In November last year, I was privileged to become a Young Ambassador for youth charity The Prince's Trust and got the chance to share my journey as an entrepreneur with other young people. I had succeeded in the journey from being someone who was 'supported' to becoming a 'supporter' for the charity, and I couldn't be happier to tell the tale.
The Trust was there for me at a time when I was disillusioned with my life - a time many young people will relate to. During the recession, I was lucky enough to be in a temporary administrative role. However, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was on the wrong path; I was left feeling lost and unsure what the future would hold. Who was I becoming and where was I going?
After a moment of realisation and finding myself in between jobs, I decided to consult Google where I searched: 'help with setting up a small business'. Fate led me to click on The Prince's Trust website, where I found a range of encouraging options which included The Trust's Enterprise Programme. I applied and was successfully offered a place. The programme trained me in basic accounting, marketing and even included an edifying, and surprisingly interesting, speech on taxes. My confidence, which had been all but quashed after the previous months of confusion, was on its way to thriving.
I set about realising my dream of setting up a floristry business. I secured funding from The Trust in the form of a low-interest loan and I started my first business as a sole trader. I quickly built up a network of clients who seemed to embrace my quirky and experimental style of floral arranging.
At this point, I must mention my wonderful Prince's Trust mentor Colin Graves, ever enthusiastic about the world of floristry and even more enthusiastic about fine tuning my accounts. One of my first clients, and an existing client, he was relentlessly optimistic and encouraged me to strive towards the business I proudly run with my business partner today.
After 18 months of excitement and sleepless nights worrying about bridal bouquets wilting, we made the decision to form our company Hattie & Flora Ltd. Specialising in quirky and theatrical event design, we are proud to say we have worked for many prestigious clients in venues such as Harrods, The Ritz, ExCel, The Globe Theatre, and even secured a live appearance on Channel 4's Sunday Brunch.
Throughout this journey, I have come to realise that it is the support network I have gained through The Prince's Trust that has been so crucial to my success. The Prince's Trust, my family, and my friends, have made up a large part of the driving force that has created the company I am proud to co-run today.
Not only has my mentor been there to guide me, I've had numerous wonderful experiences as a Young Ambassador for the charity, including meeting the Head of Entertainment at the BBC. A few weeks ago, I was privileged to attend an inspiring event in London with leading women who are part of The Prince's Trust's Women's Leadership Group.
Here, alongside talking to some of the UK's leading women, I was able to hear from US author Pamela Ryckman, whose book Stiletto Network looks at groups of women who are coming together through friendships to change the face of business.
Pamela's speech really resonated with me personally; she spoke of the inspiring groups of women championing each other in business, who, rather than choosing to compete, are choosing to reach out and help each other and nurture their each other's talents in the business world. Being myself a part of a determined female partnership, I see daily how women are striving to be some of the most ambitious and courageous figures in the business world.
It has become more and more apparent on my journey in business that the cycle of receiving support and supporting each other means we can be a part of something organic, which ultimately grows into success.
I now feel compelled to share my story with other young women in the hope that more will be encouraged to build and grow their own networks, encouraging each other to realise the potential that, for so many of us, goes untapped, but that for me, thanks to The Prince's Trust, has grown into a business - and a future.