Imagining a world where kindness is currency
Founder of Kind Currency, Michelle Jones, tells us how the pandemic and being honoured with a “friendship bench” where the catalysts to creating her new enterprise, which aims to connect kind consumers with kind businesses.
How do you identify as disabled, and what does it mean to you?
I have several chronic illnesses, including intussusception of the bowel, rectal prolapse, slow transit (abnormalities of the enteric nerves), endometriosis, hormone imbalance, scoliosis, fibromyalgia, agoraphobia and obsessive compulsive disorder. The symptoms of these conditions are aggressive and debilitating.
This means that I have been given the opportunity to see life from a different perspective, one that provides me with gratitude, empathy and, most importantly, resilience.
Tell us a little about your business.
Imagine a world where kindness is currency! My new business, Kind Currency, is currently a Community Interest Company and will soon be registered as a charity. It’s a subscription–based membership for kind consumers – consumers who want to spend their money with businesses who are making good choices for their communities.
It will provide an app that will connect consumers wishing to make kinder lifestyle choices with kind businesses. The interaction between the two will then create the kindness fund, which is designed to thank and support kind individuals who face adversity by helping them remove barriers and providing them with opportunities.
Why did you start the business? Share your story so far.
Why do bad things happen to good people? This shouldn’t be the case! The voluntary sector is predominantly made up of individuals who are living in deprivation and the 18% of adults who are classed as disadvantaged. Basically, as a society, we rely on the kindness of others to support our society whilst they themselves are struggling. This doesn’t sit well with me, so I wanted to create a kinder, more inclusive lifestyle for all.
The concept for Kind Currency developed from an idea that has burned for many years. It finally came to fruition due to a combination of factors: the pandemic, and being honoured with a “friendship bench” in recognition of my kindness.
I have been volunteering in my local community for over a decade, and became passionate about creating a positive impact when I became a mother. Throughout these years working in the voluntary and charity sector, running a small creative business, and managing chronic health conditions, I identified several advantage gaps within society. I wanted to remove barriers, help people overcome adversity and provide opportunities to create a more inclusive society, but I didn’t know how.
As we entered lockdown, I set up a free crisis management service for the wedding industry through my business, Michelle Jones Weddings, which really took off. At the same time, my community work also went up several gears to meet the needs arising from the COVID-19 situation. It was a rollercoaster of emotion as I spent my days helping people overcome the adversity they faced, but the stress, tears, and exhaustion invigorated me and led to the idea of Kind Currency.
Kind Currency is a solution that will close gaps in advantage and provide opportunity, thus creating a more inclusive, kinder society, and protecting, sustaining and celebrating kind people, kind businesses and kind causes.
I believe passionately in people trying hard to make a difference. I support local ethical businesses and causes. I want to build a community where kindness wins, a community where everyone supports each other to create a kinder world.
What do you see as the main challenges facing your business and its continued operation or growth?
Firstly, finance is a huge challenge. As a creative woman with chronic illness, I feel I don’t tick any boxes. I’ve set up this business as a CIC Limited by Guarantee as I want it to be for good, but investors are put off as there is no equity return.
The second challenge for me is perception: the judgement of others. I’m not seen as a business woman, even though I’ve had four businesses. I don’t fit into a certain box, I’m not clever with words because of crippling brain fog, I’m different. All of these create barriers for me and my business.
What can we do to encourage more disabled entrepreneurs to start businesses – what is holding them back and what can we all do to help change that?
We can share stories of those who are doing what they love, living a life with disabilities, and changing the stigma. We can create awareness by celebrating those who are challenging the stereotype, which in turn will champion and inspire others. Lead with “can” rather than “can’t” – this is a real issue with employment opportunities for people with disability, as employers focus on sick leave rather than talent and work ethic. There’s so much that can be done to challenge and deliver change.
What do you consider your greatest achievement or the proudest moment in your life so far?
For me, the proudest moment is the day I decided to live my life with chronic illness rather than living a life of chronic illness.
My biggest achievement is simply doing the school run: my kids never being late or impacted by my illnesses, getting up every day, being present (struggling but hiding it), just being a mam and doing the school run.
If there was one thing you could change about peoples’ perception of disability what would it be and why?
See the talent, see the strength, see the knowledge, see the skill, see the work ethic, and see the person: they have tons to give.
Who or what inspires you?
People. People touch my life everyday, and everyday someone in my life does something that makes me smile.
Do you have a recommendation for a book or a podcast which has helped you along your journey?
There are loads of books and podcasts that have inspired me, but ultimately I’m a fan of talking to people: connecting with them, listening to them, learning from them and being thankful to them.