I started Flotsam Flo, not only to help reduce plastics getting into the waste stream, but also to save myself. This is a story you just couldn’t make up, but a story I am very grateful for.
I have always loved horses, dogs and Art. My Gran, Florence (in this picture), encouraged me with my Art and being creative. My other Gran, Avis, used to be a seamstress and so from the age of 7, she had me sewing up the edge of tea towels to practice my straight lines on the sewing machine in her kitchen.
I studied Art through school and college, but negative comments at college put me off drawing. I refused to draw and studied Graphic Design instead of Fine Art, which I had dreamed of. I gained a First Class honours degree in Graphic design. I used reclaimed fabrics and experimented with sewing. I then started working for local magazines and newspapers home in Cornwall. I loved this, but I wanted to stretch myself more. I trained to be a secondary school teacher, specialising in Design and Technology. I taught wood, metals, plastics and Textiles! This is what I loved teaching most, along with Art.
In 2019, I was cycling and training for a triathlon when I felt immense pain in my head and neck. I didn't know what this was or had caused this, but I cycled the 2 miles home. My Mum took me to hospital where I had scans. I'll never forget what the Doctor said. "You've had a bleed on the brain and you need to go to Derriford Hospital". I was blue lighted with my Mum to this hospital, in agony. I had suffered a subarachnoid brain haemorrhage for no reason. 1/3 of people die and 1/3 of people suffer life changing effects. I was one of the lucky ones.
My Gran, Florence, was a very strong role model in my life. We didn’t have a lot growing up, but we were very much loved. We learnt to use materials around us. Granny was very fixed on the ‘made-do-and-mend’ culture, perhaps because she was in the Land Army. She taught me that anything is possible, to get on with things and “there’s no such word as can’t”. Without this upbringing and embedded value, I can undoubtedly say that there is no way I would have made it as far as I have. 10 weeks after the brain hemorrhage, I competed in the Blenheim Palace Triathlon and came 3rd in my age category. I did rest after this but, since my brain haemorrhage, I have found there are things I can no longer do as easily. I forget things, I get confused and I get tired if I do too much. All of this is infuriating for me as I just want to get on with things, but I am learning to cope with this. I am just grateful to be here.
BBC Radio Cornwall described me during a recent interview as “Teflon”. I realised life is too short not to follow your dreams and goals and that tomorrow is never promised. At the end of 2021, I quit my teaching role and started Flotsam Flo. If it wasn't for my brain haemorrhage, I may never have been brave enough to take the leap of faith with Flotsam Flo. An incredible journey that I am still dealing with and learning that recovery is a long process.
Flotsam Flo has helped me get through some very rough times. At my lowest point, I was working so hard but felt like I wasn't getting anywhere. I was crying at my sewing machine, not knowing where to go or what to do next.
This all changed part way through 2022 when I successfully got onto the Cultivator Cornwall Programme. This is the start of when my whole business turned around. I was awarded a grant for a Mentor, Clive Kessell of The Really Useful Advice Company. Flotsam Flo has just grown and grown from this. I was introduced to Peter Giddings from Biffa, who are now avidly supporting us. From this partnership, I have an amazing studio space, as well as business support. Through the Cultivator programme I received a grant for some amazing industrial sewing machines. All of this in one year! It’s amazing how things change and I am so grateful for everyones help and support. It is literally like a dream come true and I cannot believe everything that is happening.
If my brain haemorrhage has taught me anything, it’s that it’s OK to ask for help and support and tomorrow is another day. You’ve got this!