#OurAyrshire – Entrepreneurs presents COACH LUCY

We have been speaking to some entrepreneurs of Ayrshire – many of them former Ayrshire College students – to hear all about their businesses, but more importantly to find out how they got started.

The ‘#OurAyrshire – Entrepreneurs’ series will shed some light on what’s involved in setting up a business, the challenges and rewards that come with going it alone, and what our interviewees have planned for the future.

We spent some time talking with Coach Lucy, a former Ayrshire College Fitness, Health and Exercise student, graduate of UWS Hamilton and now proud founder of COACH LUCY (www.coachlucy.co.uk).

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“When I finished school I knew I didn’t feel ready for university. I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I had a bit of an interest in sports but not a great love for it at the time.”

After speaking with family, Lucy decided that the next step for her would be to enrol on the HNC Sport and Fitness course at Ayrshire College. While some of her friends were sceptical about whether she needed qualifications to get a job in a gym, and some considered it an ‘unskilled position’, Lucy’s passion for the industry grew more and more.

During her HNC and subsequent HND, Lucy’s commitment to her career was clear as she took on several work experience placements, and part-time jobs in various gyms. She worked at Curves in Troon, The Peak in Stirling, Kilmarnock Fitness Centre, and Irvine gyms; The Portal and The Fitness Factory. It was during her college time that Lucy found that she was already building up a loyal customer base and had unintentionally set up in business.

“I was already doing it without really realising it.” Lucy reflects. “I had been taking classes in some of the places I worked, but these weren’t greatly attended or the space was limited. To me, it just made sense that I start my own classes in the right environments, and at the right times for people.”

“I decided to go with the name Coach Lucy as I am so focused on helping my clients unlock their own potential. The one main thing I believe as a coach is:

“A trainer affects the hour they are with someone. A coach affects the hours they are not with someone.”

 “Ultimately my goal is to help my clients invest in themselves and their own knowledge. I want to help educate them about their bodies and how they work, so that the changes we make from working together are long-lasting.”


This is what makes Lucy stand out from a very crowded fitness market. She truly believes that she is not just there to just take a couple of fitness classes. She is there to help people make healthy choices and incorporate that into their lifestyle, helping them to lead a better, healthier life by giving them tips and tools to achieve this.

And so, Coach Lucy launched in April of this year and has been going from strength to strength (pardon the pun). Her classes are sold out almost every week, her personal training sessions have grown by over 200%, and she is just about to release her first line of merchandise. She is also busy with her nutrition plans, online coaching, and her impressive social channels. Business is certainly booming and Lucy has never been more motivated.

P1320871.JPGLucy works with clients ranging from Molly, age 13 to Jessie, age 85 – their goals, as you might have guessed, are very varied. Some people want to achieve better general health and wellbeing or some want to lose weight, gain weight, get a bit stronger or improve their mobility/flexibility. The one common goal they all have is they want to do something for themselves.

For someone so young, 20 year old Lucy has a wise head on her shoulders and recognises that mental health is a big topic that she is happy to get involved with, in fact she is seeking it out.

“You have two kinds of health: physical and mental, and fitness has a huge impact on both. Sad, happy, angry, overwhelmed, any emotion. Exercise can have such a big impact on your mental state. For me, exercise is my time, a chance for me to stop thinking and just move about for a little while. It may not feel amazing at the time but I have never regretted it once it’s done.”

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“I feel like now I need exercise not just for aesthetics, but more so for my own mental health. Exercise helps keep me happy. Exercise helps me sleep better, makes me less anxious, improves my mood, gives me more energy and shows me all the amazing things I can do. Exercise is so much more than just weight loss or toning, it helps make a better you from the inside out.”

“Your health is your wealth, we really should invest more of our time into it.”

Lucy has big plans for the future. She would love to get more involved in pre and post-natal exercise in order to work with mums to help bring down the shocking figures of Post Natal Depression. She is keen to do her GP referral qualification so she can continue using fitness to help people who need it most and of course she wants to invest in her loyal cliental.

The growth of Coach Lucy doesn’t stop there though. Lucy would love to add a corporate arm to her services by engaging with health and wellbeing teams in larger companies and is currently investigating a food service/advice idea.

Lucy is also working on a ‘5 Weeks 2 Fit’ programme in collaboration with Aeden Morrison Personal Training. A fellow fitness professional and Lucy’s boyfriend who she met while on the HNC Sport and Fitness course at Ayrshire College. Their programme will involve high intensity classes each week, nutrition plans and continual help and support for all those who are lucky enough to secure a place.

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This really is just the beginning for Coach Lucy and there is no doubt that there is an exciting 12 months ahead. We will be sure to catch up with her in the future but until then we will continue to follow her super inspiring social media channels…




Coach Lucy is seeking funding through the Scottish Funding Council’s Innovation Voucher Fund to help her research and develop in nutrition and mental health.

This fund gives sole traders and public limited companies the opportunity to access knowledge and support that could help to make their innovative idea a reality.

Do you have any innovative ideas that you would like to explore with Ayrshire College? Get in touch with our Director for Industry Programmes stuart.millar@ayrshire.ac.uk.




An evening in the life of an ESOL student

Claire Todd, who is on a work experience placement with our Marketing team, has been spending time visiting students around the College.

Recently she met with Orsi Dunn, ESOL lecturer, and her students. ESOL is a course designed for people whose first language is not English, and who wish to develop their skills through writing, listening, reading and speaking.

Here is how she got on.

The ESOL course aims to help students understand information, to use their knowledge of language in practical and relevant work areas, and to gain confidence to begin new, challenging tasks.

As well as this, each student interviewed agreed that they have met a great group of people. Just look how cheery they are!

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(In order-left-right) Pilar Santos, Marlena Szere, Orsi Dunn (lecturer), Hamidullah Sultani, Claudia d Lpince and Rahmatullah Mohammad Juma.

First I interviewed Pilar Santos, who had me keen to learn more about her from her answers to my very first question: ‘What made you decide to study this course?’

Pilar tells me that she experienced a horrific traffic accident before joining this course, and that she contacted Orsi to get enrolled: “I had a brain injury at level 3 and was in a coma for 5 days, in hospital for 5 weeks, and off work for a further 7 months.”

This is a very rare condition with only a 1% survival rate. Her doctors told her that she was a miracle.

Pilar now wants to improve her communication skills which is necessary for her current job with Food Standards Scotland. When she completes this course, she plans to sit an IELTS (International English Language Testing System), where a high score of at least 7 is essential for her to progress in her career.

When I ask what her biggest worry of the course is, she replies:

“I was worried that my brain would not work in the same ways it used to and that I would struggle to learn. Repetition helps me to learn and I am amazed at how easy I found this.”

What she enjoys most about this course is the chance to disconnect from her work with learning. She gets along great with the other students and says it’s nice that they can all share their experiences together.

She tells me that she struggles with the speaking element of the course: “Orsi tells me that I speak too fast and need to work on that. My writing skills for emails have definitely improved. My manager at work actually promoted me for my writing skills!”

The main thing she wants to continue to get better at is her communication skills to prepare her for the real life situations.

Finally, I ask what she would say to people who are thinking of applying for this course: “I’d tell them not to worry, as you are surrounded with similar students and this makes the thought of starting a new class much less daunting.”

She also comments that the course is an affordable price, that it is very manageable, and that the times are convenient as it is an evening class.

Pilar Santos

Next I speak with Rahmatullah Mohamma Juma.

Rahmatullah tells me that he chose this course to improve his English and that he actually studied a similar course in his home country of Afghanistan three years ago. He says he likes the idea of the class environment and decided to enrol on this specific course.

Rahmatullah has a wife and two kids and plans to improve his English skills as he feels this will help him to provide for his family.

When asked what he enjoys about the course he tells me: “I enjoy learning about other students’ experiences from their own countries and learning about different cultures.”

What he struggles with is writing, in particular punctuation when writing emails, however this course has certainly helped him to improve his skills.

I ask what his plans are for when this course is completed: “I plan to continue my studies at Ayrshire College in a different area. I currently work at Newton Security Doors Ltd and I am considering studying Mechanical Engineering to help me progress in my career.”

Lastly, he tells me that his wife is intending to study this same course : “My wife has completed level 4 and is completing level 5 at the moment before progressing to level 6. We have also encouraged our friends to enrol on this course to improve their English. I feel that the skills they would learn would be very beneficial to their families.”

Pilar Santos and Rahmatullah Mohammad Juma (2)

The third student I interview is called Abduhlrahman Ali, who is Kurrdish from Syria. He has been studying English for a long time, since high school. He feels that he pays more attention to this class and that it will help him to find employment as well as further study in the future. His main goal for this course was to improve his writing skills.

When asked what he enjoys about this course he tells me: “I like the atmosphere in the ESOL class with other international students. I like that we are obliged to speak English to each other as well as learning about their different cultures. It’s a great way to meet new people.”

He has already bettered his written English but he will continue to improve until he is satisfied himself. He says: “My lecturer is great at helping me with my writing skills. I concentrated mainly on improving these compared to listening, reading and speaking. I receive a lot of homework and Orsi’s marking helps me to improve. All of the homework and assessments are very beneficial.”

The writing aspect is what he struggles with the most, particularly the punctuation. He tells me: “Learning English compared to Arabic is extremely different as Arabic generally uses very long sentences, whereas English does not always. This is difficult to adjust to. Orsi has helped me to improve my skills and I am feeling confident and optimistic for my upcoming assessments.”

Adduhlrahman has no specific plans for this summer and he has only been in Scotland for four months. However, he plans to continue his studies and find a job in something he is genuinely interested in and finds exciting.

When this course is completed, he plans to enrol on a Health and Safety course. He feels this course has been very beneficial and has supported him.

If he had to encourage people to apply to this course he would tell them: “It’s a great opportunity and it’s good to have a lecturer to mark your assessments and help you to improve your speaking, writing, reading and listening skills. It’s not an overly intense course which is ideal.”

Finally I interview Orsi Dunn, who seems to have a true passion for teaching.

She tells me that she likes a challenge and that it is really important to continue evening classes, although it requires a huge commitment from everyone. She feels it is necessary to give everyone a chance to participate.

Orsi Dunn

What Orsi enjoys most about this course is the challenges it brings. She describes it as jigsaw.

“It is a very complex course and each student needs help with different things, whether that’s pronunciation, understanding concepts or grammar. It’s very interesting and rewarding. I love to hear the spectacular stories from my students. I learn from them, as they learn from me, and I hope that this is a mutually enriching experience. I hope that my students leave with a great sense of achievement.”

The most challenging aspect for her is the complexity of the course and the different aspects involved. Interpreting the different gaps and strengths within her students.

She loves to see the journeys travelled from her students, whether this is through volunteering, employment or further study. She feels that this is without a doubt the most rewarding aspect for her.

In three words she describes this course as rewarding, challenging and fun.

Recruiting an Apprentice – Was it the right decision?

Our modern apprentice in digital marketing has just completed her qualification. In this blog, Shelagh McLachlan, Marketing and PR Manager reflects on the success of Ayrshire College’s first modern apprentice.


Digital Marketing Apprentice, Catriona Cook, is delighted to be a part of the Ayrshire College Graduation procession.

Why did I want to employ an apprentice?

As a manager looking to recruit young marketing graduates into my team, I was disappointed to find that many of the applicants, while they had good business qualifications, most had no relevant digital marketing skills and experience. As our job requires digital marketing skills, this essential requirement left me with a skills gap.

By employing an apprentice, we could offer a job with training to develop a very specific set of skills. As a College who supports employers with apprenticeship training, I thought it would be good practice to employ an apprentice, and help to develop Ayrshire’s young workforce. An apprenticeship appeals to those who know that a full time course is not the best way for them to learn. Instead, they learn on the job. Some are put off going to university, because they are worried about building up student debt. With an apprenticeship, you earn while you learn.

We were lucky to get funding for the post from the Ayrshire College Foundation, and I recruited Ayrshire College’s first apprentice – Catriona Cook. Catriona was also the first person in Scotland to be registered for the Diploma in Digital Marketing, and is likely to be the first one to complete the qualification.

In case you missed it, you can catch up with how Catriona got on, by reading her latest blog, ‘I am a Digital Marketing Apprentice. Do you want to know what that is?’ which she wrote for Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2018.


Catriona Cook (bottom left) at the Ayrshire Connects Annual Conference, Kilmarnock Campus

How have we benefited from having an apprentice on our team?

I asked my team what were the top three things Catriona contributed to our team and here’s what they had to say:


Knowledge has increased – from day one Catriona has been learning specific digital marketing skills and has made a positive contribution to our team. She developed a specialist knowledge, and has been a great support to her colleagues.

Motivation has increased. I genuinely think I have a more motivated and satisfied workforce, as everyone has contributed to her development, and we are proud of her progress and achievements.

Productivity has increased. Catriona is creative and wrote posts for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. She created video content and contributed ideas for all our campaigns. As a result, we were able to increase the engagement and reach of our social media. Ayrshire College has been crowned the best college in the UK for Twitter over the past two years by the social media ranking tool, Edurank. It’s been a team effort and our modern apprentice has made a significant contribution to winning this award.

What are the outcomes of this apprenticeship?

Positive learning experience – Catriona tells us that she feels she has finally found out what she is good at. Digital marketing is something she developed confidence in and enjoys. From someone who had no knowledge about marketing and had limited experience using a computer, she has surprised herself with her new skills. You can listen to her thoughts on this here:

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Networking opportunity – through all the work Catriona has been involved in, she has begun to develop her professional network and all the support and encouragement this brings.

Inspiring others – One of Catriona’s proudest moments is returning to her old school, meeting one of her teachers, and making a good impression in her presentation about working as an apprentice. By delivering several school and college presentations, I am sure Catriona has inspired many others to either become an apprentice, or consider digital marketing as a career.

Her motto is – Go for it and learn in a way that suits you.

Here is a podcast with Catriona giving her advice to anyone thinking about a career in digital marketing:

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Shared learning opportunities for our team – as Catriona has learned about digital marketing, we have invested in more training so that the whole team has benefited. It’s been the catalyst we all needed to enhance our skills too. There has been a huge increase in training requests from the wider team.

Innovative projects – Catriona focused on our #ThisAyrshireGirlCan campaign to tackle gender inequalities in STEM. She established a network called Ayrshire Connects to support women studying or working in STEM in Ayrshire.

Creative Communications – One of Catriona’s legacies is the creation of the Ayrshire College Foundation website, newsletters, blog and social media sites. Sponsorship of her apprenticeship has helped the foundation raise awareness of their work.

Job success – the best outcome of all for Catriona, has been securing a full time job with South Ayrshire Council, as a Communications Officer promoting sport and leisure. It’s a great job, and with her enthusiasm, confidence and new skills she will help them make a difference to many peoples’ lives.

The next adventure begins

Of course, we are disappointed we can’t keep Catriona in our team. (We have no vacancies) Was it the right decision to recruit an apprentice? Absolutely! In the ‘Year of Young People’, we have helped Catriona to start her career. We feel privileged to have helped her realise her potential, and we’re proud of her achievement. She has developed into a fantastic digital marketer, who has a bright future ahead of her. And when a vacancy comes along – I hope she applies!


Catriona with her certificate and medal from Ayrshire College

Meanwhile we continue with our development of young people who aspire to have a career in marketing. We welcome Scott Clark HNC Photography and Angela Leishman, HNC Administration and IT students who are starting a summer internship with us. Watch this space…
#digitalmarketing #modernapprenticeships #StartHereGoAnywhere #internships


What’s the sugar tax and why should I care?

You might have heard people talking about the sugar tax. But what is it?
Well, campaigners see it a as a significant step in the fight against child obesity. This is something that the government has been talking about for some time, but it has still come as a bit of a surprise to people. This new tax will affect some of our refectory prices and the service we offer and so we decided to speak with Peter Bacchetti, Catering Services Manager at the College to find out more:

Peter, can you tell us what the ‘Sugar tax’ is?
The Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) was nicknamed the “sugar tax” by the media and online when it was announced at the 2016 Budget. But this isn’t a tax on all sugar; the levy directly targets the producers and importers of sugary soft drinks to encourage them to remove added sugar, promote diet drinks, and reduce portion sizes for high sugar drinks.

Will the Levy increase how much a soft drink costs me?
Even though this is not a tax on consumers, companies don’t have to pass the charge on to their customers. If companies take the right steps to make their drinks healthier they will pay less tax, or even nothing at all. That said, not all companies have reformulated all of their lines in order to fall under the taxable threshold.

Why soft drinks in particular?
There are nine teaspoons of sugar in a 330ml can of cola, instantly taking children above their recommended maximum for the day. A five-year-old should have no more than 19g of sugar in a day, but a typical can of Cola can have 35g. Public health experts from the Chief Medical Officer to the British Heart Foundation agree that sugar-sweetened soft drinks are a major source of sugar for children and teenagers, and that sugar intake drives obesity.

Many soft drinks contain no intrinsic nutritional value, and could be easily reformulated to contain less sugar. Some companies including Irn-bru have already done this.

Is obesity really a major problem?
Unfortunately, yes. The UK has one of the highest obesity rates among developed countries, and it’s getting worse. By 2050, over 35% of boys and 20% of girls aged 6-10 are expected to be obese. The estimated obesity-related costs to the NHS is over £6 billion.

What does this mean to me?
The Catering department have been working closely with our suppliers to provide options for our consumers on campus.

We have followed the advice of manufacturers and resulting actions have been outlined below –
· We will be switching from full sugar Coca-Cola from our dispensed units to Coke Zero
· We will be providing a wider range of Sugar-free flavoured waters
· We will continuously work to make sure that the majority of our Soft drink offerings fall under the taxable threshold wherever possible, keeping your costs, down
· We will add increases only where absolutely necessary eg the taxable full sugar variety Red Coca Cola. So a 500ml bottle will increase by 15p, and 10p on a 330ml can.

Please note – any increases on full sugar drinks are driven only by supplier taxable increases, and cover only this tax. While the taxes come in to force as of 6th April, the Catering department will defer any increases until 16th April.

Thanks for the information Peter.

“I’ve worked with individuals with varying degrees of mental health illness for about 15 years”

“I’ve worked with individuals with varying degrees of mental health illness for about 15 years. My experience tells me that absolutely people can and do recover from mental health illness and will go on to lead full and meaningful lives, contributing to society. I hope that as a society we continue to work to break down the stigma and discrimination which still exists as this can be one of the main barriers towards recovery. I think it’s so important that people are able to talk about their mental health, which can help encourage people to share how they feel and hopefully access the right support at the right time which can be vital in helping to stop problems becoming worse and having a significant impact on a person’s life.”

#mymentalhealthmatters #passthebadge #seeme #endthestigma #whatsyourexperience #Samaritans #Breathingspace #letstalk #mentalhealth #wellbeing

Pass a See Me badge, share 2 facts:

· 1 in 4 people will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime
· of those who do, 9 out of 10 report experiencing stigma and discrimination