Trading Places winners 2009
Meet the winners of the Barclays Trading Places Awards 2009 and see how they’ve overcome challenges to be the very best.
Overall Trading Places Winner 2009 and Triumph Over Disability award
On her sixteenth birthday, Deborah Stone (31) was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. She was so ill that she was advised to abandon her upcoming GCSE’s and concentrate on getting better. But that only made Deborah more determined than ever to take her exams and she achieved one Grade C and eight Grade A passes.
Deborah went on to pass her A-levels, achieved a degree in orthoptics and started working for the NHS. All through this time, Deborah continued to battle with her health. She regularly attended hospital for IV antibiotic therapy, and also contracted meningitis. She even had her appendix removed under local anaesthetic whilst on holiday in the Dominican Republic.
After six years working in a job she loved, Deborah’s health deteriorated significantly following the birth of her daughter and she was forced to take early retirement. Deborah was not yet 30 and felt she had been thrown on the scrapheap. Determined not to let her disability hold her back, she decided it was time to become her own boss.
Looking for an opportunity in the village where she lived, Deborah decided to start her own card and gift shop. She found a suitable unit to rent and launched Gigglebucket in December 2006.
The business was an instant success with the local community and was soon thriving. Before long, Deborah opened a second shop. When the local Post Office closed down, the shops’ takings also began to fall but, undeterred, Deborah invested in an e-bay shop and now makes the majority of her sales online.
As well as achieving retail success, Deborah has won two Community Awards honouring her local charity work, where she supports the Butterflies Project for bereaved children and also helps out at the local school and church.
Not content with the success of her existing businesses, Deborah has also opened a successful hair salon in nearby Widnes. She is also planning to expand the card shops to offer balloons and party-ware, as well as further developing her website.
Deborah’s hard work and determination has really paid off and she has never let her illness slow her down, even continuing to organise her businesses from her hospital bed, much to the annoyance of her doctors!
Deborah considers herself extremely fortunate, and despite the fact that the current life expectancy of CF suffers is still below 40, she is determined to make the best of every day and provide as much as possible for her family.
In addition to the overall prize package, Barclays also gave Deborah a year's membership of an exclusive health club so that she can have some 'me time' and pampering whenever she feels the need.
Spirit of Inspiration winner
Angel Cakes by Virginia Valentine
Throughout her childhood and teenage years, Virginia Valentine was sexually abused. The traumatic experience left her feeling trapped and unable to trust anyone.
Virginia found escape in her schoolwork and talent for creating things. Her few happy times were spent at her grandmother’s house learning how to bake and she soon developed a genuine flair for making cakes.
Unable to confide in anyone about the abuse, and fearing the consequences if she did, Virginia buried her feelings inside and at the age of just nine, started drinking.
At 18, Virginia left home and secured a place at Sheffield Polytechnic to study for a Food Science Degree, just managing to support herself with weekend work.
During the following years, Virginia went through the trauma of three failed marriages, six miscarriages, and by the time she reached her early thirties, she was a single mother of two young children. Spurred on to tackle her drinking problem as well as addressing the emotional issues, Virginia attended self-help groups and went into therapy.
Virginia succeeded in giving up alcohol but her road to recovery was hampered by a variety of medical problems.
She was now more determined than ever to take control of her life and turn her skill for cake-making into a business. She sold her house and, with the support of her friends, opened her shop in November 2007, specialising in traditional baking and contemporary cake design.
The business started to grow steadily and Virginia launched a mail-order website hiring out a range of novelty cake tins. She now has one full-time and three part-time staff, all of whom are trained to produce Virginia’s unique style of cake decorating. She also provides work experience for students, as well as running a series of workshops in baking and cake decorating.
Success After Unemployment winner
Joe Brown's Egg Round
Joe Brown (20) was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, a form of autism, at the age of three. He went to Hillside school for autistic children until he was 10, and then into a mainstream secondary school where he received one-to-one teaching support.
Joe’s life at secondary school was difficult and he left with just two GCSEs and the knowledge that no-one expected him to be able to hold down a job. Undeterred, Joe went to college for the next four years and achieved a BTEC Diploma in Art. He applied for several jobs but because of his communication problems, none of the interviews were successful.
It was family friend and poultry farmer, David Woollam, who first gave Joe the idea for his own business. He had visited the farm several times to help pack eggs and David suggested Joe should start selling eggs direct to householders in his local community. David became his mentor and negotiated a deal for Joe with a free-range egg producer close to his home.
With support from various organisations including The Prince’s Trust, Leonard Cheshire Disability and Jobcentre Plus, Joe spent the first six months test trading, whilst continuing to receive his incapacity benefit.
Joe was registered with the Shaw Trust, who suggested approaching Access to Work, run by Jobcentre Plus. They provided a support worker to assist Joe for three months with his delivery round and help him develop communication with his customers. Access to Work also funded 10 sessions with a life coach helping him to become more independent by giving him a structured daily routine.
The business has made a good start but Joe has found the winter months harsh, particularly during wet weather. Joe is now determined to pass his driving test and buy a delivery vehicle for next winter.
Joe now has 300 customers on his four weekly rounds living within a mile of his home, who make him feel like an active member of his community. Running his own business has created an income for Joe, allowing him to save up for holidays and help his mother with the housekeeping, as well as giving a huge boost to his independence, confidence and self-esteem.
Our other national finalists
John Dixon Hart
ONE NATION Renewables
East Riding, Yorkshire
When John Dixon Hart was in his twenties he had mental health problems and went through a period of alcohol and drug abuse. He even spent time in prison for a drink-driving related matter. With the help of a relative, John decided to turn his life around and in the early 2000's he turned his back on his former problems and abuses, such that by 2007 his attitude was completely transformed and he started a new company importing and selling wind turbines. Since then, he and the business have gone from strength to strength, doubling turnover year-on-year.
Cravin Tunez Entertainment
West Worthing, West Sussex
Paul McDonald fell in with a bad crowd when he was younger and when he was 12, lost an arm in a train accident when he was messing around on train tracks. His recovery was a long and difficult process and Paul became depressed, but his passion for music encouraged him to start up his own events company. Paul also uses his own experience to help raise awareness of the dangers of playing railway tracks.
Wendy Irwin had a successful career as an air stewardess, but decided to turn her life around after being brutally attacked by her partner. Now with two young children, Wendy runs her own security company which she established in May 2008.
When he was only seven years old, Craig Earley’s father died in a tragic road accident – and so started a downward spiral. Craig not only became addicted to drugs and served a prison sentence, but also lost a leg when he was run over by a van. Craig was determined to turn his life around and in October 2008, opened his shop which sells a wide range of alternative gifts.
Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland
Aileen Keenan is a single mum, who also took on the guardianship of her younger sister after their father’s death. Unfortunately she was made redundant and found it hard to support her family on benefits. But, determined to turn her life around, Aileen put her hairdressing experience to good use and opened her own salon in April 2007.
Rhodri Davis was only 21 when he had to take over sole responsibility for his family and their farm after his father suffered a devastating brain seizure – caused by Encephalitis. During the two years Rhodri helped nurse his dad, he realised that his goals in life had changed. The experience gave Rhodri the courage and motivation to set up his own business in August 2008, manufacturing and distributing fruit smoothies, whilst also helping to raise awareness for The Encephalitis Society.
Brynels Hats & Accessories
Whilst pregnant with her first child, Vivean Pomell developed Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, which severely restricted the use of her hands. As a result, Vivean was eventually unable to work. When her daughter was only three, she lost some of her hair and in an attempt to disguise this, Vivean began creating hats and hair pieces. In January 2007 Vivian started Brynels Hats & Accessories, providing bespoke and customised hats to the general public, as well a specialised service to people who suffer with hair loss.