by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

A group of inspirational young people have been recognised at The Prince’s Trust and TK Maxx & Homesense awards. They received their awards at a ceremony in The Mac in Belfast recently.


 

The Prince’s Trust and TK Maxx & Homesense Awards honour the achievements of young people who have succeeded against the odds, improved their chances in life, had a positive impact on their local community, as well as people who have played a part in supporting the work of The Trust.

 

Sarah Lavery from Newtownabbey, Ulster Bank Enterprise Award

 

Sarah Lavery, 26 from Newtownabbey, dreamt of starting a business that would allow every child to be invited to a birthday party regardless of their needs or abilities. She has family members with autism and recognised that some children need a quieter space to be available for them to enjoy a party.

 

When she was made redundant from her full-time job, Sarah was left with no way to support herself and mounting credit card debt. She decided this was the time to see if her business idea could become a reality and got in touch with The Prince’s Trust about their Enterprise programme.

 

The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme supports young people aged 16-30 to make their business idea a reality. During the three-day course Sarah developed a business plan, was matched with a mentor and was offered a loan to help her set up her business.

 

Just weeks after finishing the programme she found the perfect premises in Glengormley and opened for business.

 

Sarah said: “Dudes and Divas Entertainment is a unique children’s party venue themed like an enchanted garden with princesses, superheroes, fairies and pirates. Snow machines, bubbles and candyfloss machines add to the magic while a sensory room, wheelchair access and a disabled toilet mean that everyone is able to join the party.

 

“The Enterprise programme gave me the confidence that my idea was viable and more than just a dream. I’m now debt free, and in the past 12 months we have employed three part time members of staff and expanded into an additional building onsite. I’m so proud of the business and love being able to provide a little bit of magic for children on their special day.”

 

Sarah was nominated for the Ulster Bank Enterprise Award at The Prince’s Trust Awards in Northern Ireland by her mentor Rosemary Morrison who runs her own consultancy and training business, Directus NI.

 

Rosemary was delighted when she heard Sarah had won, she said: “It was my absolute pleasure to nominate Sarah. She is an ambitious and extremely hard-working young businesswoman who I am delighted to have worked with and am proud to know. I think what she has achieved at such a young age in just incredible!”

 

On winning the award Sarah said: “The Prince’s Trust played a big part in getting my business, Dudes and Divas, started. I’m so grateful for the support of the staff and my mentor. To have my success recognised with this award is really special.”

 

Joanne Wilson, Customer Experience Lead for Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank Contact Centres said: “Congratulations to Sarah on winning the Enterprise award. She has shown how it is possible to transform a great idea into a sustainable business. Well done!” 

 

Annie Burke from Belfast, Homesense Young Achiever of the Year Award

 Annie Burke, aged 30 from Belfast, says that discovering her talent for baking saved her life.

 

Having experienced anxiety and depression from a young age, everything came to a head when Annie was hospitalised aged 25. Since leaving hospital she has turned her life around by training as a baker and is now making a living running her own business.

 

Annie found life scary when she was younger, she had a difficult childhood and experienced constant panic attacks which she couldn’t control.

 

She said: “I found everyday things like getting public transport difficult and couldn’t cope being around people. Everything came to head when I went into hospital, but when I left I was determined to face my fears and find a way to make my dream of running my own baking business happen.”

 

After she left hospital Annie signed up for a bakery course and with the support of her tutors achieved her Level 3 qualification. Now she had the technical skills she wanted to learn how to use them to set up her own business and got in touch with The Prince’s Trust after seeing a friend post on Snapchat about the Enterprise programme.

 

The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme supports young people aged 16-30 make their business idea a reality. As well as learning the basics of how to run a business, Annie received a grant from The Trust that allowed her to buy the equipment and stock she needed to start operating Annie’s Baking Company from home. 

 

She said: “The first time I felt I achieved anything was on the day of my business launch. The main way I promote my business is through Facebook, a social media expert was at the launch and he told me that I had created a brand that people are buying into and to never change.

 

“To go from being bullied and told I was never good enough to hearing that, that was the day I changed and started to believe in myself. I’m not ‘cured’ of my past but now I feel better equipped to cope with my anxiety and depression.”

 

“It makes me so happy dancing round my kitchen baking orders for my customers, I’m in such a different place to where I was before. I was never someone who was going to just lie in bed and not try my best to succeed, I’m not ‘cured’ of my past but now I feel better equipped to cope with my anxiety and depression.”

 

Annie was awarded with the Homesense Young Achiever Award at The Prince’s Trust Awards in Northern Ireland in recognition of what she has achieved. She now wants to use her experiences to help others, she has volunteered with The Prince’s Trust to provide baking sessions for young people and has recently signed up to become a Young Ambassador.

 

Annie Burke set up her own thriving bakery business. She had a difficult childhood and experienced anxiety and depression which led to her being hospitalised aged 25. She left hospital determined to achieve her dream of running a bakery business and thanks to the support of her bakery tutors at Belfast Met and The Trust Enterprise programme that is what she has done.

 

On winning the award Annie said: “I’m really excited and honoured to have won. The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme helped me get my business, Annie’s Baking Company, off the ground. It just goes to show that it doesn’t matter your background or what you’ve come from, you can always make something of yourself if you just persevere.”

 

Louise Greenlees, President, TK Maxx and Homesense said: “Annie is a truly inspiring young woman and is a very deserving winner of the Young Achiever Award. She should be very proud and we’re sure she will continue to thrive. Well done Annie!”

 

As part of their commitment to support vulnerable children and help young people to fulfil their potential, TK Maxx and Homesense have been passionate supporters of the Prince’s Trust work since 2013.  They are major partners of the Get into Retail programme. This two to six week course develops young people’s skills in the retail sector, helping them to move forward with their lives.  TK Maxx and Homesense are proud to have reached a milestone of helping over 1,000 young people through the programme. They are also working to develop programmes for young offenders in their retail organisation.  

 

In 2016 Homesense, part of the TK Maxx family, appointed The Prince’s Trust as their national charity partner. Homesense has helped over 1,900 young people who are at risk of underachieving at school through supporting The Prince’s Trust’s Achieve programme. Store associates and customers from across Homesense’s 74 stores are raising funds for the Trust through a number of in-store campaigns.

 

The Prince’s Trust helps young people to develop the confidence and skills they need to realise their ambitions, by supporting them with confidence, courses and careers. Three in four young people helped by The Prince’s Trust move into work, training or education. To date, The Trust has helped over 950,000 young people and supports over 100 more every day.

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Sarah Lavery, Ulster Bank Enterprise award winner at The Prince’s Trust and TK Maxx & Homesense awards

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