Three years ago, Sarah Pittendrigh was a desperate single mother forced to declare herself bankrupt. She tells Lucy Richardson why being made redundant was the best thing that could have happened to her and how it has led to her remarrying her ex-husband.
WITH a dream house in the country, five horses, a loving family and a flourishing business, Sarah Pittendrigh lives an enviable lifestyle – yet a steely look in her eye tells you that this is a woman who knows what hitting rock bottom feels like and now takes nothing for granted.
In 2008, she had a high-powered job as director of a firm specialising in corporate events for multi-national companies, but a huge financial investment intended to grow the business collided with the recession.
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Sarah Pittendrigh and some of the chair covers on offer in her new business venture
The divorcee with a young son, William, to support, found herself on the brink of losing her home and signing on for the first time in her life.
“I had worked since I was 15 and paid for my own education. I had never been on the dole or claimed income support,” says Sarah, 40. “Declaring myself bankrupt meant that I had no bank account, I had nothing, but it was the best thing that has happened to me. I thought, either I go under or I kick myself up the backside and get this show on the road.”
AN idea for a new business venture occurred to her as she helped her brother organise his wedding. She noticed a gap in the market for upmarket chair covers and table linen with a creative edge so came up with the vision for simplybowsandchaircovers.co.uk.
She approached Business Link with a business plan and her projected forecasts and an advisor agreed to support her with 50 per cent funding towards her website, company vehicle and marketing materials.
Her bespoke made-to-measure chair covers and linens can now be found at luxury hotels across the region, including Redworth Hall, Rockliffe Hall, Wynyard Hall and Close House at weddings, corporate events and charity balls.
Sarah’s fledgling business has grown to the extent that she now has ten franchises across the country and supplied linen to 350 events across Country Durham last year, the patch she has retained. Her aim is to increase her enterprise to 30 franchises by 2015, including opening an office in London’s exclusive Mayfair.
“Our unique selling point is that we are purely linen specialists, not a jack of all trades,” explains Sarah. “It is all about creating an asprational brand; we never want to compete just on price, it’s all about the detail.”
Ironically, it was through organising a wedding that she dreamt up the business idea that would help turn her life around and now she is just weeks away from remarrying her childhood sweetheart at Close House in Northumberland, where she will use her own linen, of course.
“Stewart and I showed ponies together as children and had been together for a long time but dynamics change and I think we took each other for granted. When I lost my business, he was there for me and I supported him when he lost his parents to cancer. The redundancy taught me that there’s nothing more important than family. When you have hit rock bottom and all you have are the clothes you stand up in, you realise what’s really important is your health and your loved ones.
“Our wedding will be a stake in the ground and a sign that the past is behind us. I feel very settled and privileged to have my life, I didn’t think I’d be saying this three years ago but the future looks very exciting.”
For more information visit simplybowsandchaircovers.co.uk