The determination not to let ill-health rule her life has seen Outset Cornwall client and Cornwall Enterprising Women (CEW) member Tina Willoughby go it alone and set up a new business.
After having to give up work in 1997 due to her condition, Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia, which, among other symptoms, can severely affect the lungs, Tina took stock of her situation.
Being a talented artist, she started toying with the idea of selling her work and starting her own business in 2011, but her confidence levels had taken a tumble and she felt unprepared to start up on her own.
“After so long out of work, my confidence was very low and I was unsure that starting a business was right for me,” she said. “I’d describe myself as one of life’s fighters – a very resourceful person. After everything I’d gone through, working from home as an artist seemed like something I could achieve.”
Tina found out about Outset Cornwall programme through the Real Ideas Organisation and began attending sessions in Truro.
“Outset Cornwall helped with my confidence so much. By mixing with the group and gaining new knowledge I began to consider myself a businesswoman,” she said.
Athough Tina loved her art she didn’t feel it was a reliable way to make enough money to ensure she could stop claiming some benefits and become financially independent. It was a chance comment from a dog trainer that inspired her second business in early 2011. "One thing I love is walking my dog Nelly and last year my husband Pete and I began taking her along to agility classes with the National Animal Welfare Trust."
It was while she and Nelly were attending these sessions that one of the trainers told her liver cake would help with dog obedience, so she trawled the internet for a recipe.
Tina laughed: "It was very smelly to make liver cake but not only did Nelly love it; a number of my friends asked me to make their dogs some too. I became really excited about the potential and decided to take the plunge and set up Paws For Cake."
At the same time as she came up with the idea for her new business Tina also become a member of Cornwall Enterprising Women (CEW).
“It has been the assistance of CEW that has really helped propel my business forward,” she said.
“Not only have the networking events introduced me to other businesswomen (whom I have since collaborated with), the PR support and photography advice has also meant I have received coverage in local and regional newspapers with my story even attracting the attention of a national women’s magazine. This exposure is priceless when establishing a business and I‘m not sure things would have happened quite as quickly without it. I really can’t rate the help CEW has given me enough and I always look forward to the next event, knowing I can call anytime for help and advice if needed.”
Tina’s collaboration projects include one with fellow CEW member Philippa Barton who runs Boutique Retreats, to supply her range of dog biscuits in the holiday cottage letting company’s dog-friendly welcome packs.
She has now also attended a number of dog shows and events to promote her dog biscuits, which are all handmade only using natural ingredients, and which one customer described as “great with a glass of wine”. Tina is now supplying a number of outlets such as Kingsley Village and Trevaskis Farm shop and has even produced a ‘pasty’ dog treat for Ann’s Pasties. "I'm so determined to make a success of Paws For Cake. Nelly helps me enjoy life and stay healthy and my husband, family and friends are all a huge help. This support, along with the help of Outset Cornwall and Cornwall Enterprising Women, has given me the freedom to start to earn an independent living."
Visit www.dogtreatpawsforcake.co.uk for Tina's dog treat product range.