Faye Savory has earned herself a well-deserved reputation as ‘chief sender of hugs.’
In the last three years, Faye has sent nearly 20,000 ‘hug in a box’ gift hampers to people all over the world, with her social enterprise, BearHugs.
And the Walkley woman has scooped a number of awards in the process, including the Duke of York Young Entrepreneur Award, University of Sheffield Startup Award and Prince's Trust NatWest Enterprise Award.
Faye explains: “The idea of a 'hug in a box' came from the feeling I got when I opened a lovely care package from a friend, a few years ago. At a time when I'd felt very lonely, that little box of treats left me feeling, warm, comforted and loved. Like I'd just been hugged! I really wanted to pass that feeling on.”
Faye was just 25, and working in Sheffield as a speech and language therapist, when she was diagnosed with chronic Lyme Disease. At its most severe, the disease left the once-active Faye unable to wash, dress, or feed herself, and she could only leave the house using a wheelchair.
Trying to stay productive, Faye began blogging and, when able, made jewellery which she sold online, donating the profits to chronic illness charities. Then, when a friend sent Faye an especially thoughtful care package, she had an idea.
“The care package from my lovely friend Sophia contained lots of little things to to make tough days a bit easier, like baths salts, a DVD, migraine relief patches, sweets, and an incredibly thoughtful card which I read over and over again in difficult moments,” says Faye.
Faye’s next step was Enterprise – The Prince’s Trust’s four-day intensive course that helps unemployed young people start up in business. After researching the market, Faye applied for The Trust’s Will It Work Grant in order to market-test and prototype her idea.
“With their accessible support, I was able to test my idea and write a business plan. I put together some prototype gift boxes, containing tea, biscuits, cosy socks and a mug, and could hardly believe it when strangers started buying them! When those boxes sold out, I reinvested the money and created more boxes.”
In the first two years, Faye sold over 5,000 BearHugs boxes, filled with comforting, uplifting UK-madetreats, that reveal two outstretched paws on opening. BearHugs has also forged a philanthropic partnership with the charity Post Pals, donating a gift to a seriously ill child for every 50 gift boxes sold.
Faye is now proud to be a Prince's Trust Young Ambassador and regularly shares her experiences of the Enterprise Programme with others.
“When I first became ill, it was really tough for me to leave my job as a speech therapist, as I’d worked do hard to get into the profession. It was difficult to imagine what my future would look like,” Faye admits.
“II don't think I would have ever described myself as creative before I fell ill. I think it kind of came out of necessity really; I had to think outside the box to find ways to give myself some purpose.
“When I actually take a moment to reflect on everything BearHugs has achieved, I'm really proud. My aspirations at the beginning were quite low. I simply wanted to send some hugs and earn enough money to be able to independently get a taxi to a coffee shop once a week. If you'd told me when I first started that, in three years, we would have outgrown two premises, taken on three members of staff, and sent almost 20,000 hugs, I probably wouldn't have believed you.
“I’m also proud that BearHugs offers part-time, flexible, remote working opportunities to people living with chronic health conditions. Starting BearHugs has been the hardest but most rewarding thing I've ever done and I'm so lucky I now get to share it with an amazing team.
“Working with The Prince's Trust really helped to change my life, and had such a major impact in helping BearHugs get off the ground. To be able to try and pay even a tiny bit of that back by supporting the incredible work the Prince's Trust does is really important to me. I love that BearHugs is now a part of eBay's Tomorrow’s Store for Prince's Trust, an online shop I recommend everyone take a peek at for lovely Christmas ideas that give back and support entrepreneurs like me.”
And with Christmas just around the corner, Faye and her team are now heading into their busiest time of the year.
“Business will be very full on for the next couple of months, and we’re already looking ahead to 2019 and the opportunities we hope it will bring. I'm hoping to continue to offer more 100 per cent flexible working opportunities for those living with chronic illness next year, as that's a major goal for me in everything BearHugs does.
“I believe in the power of positivity and kindness, and I’ve been very lucky to have such strong support in the last few years, and I’ve met some wonderful people along the way. I’m keen to pay that forward now at every opportunity to those living with a chronic illness. And, of course, I’ll continue to send as many hugs as possible.”