TEN years ago Rebecca Sykes was a teenage mum who had dropped out of sixth form, was living on benefits and visiting her boyfriend in prison.
But what a difference a decade makes.
The 29-year-old now owns her own thriving business and her ‘dream’ South Yorkshire home and has met Prince Charles twice.
Her life has been transformed after she began to study photography at Barnsley College and excelled so much she won an award.
Rebecca said: “When my partner went away to prison I thought my life was over.
“While he was inside I wanted something to do just for me so started a photography A-level on a few hours a week - I really enjoyed it.
“After I won the award my tutor said to me ‘if you don’t take this any further you’re stupid’.”
Rebecca enrolled on an HND course in Leeds - facing long commutes and time away from her young son.
The hard work paid off after she left and decided to set up her own firm in 2008 thanks to help from the Prince’s Trust.
Since then Blush Photography has grown and Rebecca has settled down with a new partner Tim, plus son Louis, 10, at her first owned home in Stairfoot, Barnsley.
For the first time she has been able to make it through quiet months of the year without doing other work.
And she is seeking to expand in commercial photography with the strong support of business programme Enterprising Barnsley.
She said: “It took a good couple of years to find my feet but now I feel like I’ve made it.”
Rebecca is an ardent ambassador of the Prince’s Trust and said it was ‘amazing’ to meet the future king of England twice, at Clarence House and when he visited Barnsley earlier this year.
The prince was even presented with one of Rebecca’s pictures, of Barnsley Town Hall, in January after she spoke of her story.
She hopes the picture of her success will prove inspirational to others.
Rebecca said: “Ten years ago I thought that was it, I was destined to be a single mum living in a council house.
“It took a lot of balls to do it, but I had nothing to lose.
“I think you can do anything if you put your mind to it.”
John Heckingbottom, business development manager at Enterprising Barnsley, said it was ‘delighted’ to support Rebecca.
He added: “Rebecca’s energy and enthusiasm is borne out of her determination to turn her life around.”