Feature: Growing success from very small beginnings

editorial image
0
Have your say

She was born dangerously premature, weighing just the same as a bag of sugar.

But today 25-year-old Hannah Duraid is better known as an award-winning Sheffield entrepreneur...

Like most mothers, Diane Duraid remembers every detail of the day her children were born.

But while others recall fondly the first time they held their child in their arms, or counted precious fingers and toes, for Diane it was one of the most traumatic days of her life.

She was just 28 weeks pregnant with twins when she went into premature labour and had to undergo an emergency Caesarean that was so risky her husband John was warned all three could die.

Daughter Hannah and son Jonathan were born at 28 weeks – shockingly, within the legal limit for abortion at that time – weighing 2lbs each.

Hannah Duraid receives her award

Hannah Duraid receives her award

“It was a really traumatic time, I wouldn’t have wished it on my worst enemy,” Diane recalls tearily, 25 years on.

“Even now, I get upset when I think about it. They were so small they shared an incubator and doctors warned me their chances of survival were poor.

“At one point Jonny had to be resuscitated. Hannah’s lung collapsed. It was so difficult for her to absorb food, doctors wanted to bring her stomach outside of her body.

“I was terrified; it was touch and go for many weeks and I couldn’t do a thing apart from watch as my tiny babies fought for their lives.”

Hannah Duraid, of The Great Escape Game is awarded with the Young Business Person of the Year Award from Learning Unlimited and Harry Gration at the Sheffield Business Awards 2016.

Hannah Duraid, of The Great Escape Game is awarded with the Young Business Person of the Year Award from Learning Unlimited and Harry Gration at the Sheffield Business Awards 2016.

But against all odds, it was a fight the pair won.

Diane, of Norton Lees, adds: “I was told that if I’d have been a smoker, their lungs wouldn’t have been developed enough and they would have died, that’s how close it came. But thankfully they defied all the odds and, eight weeks after they were born, John and I brought them home from hospital.

“I remember it was a beautiful day - clear blue skies - and one we thought we’d never see. Because of everything that had happened, they were instantly extra special to both of us.”

But even though the twins had survived, the worry wasn’t over for Diane and John, who had been warned their tough start could leave the pair plagued by serious health conditions, brain disorders and potentially profound learning difficulties.

Hannah Duraid from The Great Escape on the roof garden at union Street
Her favourite place in Sheffield

Hannah Duraid from The Great Escape on the roof garden at union Street Her favourite place in Sheffield

“I remember being so upset when my neighbour at the time told me they were bound to be behind other children,” says Diane, aged 56.

“All we could do was wait and see, but amazingly, they proved everyone wrong.”

Now aged 25, both Hannah and Jonathan have grown up happy and healthy with no trace of their difficult start in life.

Jonathan is a trainee RAF fireman, and Hannah is the mind behind The Great Escape Game, the successful business she launched two years ago, which last year earned her the title of ‘National Young Entrepreneur of The Year’ in the Forward Ladies’ Women In Business Awards, and two titles at the Sheffield Business Awards - ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year’ and ‘Next Big Thing.’

To Hannah, the tale of her birth sounds like something that happened to somebody else.

“I know it was such a traumatic time for my parents,” says Hannah, who still lives in Norton Lees, where she grew up.

Hannah Duraid and Peter Lecole, who are behind The Great Escape

Hannah Duraid and Peter Lecole, who are behind The Great Escape

“They never had more children and we’ve always known we’re very precious to them. When I won the business awards last year, I took mum with me and she broke down in tears. She must be over the moon to see how far we’ve come.”

After completing a Fine Art degree at Sheffield Hallam University, Hannah went travelling around Australia for a year, before she planned to return home and study to become a primary school teacher.

But a missed alarm was to change the entire course of her future.

“I slept through my alarm the morning of my flight back to the UK,” Hannah smiles.

“Had I made that flight, I would have arrived home and gone on to become a primary school teacher, just as I’d been planning.”

But instead, stranded in Mayalsia, she and her three travelling friends scanned TripAdvisor for something to do during their enforced four-day stay and read about a new phenomenon sweeping Asia – Crystal Maze-style escape games.

“It was incredible,” says Hannah.

On her return to Sheffield - along with new boyfriend, Australian carpenter Peter Lacole - and realising there was nothing on the same scale in the UK, the pair set about building The Great Esacpe Game in some empty Sheffield offices.

It quickly exceeded both of their expectations.

They had 27,000 visitors in the first year and, last year, launched a second site in Leeds, which pulled in 1,519 visitors in its first month.

The couple, who are now engaged, manage a staff of 25, and are now busy planning three more venues to open across the UK by the end of 2017.

Hannah says: “Even now I sometimes can’t believe this is really my life – I’m having a blast, riding the waves and living the dream.”

Mum Diane adds: “We’re really so proud of both our children and everything they’ve achieved.

“We’re not at all surprised by everything Hannah has accomplished; despite her ‘tiny’ start - or maybe because of it - she’s always been a tower of strength. Our lovely girl.”