Eckington mum's journey to overcome mental health issues and develop successful online business
Two years ago, a mental health diagnosis and numerous family bereavements left Sarah Cardwell suicidal and unable to leave the house.
Now, thanks to a new job, she is a confident stay-at-home mum with a successful business to boot.
After battling with constant mood swings and bouts of depression, Sarah was eventually diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) in 2018 which, coupled with the death of her mum just a year prior, left her suicidal and scared to leave her house.
She eventually decided to leave her job, and after noticing a post online, was able to firmly establish herself on the career ladder with The Body Shop at Home which allowed her to both concentrate on being a mum, and deal with her mental health issues, while still earning a decent wage.
The Derbyshire businesswoman says she is grateful for her career and all it has allowed her to achieve – including a Barbados holiday, trip to Paris, and a £20,000 fast track bonus – and is now hoping to share her experience to show how others with invisible illnesses, such as mental health issues, may benefit from working for themselves.
Sarah, who is mum to 13-year-old Millie and Laila, 10, said: “We had lost three out of four parents by the time our children were at school and the family patterns of grandparents being able to help with childcare was not a possibility between battling crippling anxiety and health problems.
“On top of that, having learnt life was short in the cruellest of ways several times over, we didn’t want to hand over our kids every day to only see them for an hour each evening.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved working, but I never wanted to work or have a career at the expense of being a mum. My career and ambition to do something with my life would always come second to my girls. I often thought it would not be possible to have both but I was wrong and I’m so glad I was.
“Last year I had a full 10 months of therapy – I’m not cured but I’m so much better, but working from home gave me the confidence to do that. I’m still in treatment, working from home, have my own business and am a mum and I’d love to help other people know that they don’t have to just accept a mental health condition as a life sentence.”
Once faced with mornings where she struggled to get up and dressed, the 37-year-old is now eager and motivated to start her day and says she couldn’t have imagined that working from home would be the answer.
“I needed something flexible, enjoyable, something I was passionate about,” she said. “I needed to be able to pick it up and drop it at a moments notice, but I needed it to be important enough to motivate me when I had the time.
“To motivate me in the evenings when the kids were asleep or at the weekend while they were in activities.”
Sarah, who calls herself a 'mumtrepeneur', supports a team of around 300 other members named ‘Region Purpose’, which she says pays homage to the fact that the job made her feel like she had a purpose in life.
Its logo is also a rainbow, signifying how those in the team want to be the rainbow for someone who may otherwise be struggling.
“It’s hard work building a business and working for yourself, but for me working is hard work, so if you can do it and start to provide better flexibility, more options and better financial security for you and your family, there’s no choice at all,” Sarah added. “Build your own empire, it’s easiest to keep the motivation on the hard days.
“I now do have commitments and things I need to do but I still do it in my time. I always say my job is flexible, not optional, but it’s a successful business, turning over £750,000 in 2019.
“I’m passionate that this helped me with my mental health and I want to help others feeling low and hopeless that there are things they can do.”
Sharing her top tips for starting your own business, Sarah said: “You can’t be hazy or half-hearted when you start or run a business. You can be flexible, not optional but you must decide that you’re going to give it your all. If you succeed or fail, it’s on you.
“Find something you are passionate about. Being a mum is my number one passion and working for myself has to be a close second. I’ve always loved sharing what I know and learning more. So working in career and business development was the perfect business for me.
“Set goals, daily, monthly and annually, without a goal, it’s hard to know where you’re going. For me, my goals went on a goal board. The most important part of any goal though is the how. I build in action steps on a weekly basis to help me achieve it.
“I hear a lot about why and that’s because your reason is important. I doubt myself all the time, but building a business so I can stay at home and be here if my kids need me and when is enough to keep me focussed.
“I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning. I love to learn new things anyway but now I use those skills in everything I do. An open mind and an open heart are key.”