When her daughter and partner were involved in separate medical emergencies two years ago, Suzie Palmer knew she had to take a step back from work.
After firmly establishing herself on the career ladder at The Body Shop at Home, she was able to concentrate on taking care of her family while still earning a decent wage.
The Wesham businesswoman says she is grateful for the opportunities and flexibility the cosmetics firm has given her and she is working to help others who are struggling in their careers to discover their potential.
The 39-year-old joined The Body Shop at Home four years ago in Horwich as she was fed up with working in retail. With two young children, she realised she was forking out more for childcare than she was actually getting paid and looked into the earning potential at the cosmetics company.
Within weeks, she started to see the rewards and as she began recruiting people to become part of her team, she was promoted to area manager.
In 2017, she was offered another promotion - this time as a regional manager.
Things were continuing to look up for Suzie, as she gave birth to her third child. But then in August 2018, the first of two traumatic family emergencies occurred, as she found her now two-year-old daughter, Penny, unconscious after suffering from a fit.
Suzie recalls: “She was in intensive care at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, where she eventually came round. We don’t know the reason but she is still under a specialist at Blackpool Victoria.
“This was devastating to the family and a really bad time. A few weeks later, we were moving house in Wesham, so my partner, Stu Jones, had to do that on his own while I was at the hospital.”
Just as Suzie was recovering from the trauma of nearly losing her daughter, her partner of seven years Stu was hit by a car while he was on his motorbike. He suffered horrific injuries, including a fracture to his spine in two places, and was told he wouldn’t be able to walk for another 12 months. It was then she realised working for The Body Shop at Home was a blessing.
Suzie recalls: “Stu was hit by a car at 50mph as he drove his motorbike home from work. He had a broken femur, a fracture to his spine in two places, a broken shoulder, dislocation to the other shoulder and many breaks in his finger, leading to many operations and plastic surgery.
“He remained in hospital over Christmas and was given 12 months before he would be walking unaided again. This was devastating to our family. Once Stu was allowed home I became his full time nurse, driving him to hospital appointments and physio, along with looking after three young children, running the home and a business.”
But Suzie had the safety net and flexibility of The Body Shop at Home, as she says: “We had a massive mortgage with the new house and more bills to pay and no wage coming in from Stu. Times were extremely difficult.
“So I’m extremely grateful this business has brought in two full time wages, and given me the time and freedom to nurse Stu back to health. I was able to work from home when the children slept, catch up with my team over video links and help them also plan their business over the phone. I don’t know where I would have been without The Body Shop at Home.”
Suzie’s successes with the company have been recognised on more than one occasion as she has been invited to speak at conferences and has been given significant rewards, including a free leadership retreat holiday.
Speaking about joining The Body Shop at Home, she says: “I had many ways to earn my income and I started selling via social media, showing pictures of myself using the products and popping reviews up. I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having. I was on social media anyway and now I was earning money for doing so.
“I then ventured into doing the pamper nights. My confidence had gone since having my second baby, so this was something I didn’t feel I would be very good at. But after some free skin care and make-up training I was excited to give it a whirl.
“I remember thinking how can this be ‘work’ and from that moment I got the bug. I was earning more in two hours than a full shift at my day job. For the first time in a long while, I felt good at something and after a year of growing my business, I was able to leave my job of 17 years to do this full time.
“A few years ago, I had gone through a divorce, didn’t have a penny to my name, had no qualifications, I was in a job I hated and I was suffering from anxiety and post natal depression.
“Now I am a stay-at-home mum with a million pound business, as my sales figures last year hit £1.4m. I am excited to introduce more people into this opportunity and help them achieve that important work life balance. I would like to help others in similar situations like myself build a career as I have.
“This business is all about women empowering other women. We dream big and work on our own dreams. It has given me confidence, belief in my self, and freedom it has given me and for that I’m extremely grateful for this business opening so many doors for myself and others round me.”
Despite being told he would not be able to walk for 12 months, Stu Jones has shown grit and determination and is hoping to pursue his own dream career - in the fire service.
The 33-year-old had been due to attend a fitness test to become a fire fighter when he suffered catastrophic injuries after being hit by a car.
He was warned he would need 12 months to recover, but through pushing himself he was able to return back to work at builders’ merchant Travis Perkins in Preston after nine months.
And even more determined to fulfil his fund-raising passions, he even completed a bike ride from Manchester to Blackpool last October, raising £330 for Help for Heroes.
He recalls: “I broke my femur, dislocated my shoulder, shattered my left finger and had a fracture to my spine. I had to learn how to walk again and I managed it with great determination.
“I started off slowly and as soon as I lost one crutch, I lost the second and I kept pushing with physio.I had a second operation on my leg because the bone was not healing correctly.
“I went back to the gym, walking on the treadmill and I went swimming. I knew I had to get my cardio back up again. I was in hospital for 10 days and I lost 2.5st, which was all muscle mass, so I had to build that up. Now I have been doing 5k runs, completing my last one in under 30 minutes.
“It is all about the mindset. I am an active person and I have always wanted to join the fire service. I was booked in for a fitness test last January, but I had the accident the month before, so that was my target.”
Stu, who has two children with Suzie, adds that Travis Perkins had been very supportive following his accident and that he was thankful for Suzie’s income to help whilst he was on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
He says: “Travis Perkins has been fantastic and gave me three months sick pay but after that I was on SSP, so Suzie’s income got us through.”
Stu is now looking ahead to continue fund-raising for Help For Heroes, something he began a decade ago, raising around £250,000 over six years.
He explains: “I was working in the Tesco store when the war in Afghanistan was at its height and myself and two ex-members of the forces, Martin Goulden and David Blainey, decided to raise funds.
“We got the local sea, air and army cadets involved, bag packing and collecting money in buckets and then we got other stores from across the North West involved. We managed to raise £250,000 over six years, which is a good effort.”