My life so far has been one of ups and downs. I had a troubled childhood, spending time in children’s homes and having my first baby at the age of 15. However, I managed to do OK in my O-Levels thanks to a tutor who helped me make up for the school time I missed due to having my daughter.
I went on to take several more qualifications, both vocational and academic. It was only during the course of my second degree in Psychology, at the age of 27, that I was diagnosed as dyslexic. Ironically it was only picked up because I’d done so well in a coursework assignment – receiving 98%, the highest mark ever. When I then failed an exam shortly later staff became suspicious and ordered an investigation.
In the process tests confirmed that I had dyslexia. The university offered me the opportunity to retake the exam with the assistance of a scribe and I received 89%. As a result, I was moved straight from the first year to the second year. I completed my degree in two years instead of three and came out with a first. Although dyslexia are considered a disability, I don’t believe it’s held me back. In fact, it has driven me to be a high achiever. Some things may be more challenging for me, but I’ll always find a way.
Alongside my studies I had supported my growing family by starting a variety of businesses, purely to make it easier to fit work around my other commitments. However, I found I had a natural business instinct and financial nouse. Combined with my outgoing, sociable manner, these abilities saw my business ventures thrive.
In my early years in business I was running a home baking and sewing business and wanted to diversify into selling organic cleaning products and using them to clean people’s homes. At the time I was working in two other jobs to make ends meet but needed to free up some time to focus on building the cleaning business, so I applied to the Prince’s Trust for a grant.
I decided to butter up Prince Charles’s aide by baking him an organic cake. He loved the cake so I told him, “If the cake tastes that good, imagine how good your house would feel after I’d cleaned it”. He laughed so hard that he decided to award me the £10,000 I’d asked for without going to panel.
Taking the rough with the smooth
Mixed in with my triumphs I’ve also had my share of difficulties, including serious health and financial challenges. But when things have been tough, I’ve always reminded myself to look out of the window and see life going past. Who knows what opportunities you could miss by sitting around brooding? That’s why I always have a positive attitude to everything I do and also why I’m passionate about helping others.
Bad things happen to all of us, but you shouldn’t let that stand in the way of achieving your dreams. Focus on the people in your life who really support you and try and try again. I always remember my aunty, who told me many times that I could be whatever I wanted to be, and supported me when I became pregnant at such a young age. I have a beautiful relationship with my daughters and grandchildren. We all support each other in achieving our ambitions and comfort each other when things don’t go to plan.
Incidentally all my daughters have followed in my footsteps, running their own small businesses and working hard to support their families. Three of my five grandchildren are also turning out to be junior entrepreneurs. No matter how busy life gets I make a point of taking Saturdays off and making time to do things I enjoy, like sewing, knitting, baking and dancing.
Smoothing the way for others
I consider myself blessed to have been able to build both a strong, beautiful family and a successful career. But it certainly hasn’t been an easy ride and at times it’s been lonely. That’s why I decided to set up Gems Business Microfinance, to give other women the boost they need to make fulfilling their business aspirations that bit easier. I also provide coaching and mentoring as well as sharing my expertise and experience as a speaker I get such pleasure from inspiring other people and helping them make their dreams come true.