Yesterday I had the absolute honour of being named the first female Patron and Enterprise Fellow of the Princes Trust in Northern Ireland. In accepting the honour it occurred to me that it takes a very different set of skills to thrive in business than it does to survive a turbulent childhood, homelessness, and worse. When I met with all the guys at the Princes Trust on Thursday I was humbled by the passion, enthusiasm and sheer guts of them all. From the staff to the young people enrolled, every one of them has such a positive outlook on life.\
Some of the programmes offered are breathtaking in their practical response to the needs of those with the greatest challenges. I met two wonderful young men who had just baked scones for the first time in their lives, as part of their basic life skills training. Not only were the scones stunningly delicious!! And they were!! But the boys were so shy of my enthusiasm, so unwilling to take my praise and so unable to accept a positive word that I was at once saddened by their lack of self esteem but heartened at their delight in the achievement of making this crazy woman giggle with the deliciousness of it all. It took me to dive in to a second scone for them to fully believe that I wasn’t blowing smoke up their a**!
Yesterday evening I spoke with the BBC about my new work at the Princes Trust and was challenged as to what I, middle aged, middle class, “successful” international business women could possibly have in common with the young women in the programmes. The question was a fair one, I guess, and pulled me up a little short until I remembered … I’m a mother of 5, I have a business run by 88% women, I was bullied for three years at school until at the age of 12 I realised I was almost a foot taller than my chief bully! It took me 20 years to regain the confidence I had lost during that time. 20 years. And anther 20 to become the person I am today. I had to learn to trust, to have fun and not worry what anyone else might think, to accept myself flaws and all … and then drive forward and do my own thing my own way. I hope, based on that experience, I might have something to offer? Perhaps another day I’ll write a blog about being bullied between the ages 9 and 12, of but for now … I want to do what I can to best help the Princes Trust.