Sports sessions for children in schools focusing on mental health Jog On – Lynne Northcott
Retail: Sale of mental health focused sportswear, specialising in sports hijabs
Services: Delivery of ‘Mind & Body Stronger’ group sessions and one-to-one interventions to support children and young people in schools and education with emotional regulation. As well as provide corporate training and wellbeing sessions
Lynne Northcott, 43, from Essex, United Kingdom is the Brand Owner of Jog On. She runs and manages the business alone alongside her job as a School Counsellor in a secondary school. The focus of Jog On up until recently has been on the retail of sportswear however recently Lynne has combined her love of sports and her profession to develop the services aspect of her business by providing mental health focused sports sessions for children in schools.
Founder’s/Owner’s story and what motivated them to start the business
I began my running journey in 2014 shortly after losing my grandmother to Ovarian Cancer. I had never run further than around 100m before without stopping and thought putting my name down for Race4Life would be a good way to challenge myself as well as raise some money for Cancer Research.
Being a Muslim that wears hijab, I would struggle to find a hijab that felt not only comfortable but also helped me feel more confident running outside in public, something I had never done before. At that point I had never seen a woman wearing hijab running outside.
I remember trying out various lengths, fabrics and styles but each time it was either too uncomfortable, slippy, wet in the rain or too hot in the sun. I felt like a hijabi Goldilocks where nothing felt just right. This took my mind away from my running, unable to fully relax or focus.
Sometimes I experienced negative comments from strangers regarding my hijab and clothing. This was hard for me because not only was I suffering from depression and anxiety at the time, I did not expect to experience Islamaphobia or unkindness while I was just trying to enjoy the beginning of my running journey. It made me feel self-conscious and nervous when passing people. I would say to myself “Lynne, just keep jogging on” trying my best to shrug off negativity and reap the benefits of running for my own sense of wellbeing. I found that running really helped me grow as a person and learn to value myself and do something that was just for me. As I surpassed the 5k goal, I increased my distance until I completed my first marathon in 2017. During my marathon training, hours out on my own, I did a lot of self-reflection and began to overcome inhibitions and grow stronger in my mind and my body. I no longer cared what others thought of me and would say to myself “Jog On to the haters” and keep going,, but more importantly I started to care more about my own self.
When the first big branded sports hijab was released I was on my laptop ready to order at midnight to ensure I got one in case it sold out. But when I put it on there was no happy ending for my struggle. And that was when I knew I had to produce one of my own and it only felt “just right” that I should call my brand Jog On, with a tagline “mind and body stronger”. My whole branding is based around mental health and the realistic improvements that can be made through movement and sports.
The first product I worked on was the release of the Jog On Sports Hijab, aesthetically beautiful, perfect fabric for all weathers and comfortable in all the right places. I remember the day I tried it on for the first time. I felt so proud of what I had achieved and when I looked in the mirror I saw the real me looking back. I felt confident and comfortable and hoped that others would too. I never wanted to be seen as an exclusive brand just for Muslim women so I released unisex t-shirts and snoods featuring the tagline Mind and Body Stronger, aiming at producing a brand that would be for everyone, not just Muslim women.
Soon customers were ordering, excited to test for themselves if there was finally a sports hijab that they could love and when the feedback came and they told me it ticked all the boxes I couldn’t have been happier. Knowing that I have helped other women feel good about themselves brings me great joy. Some women have told me that their lives have been changed by this simple piece of clothing as they have built their self-esteem and sense of belonging through community running and sports.
Recently I developed the services of Jog On and since April 2022 I have been providing Jog On sessions for a primary school in Essex. The purpose of the sessions is to support children to self-regulate when they experience strong emotions. Having learnt how to take care of my own inner child through my running journey, I wanted to support others to do the same. Observing the changes that the children make through movement and mindfulness has been an honour. Knowing I am making a difference to their lives gives me a huge sense of hope and admiration. Teachers have reported improvement in their conduct and communication skills.
It isn’t just children who reap the benefits of Jog On sessions. I have also run groups for adults as well as produced a YouTube channel and Podcast that feature audio guided mindfulness runs so that listeners can work through difficult emotions while out walking or running.
Jog On is not just a sports brand. Lynne cares about helping others work on their mental wellbeing and uses Jog On as a platform to do so. Lynne does not like to use the word customer because Jog On is established because of the community across the globe who suppor her. All involved are part of the #jogonfamily whether they have bought something or not. Being a sole business owner, without employees or help with the business can be lonely but there has been a lot of encouragement and kindness directed my way that have helped me keep jogging on.
The challenges the business/market is facing
The sports retail business is dominated by a handful of Big Brand names. For smaller brands like Jog On, it can be really difficult to penetrate the market. A well established popular brand is able to produce products in larger quantity units therefore costing them less at the production stage and can afford to slash prices in seasonal sales. They don’t need to worry about increasing their followers on social media or the cost of investment in advertising and promotion. They also have an advantage over small brands like Jog On due to impulse buys being made possible with the presence of their products in department stores and high street stores. I have to price my products really carefully to make it as affordable to the customer as possible but having a smaller profit margin means it will take years to break even.
My business to business efforts are painfully spent trying to establish communication with buyers and larger retailers without receiving so much as a “no thankyou”. The media have not been interested until now to showcase the business or help me tell my story. It can feel very deflating and it is hard to keep going and keep reaching out when you are made to feel like a no-body in the industry you are desperately trying to find a place in. Working alone can be really tough because I do not have a team around me, which leaves every aspect of the business my sole responsibility alongside my other jobs, family and personal life.
The opportunities the business/market is facing
Inclusivity and diversity is a big conversation in sports at the moment. Recent studies have shown that Muslim women are the most inactive social group here in the UK. and as result a lot of funding is being centred around how to increase participation. New projects and clubs are starting, aiming to help Muslim women feel more comfortable to join in. The Muslim Sports Foundaiton in particular has been working hard to do just that by helping to provide sessions and spaces to engage this social group.
Retailers and brands are also shifting their focus on more inclusive sportswear. Since I released the Jog On Sports Hijab, several other big named brands have each released one. Although this has been disheartening for me and in many ways made things more challenging for me as a small brand, it also increases excitement because it demonstrates there certainly is a market for this kind of product. It also helps to encourage more Muslim women to engage in pyhsical activity. The challenge for me is to try and direct them to my brand in a market where the bigger brands take the stage and where I do not have the budget to pour money into advertising and promotion.
Advice to others about business
Be passionate and keep jogging on. Keep going even when it feels like everything is against you. It can be so easy to give up when you don’t get the results you hoped for in the first few years.. I tell myself that even if I get 10,000 knockbacks, one day I will get a big opportunity that could change the way the world sees sportswear. If we put in the hard work it will eventually pay off.
I have a mantra that I follow which I call “The Jog On Three B;s; Body, Breathe & Believe”. This is part of the foundation of the groups I facilitate with children. It’s about uniting the mind, body and heart so they sing the same tune. I help them, through self awareness and mindfulness, to be in a habit of releasing tension from the body, managing breathing and then telling yourself you can do this to increase self-belief to get the job done. I am always realistic that there will always be hurdles – if you believe you can get over the barriers you are more likely to take that leap.
Ask for help! Many business owners find it really hard to delegate to others. It takes a certain amount of perfectionism when you are developing your own brand. We have those Goldilocks moments about getting everything just right. But with that can come stress and eventually burn out. Maybe that’s why she fell asleep in Mumma bear’s bed!
I’ve learnt its important to be kind to myself and that it’s okay to make mistakes, cry it out or take some time off to prevent feeling overwhelmed. Pausing and reflecting for a while is all part of keeping going.
Most of all, have fun with it. Having your own business is a chance to be creative, playful and passionate. It is your personality that makes a brand work because that is what is relatable to your target audience, so show it through your work and never be afraid to be yourself.
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