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Emily McGuirk, founder of Small Steps, Big Vision

The life of a military spouse can be a very challenging and unstable one. This much was certainly true for Emily McGuirk, founder of Small Steps, Big Vision (SSBV), an organisation that delivers personal growth workshops to young women aged 11-21.

Emily’s husband’s career with the Royal Engineers was a busy one and so to help enable that military lifestyle, she retrained in a number of roles including teaching and network marketing. It was during their final posting, that life took an unexpected turn for the worse, and she found herself in hospital, pregnant and experiencing panic attacks. Emily was put in a position where she had to focus on her own mental health, and establish positive daily routines to improve her wellbeing.

She began to question why practices for returning to joy, building resilience and developing confidence were not also part of the school curriculum. With her background in teaching, and personal experience with mental health, she knew that she could equip young people with a toolkit of simple-to-do practices to support their happiness, aspirations and well-being.

Then, through a chance encounter with Heropreneurs at the Gone Wild Festival, Emily was put in touch with all of the right people to start her on her entrepreneurial mission. Emily applied to the mentorship scheme and was promptly accepted. She made the most of the experience, utilising the many resources and opportunities that Heropreneurs has to offer. This included a 30 second lightning pitch session with J.P. Morgan, which won her a cool £1000 to put towards her business. She also took part in a pitch and networking day with Goldman Sachs, and this gave her crucial feedback and guidance on her business strategy.

“Just say yes, because it’s a safe environment where everybody wants you to do well”

With the impact of two years of lockdowns on young people becoming increasingly more apparent, SSBV is already having a profound effect on the community. Their most recent project has seen them deliver 180 workshops across 14 different schools at regular points throughout the year, and hold a variety of sessions developed for young women. These sessions take the form of workshops aimed at creating healthy daily habits, coping strategies, or ‘pitching’ opportunities intended to help with key milestones such as college or job interviews. The regular nature of these sessions allows SSBV to really get to know these young women on an individual level, and tailor their approach so it has a lasting positive effect.

“The majority of the young women couldn't name one thing they liked about themselves, or one thing that they were good at when we first met them, but we have proven that when you improve confidence, you raise aspiration”

Emily’s success and embodiment of the values of Heropreneurs was properly acknowledged when she received the 2022 Heropreneur of the Year Award at a lavish ceremony at the Imperial War Museum. This made her the first female, and first military spouse, to receive the award. It seems that Emily is blazing a trail wherever she goes.

“It doesn’t matter who is serving. We are a community, we are a family”

With over half of young people experiencing some form of mental health challenge, the desperate need for organisations like SSBV is clear. Not only are they having an immediately positive effect on the lives of young women, but their work is also providing a lasting impact in the form of valuable primary data that is actively being used to shape regional and national strategies towards these issues. The future looks very exciting for Emily and SSBV.

“Emily is a delight to mentor, she has such enthusiasm and passion for helping young people learn to love themselves and gain confidence. I am so proud of her and what she has achieved”

Lorna Barker, Mentor

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