Positivity: A Work in Progress
Vie Portland tells us how she’s learned to love herself and is now on a mission to share her message with children, young people and vulnerable women.
How do you identify as disabled, and what does it mean to you?
I wasn’t diagnosed with my main disability until I was 28. As I already felt quite worthless, it took me years to admit that I was disabled, fearing it would make me unlikeable (internalised ableism there!). Now I’m happy being me: I fully embrace my conditions and will happily talk about them. Becoming part of the Epidermolysis Bullosa community gave me a place to call family.
Tell us a little about your business.
I founded a Community Interest Company (CIC) called VieNess, Discover You, Love You in June 2019. I teach self-esteem and confidence to children, young people, and vulnerable women. I work closely with community groups and schools, delivering workshops and motivational talks to empower students and staff, help them learn to love their imperfections and be their best selves.
I also create happiness products and I am an author of two children’s books and one book for adults, all designed to help people of all ages, live happier, kinder, more confident lives.
Share your story so far
I started teaching vintage dance forms around ten years ago. People saw the results I was getting with the people who attended my classes and asked me to teach them how to feel good about themselves without the dancing, so I started teaching confidence workshops to women.
Around the same time, I was also running a branch of The Red Box Project, which provides free period products to schools so that young people don’t have to miss out on education due to period poverty. Every school needed the service but they often couldn’t afford external facilitators, and that’s when I looked into setting up a CIC.
What do you see as the main challenges facing your business and its continued operation or growth?
I’m really not great at marketing. I need to tell more people about me but I have no idea how to make that happen. I have developed products to bring in passive income but, again, I am not great at marketing those.
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?
I think showing that there are other disabled entrepreneurs is a great start! Also demonstrating that running a business doesn’t mean 24/7: yes, I work longer hours than my body would like, but I also know I can stop, and that nothing horrible will happen if I do.
What do you consider your greatest achievement or the proudest moment in your life so far?
There are lots of incredible moments! I have won awards, seen my books in print and changed lives, but none of that would have happened had I not done the most important thing and survived, when there were many times when it was doubtful I would.
If there was one thing you could change about peoples’ perception of disability what would it be and why?
That we’re all the same! Not everyone that is disabled uses or needs a wheelchair: our needs are unique to each of us. And that making things more accessible doesn’t have to be as difficult as people make it out to be.
Who or what inspires you?
When I work with a child or young person that doesn’t feel confident, then, after a session with me, their eyes are brighter and they sit up taller, and they know they can achieve more than they thought possible, that inspires me to continue.
And Frida Kahlo, an incredible woman who created a life for herself, working with her disabilities, rather than giving up, and happily being unique.
Do you have a recommendation for a book or a podcast which has helped you along your journey?
Not really, but I highly recommend Positivity: A Work in Progress, which is a podcast I do with a friend: listeners are saying it’s very helpful.