Jan Shillito

Creating perfect memories sets Jan on a new career

Busy entrepreneur and mum of two Jan Shillito has started the new year with two exciting new careers.

Not only will early 2013 see the launch of her new online social media venture thememorybox.com, but she has also just become one of the first people to successfully gain a new qualification as an independent celebrant.

The Level 3 Diploma in Celebrancy: Naming and Couples (QCF) is available exclusively through training specialist Civil Ceremonies, the Diploma means Jan is qualified to conduct a wide range of celebration ceremonies including naming ceremonies, wedding and partnership celebration ceremonies and commitment ceremonies.

This service will also become a supporting part of the thememorybox.com experience and has its own website www.thememorybox.com/ceremonies/.

In a clever marketing move, 43-year-old Jan plans to use her new ceremony skills to help promote her fledgling online business.

“It’s very exciting and it’s the perfect fit because in the real world Celebration Ceremonies is helping couples and families to create the memories of significant life-stage events, such as a naming ceremony or wedding celebration and then they will have the opportunity to store them online in thememorybox.com,” said Jan, who lives in Yorkshire with her husband and two young children “It means the two businesses complement each other really well.”

The idea for thememorybox.com originally came to Jan while she was on maternity leave and decided to research her family tree.

“I was fortunate enough to be able to talk to my grandparents who, at 93 and 92, still had plenty of memories of family life and I wanted to be able to record these for all the family to share,” said Jan. “That led me to develop the idea for thememorybox.com – a social media platform where people can save, share, organise and record their memories within a safe and secure online environment

“Most people have all their personal information scattered around – DVDs, photo CDs and albums, old documents, material on hard drives of their computer  – this gives them one single place to store all those family memories so everyone can share and develop when they like.”

It was only 18 months ago, when Janwas made redundant from her role as Client Services Director after 14 years with an advertising and marketing agency, that she had the opportunity to start working on the project while still fulfilling her aim to spend more time with her two children. 

“Developing thememorybox.com has been great but I realised I also missed getting out and about and organising things, plus I needed to think about a steady income,” she said. “My stepfather, who used to be a careers adviser, suggested I look at training to become a celebrant and I thought it was a brilliant idea.

“I love meeting people, so taking a brief for their big day and writing a very personal service just for them will be perfect.”

Jan plans to focus mainly on wedding celebrations and is already attending wedding shows and talking to venues to raise her profile and encourage brides to think differently about their big day.

Although celebration ceremonies don’t replace the legal formalities, they are perfect for couples who, for example, are having a simple register office service or have been married abroad but wish to share a bigger occasion with family and friends

They are also ideal for couples who want their wedding in a particular venue that isn’t licensed for marriages or want to incorporate religious or cultural traditions, which aren’t allowed at a Register Office or in a religious ceremony.

Having organised her own wedding celebration ceremony nine years ago, Jan talks from personal experience. After a legal service in the morning, she arranged a wedding celebration in her own garden, taking care of every last detail, including writing her own script.

“For me, it is about changing attitudes, showing brides how very personal a celebration ceremony can be,” she said. “I knew for my own wedding I wanted to express who we are as individuals and create a ceremony that as a couple, had special meaning to us. I didn’t want a conveyor-belt ceremony conducted by a registrar, I wanted to be different, I wanted to be me. I knew there I had to be a better solution and we had a wonderful day.

“Now I want to share that experience with other couples and help them have a fabulous day which is all about them and what they want.”

Celebration ceremonies which mark special occasions such as an anniversary or partnership vows are becoming increasingly popular, and many parents are also now choosing naming ceremonies as an alternative to a traditional church christening for their children.

In keeping with her own tradition, Jan wrote and delivered naming ceremony celebrations for daughter Melina, now seven and four-year-old Kalias, preferring the flexibility of being able to put together her own ceremony.

Now she hopes to use her experiences to help many more couples and parents make their special day an event to remember.