rainbow_biz_social_enterpriseHere we are in February 2015, a new year with new promises. Last year was an exciting year for us as we re-thought our business idea and changed it to suit our situation. We used to run a business called “Rainbow Trike Tours”, which we loved, but this had to come to an end as Sue was finding it very physically demanding to chauffeur customers around the North West in often pretty appalling weather conditions. Sue has Multiple Sclerosis, which affects her in a number of different ways. Some days she feels great, but others she is unable to move due to fatigue and muscle ache. Riding the Rainbow Trike was very demanding for her but we did not want to be defeated.

Melissa Etheridge

Photographer: John Tsiavis

Then everything changed. On the 28th January, 2014 we joined a Google Hangout for the Uprising of Love Movement with Melissa Etheridge and fellow Uprising Of Love Coalition Co-founders Dustin Lance Black and Bruce Cohen. We were able to ask questions on how we can support our LGBT communities around the world, so we were able to ask questions about how we can make a difference. This was an amazing turning point in both our lives.

We have long been fans of Melissa Etheridge’s music and followed her since the 1980’s, the above video was taken at the Pinkpop Festival back in 1990. She has been through many private and public struggles of her own, but has always come out stronger than before. During the Hangout we were able to ask her questions about how we could as a small business support our LGBT community, Melissa said “What you do in your own lives makes all the difference to what’s happening in the world”. We really took this comment on board, and embedded it into our business ethos as well as our private lives. Instead of just being a business front, we started to bring in our personalities and spoke out about issues that we thought might help others and found this encouraged what has become quite a widespread support network both on Social Media and in our own community.

Rainbow Biz_V5.2RainbowBiz Limited is now registered as a Social Enterprise (not for profit business). We support small businesses, charities and organisations with Social Media. We currently manage several Facebook and Twitter accounts for local organisations, but will be starting to train other people to manage their own. The best person to shout about their business or organisation is of course someone who works there and feels passionately about their work. There is great satisfaction in empowering and enabling other folks to use social media and promote their organisations.

We will be developing Diversity training in addition to basic skills training with computers, and even offering support to disabled and older people who would like to learn how to communicate online through Skype, social media networks, forums and how to order online shopping. This we hope will reduce isolation in the community.

We are a very lucky couple in that we both like the same music, our favourite album at the moment is still “This is M.E.” by Melissa Etheridge. In fact, we both appear on that album cover several times along with many other fans, as Melissa requested fans send in their photographs as she wanted to make a collage of herself with her fans photographs. Melissa is in fact touring this March / April around Europe and there is a one off date in London at Shepards Bush Empire on 27 April – GET YOUR TICKETS HERE! We are hoping that we might get a chance to thank her for giving us inspiration and confidence to make a difference in our community. From a personal point of view, we feel that Melissa is a huge inspiration to us on many levels from talking openly about how she manages her health and minimises stress. Melissa and her wife Linda are positive role models to their children and she is still able to balance her family life with real hard work, touring and public appearances. More and more over the years, Melissa has retained youthful and rockstar looks, but increasingly seems to blossom as time goes on. We can only think that this is through being happy in her own skin, marrying her soul mate and being true to herself.

Melissa Etheridge

Photographer: John Tsiavis

We were given an exciting opportunity to ask Melissa some more questions:

Sue and I became Civil Partners in a beautiful ceremony last year in Llangollen, Wales, UK we are now legally able to “upgrade” to an equal marriage in Wales which is pretty exciting! Melissa, you were married in California last year to your soul mate and best friend Linda Wallem, how has your life changed since you have legally become wife and wife?

Mostly, it has changed in the deep sense of commitment to my wife and family. Also just calling Linda “my wife” is a complete thrill.

You have recently toured with your new band through the US and Canada, where do you find your energy and inner strength from? Do you invite your family to join you? How does that work on a tour bus?

Health is the number one most important thing for me on the road. Eating healthy and getting enough sleep, while not the rock and roll lifestyle, is absolutely a must to keep up the energy needed for my shows. My family does join me every now and then. When Linda is not working she comes with me. This last Thanksgiving in America I had my whole family, Linda and all for kids with me for a week. It was heaven. I had our own family bus for a week.

As you know we take a lot of inspiration and strength from you, who inspires you and why?

My family, my fans and the ever changing stream of people that come into my life have constantly inspired me. Inspiration is everywhere.

We are about to embark on some training courses in the community, some of which will involve Social Media. Which Social Media platform do you prefer to use and why?

Well, as my fans can tell, I am a Twitter person. I get on Facebook every now and then, but Twitter is quick and easy and it forces me to be brief!

If you could include one specific point that you think should be included in Diversity Training, what would it be and why?

Loving yourself. You can’t begin to understand or appreciate anyone else until you do the same for yourself.

We came to see your tour in Manchester Academy a couple of years ago, it was the first time we have ever seen you perform live. We hope it will not be the last! Have you ever thought about playing in Liverpool UK, home of The Beatles?

Yes I have. I would love to do a more extensive tour of the UK. I hope that will be possible soon.

Thanks so much to Melissa for giving up her time to answer our burning questions and for giving us a small insight into her life. We hope this blog will encourage other folks to listen to your music and come and see you on tour this March / April. We will certainly be at Shepards Bush on 27 April!

Meanwhile at RainbowBiz HQ we are really busy working on training courses organising local festivals. We continue every day to network and meet new people so that together we can build a positive and diverse community. We would encourage your comments on how we can improve our services in the future. You can contact us here www.rainbowbiz.org.uk email info@rainbowbiz.org.uk

We are on Facebook www.facebook.com/rainbowbiz/ and Twitter @RainbowBizUK also Instagram www.instagram.com/rainbowbizuk/ plus LinkedIn and many more! All our links are available from our website.

You can also find our more information about Melissa Etheridge on her website www.melissaetheridge.com follow her on Twitter @metheridge and on her Facebook page www.facebook.com/melissaetheridge