Student’s business shortlisted for national award

A mother of two and full-time University student has had her company shortlisted for a national business award.

Charlie Reilly, who gave up a successful career to look after her disabled son and study for her degree, is a finalist in the Networking Mummies Small Business of the Year awards. Her business, The Reilly Enterprise Ltd, started life in 2012 as Kid’s Party Mascots, supplying children’s characters and entertainment to youngsters at home and to parties, corporate and charity events.

In 2013, Charlie expanded and launched Sweetheart Sweet Carts, hiring out vintage sweet carts and props to parties and events and providing an event-dressing service.
But the mascot business, which was especially popular with families with disabled youngsters and those with learning difficulties, was her driving force. It brought Charlie into contact with disadvantaged youngsters and she saw opportunities for improving lives.  She encouraged some of them to get involved with Kids Party Mascots and another business idea formed.

Charlie will soon launch the third phase of her business, Square Pegs Round Holes. This will be a social enterprise opportunity providing work experience to help young people develop employability skills and self-confidence and to teach employers how to work better with underprivileged youngsters or those with learning difficulties.

Charlie started her business to make a little extra money while studying at the University of Portsmouth. Now as she nears completion of her degree in English Literature, she has registered as a limited company, employs 28 sub-contractors and the business is taking off in all directions.

She said: “The business is really booming. We’re eight months ahead of where we expected to be and in the last year we’ve supported local fundraisers in raising an estimated £200,000.

“People really seem to appreciate what we do and for me personally it’s gratifying to feel like I’m helping my local community and tackle social issues.”

Charlie’s achievement is even more remarkable because she suffers from Fybromyalgia, which causes muscle pain and tiredness, and ME, which causes extreme fatigue. She also looks after her young son who has Asberger’s and demands a lot of attention.

Already an entrepreneur, Charlie developed her enterprise skills at the University of Portsmouth by attending several business development programmes through the University’s Purple Door. She used the University’s Cell Block and Social Start-Up programmes, and attracted £500 of funding from the University to explore the Square Pegs Round Holes side of the business.

This is the first time Networking Mummies UK Ltd has hosted their National Business Awards to recognise the hard working mums and dads across the country. Winners will be announced at their glitzy black tie awards ceremony on Saturday the 29th of March 2014 at Jury’s Inn in Birmingham.

Charlie said: “I am so proud to have been announced as a finalist. To be recognised for what we are achieving at The Reilly Enterprise is amazing. I hope it will bring awareness of the need for local fundraisers and of the young people in our community who need extra support and opportunities as well as attracting further funding or support from businesses and organisations across the region.”

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