It all started with a seizure. One moment you’re fine. The next, you’re waking up. On the ground and covered in sweat. Confused and tired and agitated. That seizure changed my life, but for the better even though at the time it felt like the end of the world. Let me explain.
My name is Mima and I’m an undergraduate studying Forestry at Bangor University. Having just completed my second year of study, I was going into my placement year when I would take a year out from studying to get real-world experience in the Forestry sector. I managed to land my dream placement, securing a paid job as a ranger with Wyre Forest District Council. I’d been struggling with my health for a few months, but was all set and ready to start in September until 4 days before when I had my first seizure and was admitted into hospital. I lost my job. After various meetings with specialists and my University, it was decided that I would take time away from studying and that I should rest. I rested, but only managed 2 weeks. The boredom hit. I found myself missing the deadlines and stress of university life, but I was 250 miles away in the sleepy Fens. As a forester, I missed the field trips, walking in forests, getting soaking wet in the Welsh rain, but instead, I was stuck indoors wondering what on earth was wrong with me. Days passed, then months. In no time at all it was February and it felt like I had achieved nothing.
But then an email dropped into my inbox. It was nothing special. One of those mass emails sent to everyone who has a university email address, but I actually read it instead of instantly discarding it (I told you I was bored) and I am so glad I did. It was advertising an upcoming business competition for young people in Wales called Big Ideas Wales Celebrated. It was simple. All you had to do was come up with a business idea and you would be in with a chance of going to a national showcase event and winning some epic prizes. So I entered. I’m no business woman, but I do have a passion for trees and increasing environmental awareness in young people.
And this is how Tree Sparks was born and when my entrepreneurial journey started. Even though I don’t know much about running a business, the judges at the competition could see that I had passion for my idea and this is what led to me winning two awards and securing £1000 in funding. I had no excuse now - I had time on my hands and the money and support I needed to start my own business and to start making a change! Even though it has only been 6 months since the competition, I’ve managed to fit a lot in (around hospital appointments) and Big Ideas Wales has been there every step of the way.
I got the opportunity to go on a bootcamp to business weekend, where I was able to meet other young business people from across Wales to learn all about finance, structure, promotion, sales and websites, working in teams to produce business plans and present our ideas. We even got the chance to meet with some of the Big Ideas Wales role models, and I was able to brainstorm new ideas and get some good advice about what to do next. I even got access to more funding for my business which had allowed me to create new content for my website and to start creating resource packs for schools.
I was offered a place on Drivers for Change, the UK’s first ever journey of its kind to discovering creative social action. I got to meet other young people just like me from all over the country and the world and learn alongside them whilst travelling across the UK for 11 days, ending with pitching our ideas in the House of Lords.
In spite of all this momentum, there have been several times in the past couple of months when I have sat at my desk wondering what on earth I am doing, questioning whether I really am the right person to be starting this business. It is so so easy to get consumed by a downward spiral of self-doubt no matter what your motivation or inspiration. And that is why role models are so important. I have been lucky that there are so many people around me who want me to succeed and who understand the trials and tribulations of starting and running your own business. Role models help to pick you back up again and remind you why you are doing what you’re doing and why you should be the one to do it. They can empathise with you when things don’t go quite to plan or when you simply feel drained. And that is why I have enjoyed working with Big Ideas Wales so much! They helped me to turn a horrible situation into a fantastic opportunity.
Had I not had a seizure last year, then Tree Sparks would not exist and I would still be dreaming of the change I wanted to make, rather than actually taking steps towards making it happen.
I feel very honoured to have been able to work so closely with Big Ideas Wales and cannot believe how much support is on offer for free! I have been privileged to meet inspiring role models and just as inspiring young people who are also at the start of their entrepreneurial journeys. I am excited to see what the next year will bring and to keep working with Big Ideas Wales to make Tree Sparks bigger and better than ever!