Women, Chronic Illness and Enterprise: Why I'm Proud to Represent the Prince's Trust as a Young Ambassador | International Women's Day

Over the last couple of months, I received two very special packages through the post both of which filled me with overwhelming pride.

Both were from people I have never actually met in person but both of whom I am very happy to call friends.

Both were from young women who, like me, have had their lives turned on their head by ill health but have created a fresh start for themselves with the support of the Prince's Trust.

On International Women's Day I thought there was no better time to talk about just how important it is that young women (and men) are being given this support and how proud I am to represent a charity that provides it. 

In the UK tens of thousands of people are affected by long-term health conditions and, through no lack of motivation to earn a living for themselves, are unemployed. For those who are severely affected by their symptoms, any form of work is out of the question but for others with more fluctuating symptoms there is the potential for some form of rewarding employment.

Unfortunately though, despite there being a huge number of very capable people in this situation there are very few jobs that offer the flexibility they require. While it is my ultimate aim for BearHugs to offer suitably flexible part-time working opportunities to as many people as I possibly can with chronic illness, this isn't going to solve the problem. 

But a fantastic way people with fluctuating long-term conditions can get the pride, satisfaction and numerous other benefits that come from working is through Enterprise. With ever-improving technology and the internet there are more and more ways that people, who perhaps struggle to leave the house, can work for themselves, when they're up to it, from home. A business doesn't have to have tens of employees and turn over hundreds of thousands of pounds to be successful. If it brings one person a focus, a sense of accomplishment and any kind of financial independence, in my eyes it is a success. And I love that the Prince's Trust offers accommodating, step-by-step support to make this a reality for people through their Enterprise Programme.

I think it's especially important that this support is offered to women. Studies by the Federation of Small Business show that just 20 per cent of single-person businesses were owned and run by women in 2014. And studies have shown that boosting female entrepreneurship could deliver as much as  £60 billion extra to the UK economy.

When on a inspiring-business-women-book-reading spree last year, I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and couldn't agree more with her when she says

"It's time to cheer on girls and women who want to sit at the table"

So with this in mind, I'm really proud to share the contents of the packages I received from two amazing Prince's Trust-supported business women.

The first package was from my lovely friend Jayne who creates beautiful personalised wooden art, gifts and greetings cards. I popped her message above my desk straight away and it never fails to make me smile when I put my tea on her lovely coaster. Jayne's online shop is ridiculously pretty and filled with all kinds of lovely personalised gifts. My personal favourites are her laser cut maps of London.

The second package was from the amazing Charlotte Elizabeth. Charlotte has created a beautiful leather accessories brand and is a constant source of inspiration to me. It all started with her classic Bloomsbury handbag and she now offers perfectly complementary additional accessories. I love opening my bag to Charlotte's beautiful creations and have been showing them off to anyone who will listen at every opportunity!

Seeing people I can relate to doing incredible things always inspires me to work harder at BearHugs so I am very happy to have Jayne, Charlotte and lots of other incredible women in my life.

Next week I will be heading to the Prince's Trust TK Maxx and Homesense National Celebrate Success Awards am am beyond proud to be one of three female finalists for the Enterprise Award. To be involved with the Prince's Trust and represent a charity that does so much for young people is a privilege and I'm excited to hear the stories of others whose lives have been changed by their work. Especially Katie and Gracie who will be alongside me in the Enterprise category.

If you're interested in accessing the Prince's Trust's support. I've popped a link below.


Wishing you a very happy International Women's Day!

Love and hugs