Stories of success after overcoming adversity and starting new life
- Credit: Sam Green/Sonya Duncan
A bad motorbike accident turned out to be the life event that propelled a young Suffolk man into starting his own business.
Shoe repairer and key cutter Sam Green, 23, from Culford, near Bury St Edmunds, launched Bethmonte - named after his grandad's old transport company - in June this year in a converted horse box trailer.
Two months later Sam, who trades at Bury St Edmunds and Clare markets and Woolpit car boot, won a national market traders award in Stratford Upon Avon.
Also at the final was Sophie Clarke, 24, a textiles designer and maker from Mildenhall, north of Bury St Edmunds.
Her business, Sophie Clarke Designs had only been trading for five months, but she also came away with an award.
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Earlier in the year she left Brighton, where she had a job as a studio assistant, to move back home with her family due to the pandemic.
Sam and Sophie have shared their stories with us - and also have advice for other young people with ideas.
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'I thought 'if I don't do this for myself now, I won't ever do it''
Sam had been working at retail chain Timpson when he was involved in a major motorbike accident in July 2020 that fractured his spine in four places.
He was lucky to still be alive, and still have the ability to walk. For two months he was in and out of a wheelchair and using walking sticks.
He said he started to get better and went back to work at Timpson, but was still struggling with his recovery from the crash.
"I thought 'if I don't do this for myself now, I won't ever do it'. I need to give it a try," he said.
With the help of two friends, Sam converted a horse box trailer into his mobile key cutting and shoe repair business.
"With the trailer, I can manage it so it works for me," he said, referring to his health.
He said the first time he traded at Bury St Edmunds market was for the regional final of the National Market Traders Federation (NMTF) competition for young people.
He went onto win the Best General Retail category for Bethmonte at the Stratford Upon Avon final.
"It's really, really nice. It hasn't properly sunk in yet," he said, adding business had "definitely" picked up since then.
Sam - the first market trader in his family - had considered getting a shop, but doesn't regret being a market trader.
His main advice to other young people is "no matter what you want to do in terms of starting out, I would look at the markets".
"They are a brilliant place to start out," he said. "I met people when in Stratford and in Bury that are doing anything and everything and all of it is brilliant."
He said whatever your idea is, if you are set on doing it, "try the markets first".
'I never really knew where I wanted to be'
Sophie loved the job she got out of university as a studio assistant in Brighton for Imogen Heath.
But when lockdown happened she decided to move back in with her parents in Mildenhall.
She said: "From having a job, I came home to nothing. It was the first time I have officially moved home in six years.
"After six years at uni and working away it was a really big adjustment. I got straight back onto the loom."
Sophie studied textiles innovation and design at Loughborough University, but she said she "never really knew where I wanted to be" and certainly never saw having her own business as "being possible".
She had hoped to be at her job at Imogen Heath in Brighton for longer, but the pandemic happened and "I had to restart again".
She launched Sophie Clarke Designs five months ago when she got a loom and began weaving in a studio at her home, producing handwoven homeware products.
She then decided to check out a 'makers' market' in Bury St Edmunds and heard from one of the organisers about the regional finals for the NMTF competition for 16-30 year olds, taking place in the town.
Sophie entered and got through to the national final in Stratford Upon Avon - only her second market - and won Best Arts and Crafts.
She said: "I feel like the hard work I have put into my degree, that I never saw this sort of future in, is starting to pay off.
"It's been a bit of a whirlwind, but I'm finding my feet now at the moment and coming back down to earth after the craziness."
Sophie got noticed at her stall at the final and since then the orders have been flooding in.
She weaves fabrics for cushions, table runners, stools and more, creating designs herself.
She is relaxed about the future, but admits she will need a bigger space - and would love a shop.
Her advice to other young people is, if you have a passion for something "then follow it".
She added: "I feel like it's hard for designers and arts and crafts people.
"People say 'what are you going to do with that degree?' or 'where are you going to go with that?'
"As long as you work hard at it, you are going to be okay. That's what I'm learning now."
Sophie will be at future makers markets in Bury St Edmunds.
- As well as the Sunday monthly makers markets run by West Suffolk Council, there will be a mid-week makers markets every Wednesday in the Traverse in Bury St Edmunds.