set up a business designing knitwear that pushed the boundaries on what was considered normal at that time. We had a big following in the club scene and the pop world and quickly expanded but were very naive when it came to business - I learnt the hard way!
Sarah was featured in the You Magazine. Her shop in the young designer area of London, Hyper Hyper, on Kensington Street gave her a lot of exposure.
From London to Africa.
I’d always wanted to go to Africa and used this as an opportunity to join VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) and headed to Zambia, However, I ended up leaving VSO after a few months to set up an NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) with the support of the British, Irish and American Embassies there. It was 1994 and HIV and AIDS were rife, people were dying at such young ages with no hope of being able to afford to access drugs.
With the support of some amazing people, I set up Zambili, where we trained people who were HIV+ in different craft-making activities, offered sheltered workspace, business support and a retail outlet so that they were able to earn money to support themselves and their families.
Cooking the meals whilst in the bush running workshops - I took my Italian coffee pot and the ladies would pop it on the fire every morning for me to make coffee. Anyone who knows me knows that fresh coffee is non negotiable!
This photo is taken whilst I was travelling to a remote region in western Zambia which floods (hence the boats). I was running a week-long workshop there on an 'island'.
This was my bath. The only way to wash was to swim in the flooded plains with the ladies on the lookout for crocodiles!
After a while, we set up a cafe (one of the first of its kind in Zambia) which offered a place for lunch as well as cultural evenings with traditional food aimed at an expat market.
Saying goodbye to Zambili.
After 6 years I decided it was time to hand Zambili over and to come back to the UK. Not having learnt from the first time, I set up another fashion business with a friend but eventually decided I had had enough and needed a new direction.
Embarking on my Pilates journey.
I’d been doing Pilates classes and enjoyed them and toyed with the idea of learning to teach but always thought I was too old. However, on holiday in Turkey, I thought … why not?!
I enrolled on a training course and have never looked back. The older I get the more irrelevant I find age and how we define ourselves by it.
What have you learned from your previous careers?
I’ve learnt that sometimes I need to reign my enthusiasm in!
I also realise that you can’t (and shouldn’t) attempt to please everyone. Be true to who you are. I love being with people and helping to transform their lives. I think that’s why the fashion industry wasn’t really for me.
What has been your biggest challenge whilst running Space Fitness & Wellbeing?
Definitely managing people. We had quite a big team whilst we operated at The Grange and I was working 70 hour weeks with no time for my family or myself.
Would you say 2020 and Covid19 have been a big turning point?
A massive one. Whilst in many ways it has been incredibly hard, it has forced me to take stock of my life and re-evaluate it. I have re-prioritised things and actually feel a lot happier and less stressed for doing so.
What gives you the most satisfaction in your job?
There are 2 main things - the first is being able to help people move more freely and live their lives more fully. The second is seeing how many beautiful friendships have developed from people coming to the classes and the support people give to each other.
Apart from doing your classes, is there anything you do for yourself to keep happy and fulfilled?
Spending time walking on the moors either just me and Pip (our dog) or with family and friends. I like to garden and I also love to sit by a roaring fire, in my pyjamas with a glass of wine and a good movie or playing Bananagrams with my husband, Richard, and my daughter Mala...especially if I win!
What's a great Friday night for you?
To get dressed up and have friends for dinner. Lots of candles, good wine and great conversation...then after dinner (maybe a seafood lasagne) play table tennis or dance to a fab playlist.
Do you have a motto you live by?
I have a couple: "Procrastination causes stress" and “Don’t think too hard - just do it!”
You can book Sarah's live, online classes here: